Check-Up Reveals Jackets Must Not Backslide

Sept. 21, 2010

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

There was a touch of humor in Paul Johnson Tuesday, but just a touch and it came near the end of an otherwise run-of-the-mill media gathering.

I don’t have room to complain because I didn’t ask any interesting questions, but the most salient point to come up – other than the fact that Georgia Tech may be as healthy overall as in recent memory (Johnson knocked on the wood table when the topic came up) – related to backsliding.

To be specific, he spoke of the Yellow Jackets not losing their grip this Saturday against N.C. State, which happens to be 3-0 behind one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the nation. Russell Wilson is top notch, one of two ACC quarterbacks/minor league baseball players in addition to Clemson’s Kyle Parker.

This probably wouldn’t have been a topic if the Jackets hadn’t come from so far back to win their ACC opener last Saturday at North Carolina.

They overcome a modest 24-17 deficit in the third quarter to beat the Tar Heels 30-24, but that was secondary to their rally from an emotional abyss one week early up to and including their loss at Kansas.

Now, the goal is to remain attentive, jacked up and on task.

I backslid, and only with the help of others did I recover.

Leaving Johnson’s press gathering, I couldn’t get out of my parking spot because my old goat of a Landcruiser wouldn’t shift into reverse.

My wife, who has all but begged me for years to get a younger and more efficient vehicle, said I should be embarrassed. She’s a Tech graduate, but here I say, “What does she know?”

Only when I flagged a couple of passing students who helped me push the `Cruiser (this thing keeps showing up in the wrong places, huh?) backward so I could go forward.

The Jackets need to keep their transmission where it was last weekend, and clean up a few mechanical errors as well.

Johnson was not fond of the term, “killer instinct,” as he pointed out some errors even in the win.

“I think they responded with the attitude and intensity that they need to [have at] the start of the season,” he said. “Like I said, the big question is can we maintain it? Was it a one-time deal, or can we maintain it?”

It is the question, actually.

Tech cannot always get away with turnovers, or having 20-play, 87-yard drives bog down and result in field goals. The Jackets cannot rely on having the defense take a couple quarters to calibrate before stoning up as Tech did at UNC.

Otherwise, somebody might have a heart attack.

I nearly had one trying to push the `Cruiser by myself.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio did have one after the Spartans beat Notre Dame in overtime Saturday night.

Johnson was asked about that, and then asked how often he gets “checked.”

There was a very brief pause, and then a room filled with laughter, not about Dantonio but rather the awkwardness of the situation.

“In what way?” the coach asked. “I try to go have a physical once a year. [The other stuff] not as much as I used to.”

I have no idea what the tail end of that meant.

But then I was in the midst of a back-sliding day so what do I know?

Send comments to stingdaily@gmail.com. So sorry to be brief today, but I was enveloped most of the afternoon after getting home wrapping up a story on Tech benefactor/uber fan Steve Zelnak. It will be in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Interesting man.

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