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Groh on Celebrations

If Virginia scores a touchdown this weekend – and note the “if” in that sentence – do not expect any outward celebration from the Cavaliers. When Jameel Sewell scored in the second quarter of last week’s loss to William & Mary, he flashed a non-offensive hand gesture. Because it was construed as a personal celebration, Sewell was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Virginia was penalized on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Tribe good field position. Coach Al Groh said it was a turning point in the game.

William & Mary was later penalized after cornerback B.W. Webb ran into the tunnel following a touchdown. Groh found both penalties excessive.

“What's offensive to me, what I think is over the edge, is a little different than the way the rule is written but that's what the players have to understand,” Groh said. “I didn’t think there was anything overtly wrong with either player, based on my sensitivities to it but clearly that's not the way it's called and the players are informed that that's not the way that it's called.”

Groh reflected on a play in the Washington-BYU game last season, when Jake Locker scored a last-minute touchdown but was flagged for celebration. The extra point was pushed back and BYU blocked the kick to win.

“I thought in a lot of ways, it was natural human reaction the other day,” Groh said. “But maybe we've got droids that are writing the rules in terms of human reaction. But that's what the rules are and that's what players have to understand. That's why we have officials at almost every practice during training camp and we have the officials talk to the players after practice relative to the position the official has, whether he's the head linesman or an side judge, umpire or referee. These are the calls I'm charged with making and this is why I make the calls that I do. And in a lot of cases, those gentlemen are simply directed by the supervisors of their conference, this is what you're going to call. That is not always in sync with the way the coaches see the game.

“But we are not in charge of the officials. I think that clearly in both cases, each player’s teammates quickly surrounded them so it became a team celebration, which is what they tell you, that if you celebrate as a team, it's okay. But that's the world that we live in and that's the world that we have to accept and accommodate ourselves to.”

By Zach Berman  |  September 11, 2009; 12:15 PM ET
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