ATHENS, Ga. --- Mark Richt appears to have finally reached a tipping point concerning Georgia's penchant for penalties.
"I've got to send a stronger message than we've sent to this point," the Bulldogs coach said. "That's probably my No. 1 priority right now -- to make sure that I do that."
Georgia skated by with wins in its first four games, but against an Alabama team whose offensive line kept Georgia from getting to the quarterback and a defense that shut down the running game and pressured Matthew Stafford, those penalties were magnified.
The Bulldogs had 10 penalties for 81 yards in the 41-30 loss to Alabama. The Crimson Tide had two for 9 yards.
Georgia has had 10 or more penalties in four of its five games. Its 53 penalties for 437 yards are the most in the NCAA this season. The Bulldogs average 10.6 penalties per game, trailing only Texas Tech's 10.75 per game.
No penalty was more costly than a roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Akeem Dent on Alabama's first drive. It negated a fumble that Georgia recovered and gave the ball back to the Crimson Tide, who scored a touchdown.
"That was a very crucial penalty," Richt said.
Georgia's coaches want their players to compete aggressively while also playing within the rules, but killer penalties are cropping up too often.
"It's a thing that's really hurting us," said safety CJ Byrd, a North Augusta alum. "We said it, man, that it's going to come back and bite us in the butt. We've just got to do better. It's nothing you can practice. Individuals just have to think."
Defensive end Jarius Wynn was also flagged for roughing the passer during Alabama's second drive when he hit John Parker Wilson after he completed a pass.
But not all penalties are bad ones.
Cornerback Prince Miller was penalized 15 yards for pass interference against Alabama on a play that probably saved a touchdown.
"Prince Miller grabbing a guy going into the end zone was a smart thing to do," Richt said.
Too often, though, Georgia has not been smart when it comes to toeing the line on playing by the rules. That's something Richt admitted his coaches must do a better job of addressing.
"Whatever we've done," Richt said, "it hasn't slowed down, so we've got to crank it up even more."
Reach Marc Weiszer at firstname.lastname@example.org.