At the beginning of the season, the Virginia football team established as one of its goals becoming one of the least-penalized teams in the ACC. It was seen as a tall order considering only one FBS team in the nation (Baylor) averaged more penalty yards per game than the Cavaliers in 2010.
So far this fall, Virginia has not been able to accomplish that particular goal, but that’s not necessarily an accurate reflection of its improvement in regards to penalties. The Cavaliers rank No. 8 in the ACC in penalty yards per game (42.3), but that mark is tied for No. 22 in the country.
Virginia has recorded four penalties or less in four of its past five games. During Thursday’s 28-21 win at Miami, the Cavaliers tallied a season-low three penalties for 18 yards.
“We’ve talked about that without trying to make a big emphasis of it,” Coach Mike London said. “We talk about using the proper technique, being smart. The quarterback late hits and [hits after a ballcarrier is out of bounds] penalties, the false starts, jumping offside – we’ve cut that down dramatically. . . . I just think it’s a matter of discipline.”
That discipline has improved even within the past two months. Virginia averaged 6.7 penalties and 55 penalty yards in its first three games this season, which was an improvement on last year’s averages (8.2 penalties; 73.3 penalty yards).
But the Cavaliers have taken even further steps forward in their past five games, averaging 4.4 penalties and 34.6 penalty yards per contest. That, London said, has helped his team limit some of that “hidden yardage” that opposing teams can accumulate during the course of a game.
“It’s just being smart and being smart in the moment,” senior defensive tackle Nick Jenkins said. “We’ve really taken a stab at just trying to be very focused and not hold or jump offside or things like that. It’s tough, but you practice it everyday by trying not to hold during practice, trying not to jump offside, trying not to grab a face mask, and it carries over into the game.”