Razorbacks Try to Curb Penalties

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas receiver Greg Childs wasn't sure how to explain his problem Saturday.

The sophomore has been in hostile environments before, so the noise level in Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium was nothing new. But for whatever reason, Childs jumped once in the first half of Arkansas' 35-7 loss. A little later, he jumped again.

"I made two mistakes," Childs said. "I had two false starts."

Childs wasn't alone. The Razorbacks committed 11 penalties at Alabama, bumping their total to 30 in three games.

The mountain of mistakes has made Arkansas one of the nation's most penalized teams entering Saturday's game against Texas A&M. The Razorbacks are ranked 117th in the nation, averaging 10 penalties and 86 penalty yards a game.

It's a big contrast from last season, when Arkansas was one of the Southeastern Conference's least penalized teams, averaging 6.6 penalties and 48.7 yards. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said the mistakes must be corrected — by any means.

"Run the heck out of them," Petrino said Monday, when asked how to keep players from committing penalties. "That's the starting point. Be more disciplined and do our technique right.

"You can't make stupid penalties."

The Razorbacks aren't alone with their penalty problems.

Texas A&M has seen plenty of yellow flags on the field, too, in its first three games the Aggies are last in the nation in penalties (11) and penalty yards (98.3) a game.

But tight end D.J. Williams said Arkansas' success will depend on its ability to cut back on carelesss mistakes.

"If you go back and look at the film, a lot of them are just stupid penalties," Williams said. "Mental mistakes. I don't know if it's from being tired ... but it haunts you at night."

Part of Arkansas' offensive problems can be attributed to the 11 penalties the group has committed in two games. Those penalties came on 10 different possessions. It's no surprise the Razorbacks didn't score a touchdown on any of those drives.

One of the biggest problems has been players jumping too quickly. But illegal blocks and holding penalties have hurt as well, pinning Arkansas in second- and third-and-long situations.

"We have got to stay in front of the sticks," quarterback Ryan Mallett said. "If we stay in front of the sticks, we can be pretty good. But when we get behind them and have to throw deep balls all the time, it hurts us."

The defense hasn't been error-free, either.

Linebacker Jerry Franklin, who was ejected from the Georgia game after committing two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, is the obvious example. But the Razorbacks committed four defensive penalties at Alabama. Three of them came on Alabama's 99-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter.

"We can't get penalties that set us back," Arkansas defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard said. "We can't let our emotions take away from our team. We're going to have to work on that with everybody. ... You have to keep your composure."

Petrino, who was hit with a 15-yard, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of his own against Georgia, said training players to stop committing penalties isn't always easy. He doesn't want fear of a penalty to cause players to be hesitant.

"What you kind of try to do with your defensive players is you say, ‘Here's the out of bounds line," Petrino said. "Here's the player running downfield. If he's inbounds, you hit him. If he's out of bounds, I pull off and I don't hit him. If he's right on the line and you're not sure, I hit him. And then you've got to go.

"You've got to play with that type of aggression, but you don't hit guys in the back, offensive players don't block people in the back. When you do that, you can't accept it."

But the Razorbacks know they won't be able to move the ball, stop opponents, or win games if the yellow flags keep flying.

"Penalties are contagious," receiver Jarius Wright said. "Once one thing goes wrong, I really think everything just keep going bad. We have to prevent the penalties."

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