Every football coach wants to see fewer penalty flags flying.
Missouri Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz has identified a too-often-flagged position group.
“You know, we’ve had 13 offensive line penalties in the first three games,” Drinkwitz said. “That’s not any one person’s fault. But it’s an alarming trend that needs to be fixed.”
Especially with SEC play starting this week as Mizzou heads to Auburn.
Missouri was penalized nine times in last weekend’s victory over Abilene Christian. Six were committed by offensive linemen. Five were holding penalties.
Penalties have been a problem across the board for Mizzou. The Tigers have been flagged 27 times this season. That’s tied for 117th nationally. But with almost half of those calls against the offensive line, is easy to understand why Drinkwitz is sounding the alarm.
“We can’t have penalties,” Drinkwitz said. “We cannot have negative yardage plays on first down or running the football and who’s going to take that off the tape?”
Which is why Drinkwitz put his starters on notice this week. For the first three games, Javon Foster has started at left tackle, Zeke Powell at right tackle, Connor Wood at right guard and Connor Tollison at center. At left guard, Xavier Howard started the first two games, with Luke Griffin starting last week’s game because of an injury.
“It’s about creating competition...and seeing who has the best week of practice and whoever does will run out there on Saturday and that’s really it,” Drinkwitz said. “It’s no deeper or more challenging than that.”
This week’s depth chart showed no changes among the starters. The only position switch came at punter, where Jack Stonehouse, who replaced Sean Koetting during last week’s game, was listed as the starter.
Asked if SEC play magnifies the importance of getting settled, Drinkwitz said it wasn’t an opponent or a site issue. In their first road game this season, the Tigers played at Kansas State, and although they weren’t penalized for holding, the offensive line picked up four false start flags.
After the game, Tollison called Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the “loudest environment I’ve ever been in.” K-State is known for its loud crowds. So is Auburn, which at 87,451 capacity at Jordan-Hare Stadium, seats about 36,000 more than Kansas State.
“it’s about us,” Drinkwitz said. “We’re going to play good opponents every week and holding penalties don’t have anything to do with the opponent. it has to do with having hands inside and being conscientious of not grabbing.
“False starts have nothing to do with going against a good defensive line. It has everything to do with understanding and having discipline and choosing to get off when you hear the snap count.”
The uneven play upfront has revealed itself in other areas. Abilene Christian’s first touchdown came when quarterback Brady Cook was sacked and lost a fumble that was recovered in the end zone.
“There’s an urgency,” Drinkwitz said. “We have to get it fixed.”