Paul Johnson Weekly Press Conference

Oct. 11, 2016

PRESS CONFERENCE AUDIO | GAME PREVIEW

VIDEO

Opening Statement:
“I was proud of the effort [at Pittsburgh]. I thought our guys played hard, [we] just came up a play or two short. Seems like that’s kind of how it’s been happening lately a little bit. Put it in the rearview mirror and move on. We’re getting ready to play a really talented Georgia Southern team. I think they’ve got some really good skill guys, especially offensively — the quarterback, running backs, receivers. It’s a pretty veteran group, a lot of the same guys we played here a couple of year ago, especially skill-wise. I know it’s going to be a tough, hard-fought game because, having been there, I know how excited they will be to have the opportunity to come play. They’re going to be fired up to come in here and have a chance to play.”

On coaching against his former team (Georgia Southern) and whether that makes it more important to him personally (Johnson was an assistant coach at GS from 1983-86 and head coach from 1997-2001):
“Other than wanting to win the game, not really. I still have a ton of friends there and a lot of support. I’ve got really fond memories of the place. When I was there, we were very successful. I think I was looking at it today, I think my last two years as the offensive coordinator and the five years as the head coach, we were 26-4 and 62-10. So we won a lot of games. But that’s all history. Now we’re trying to get ready to play and, having been there, I’m trying to make our guys understand how excited they’re going to be have a chance to come in here and play. We’ve got to be able to match their intensity and everything and be ready to play. The last time they came, I think we did to start with and then we kind of felt like it was over at halftime and, to their credit, they came back guns blazing. We’ve got to be ready to play one of our better games.”

On the current team goals:
“Our goal is to try to win the fourth game this week. You take it one game at a time and we try to win No. 4 and get back on the winning streak as opposed to the other way. You can’t look at the end of the season; you’ve got to go one game at a time. There are still six games left. I was saying [to the team] yesterday, `You’ve still got a chance to win nine games.’ If you did that, that would be the eighth or ninth time in 49 years that it’s happened, so that would be considered a pretty good year, I think. I would consider nine wins a really good year. Now that won’t achieve our goals that we set to start with — to try to win the division and get in the [ACC] championship game. As crazy as our division is, who knows? You just keep playing. You play one game at a time and you just keep playing and see what happens. I’ve seen everybody now on tape with the exception of Virginia Tech — and I watched them play a little bit, I know they’re really good defensively — but I don’t know that anybody else is just way better than anybody else. So there’s going to be a lot of teams beating each other, I think.”

On Georgia Southern quarterback Kevin Ellison:
“He’s very, very hard to tackle. He’s a finisher, he breaks a lot of tackles and he keeps a lot of plays alive. I think he’s gotten better as a thrower. He seems to be more accurate. One thing that they have [are] some receivers that can really run, some guys that kind of go get the ball. With the nature of running the option offense like they do, you’re going to get some one-on-ones out there with the receivers.”

On Georgia Southern’s offense, compared to 2014:
“I think probably not the same emphasis but the same stuff. That’s what it looks like to me. I think they’re trying to do a lot of the same things that they did when [former head coach] Willie [Fritz] was there, offensively. Defensively, they’re a little different but they’re still pretty similar.”

On Georgia Tech’s special teams:
“I think that the special teams, for most games, have been a positive. There are still things that we can correct. I found that when you have a good kicker that helps. They’ve been pretty solid which is a good thing because, for years, we heard the reason they weren’t very good was because we didn’t have a special-teams coach. Then we went through that for four or five years and now we see that a good kicker trumps [a good] special-teams coach. Having more [coaches] involved and being more into it … I think our staff has done a good job of it. They’ve taken ownership; each guy that has a unit has taken ownership of it.”

On if this game represents a chance for the Georgia Tech defense to force more turnovers:
“We’re due. We haven’t had very much luck. I always say you make your own luck but we haven’t had very much of it in a while, so we’re due. I don’t like talking about that stuff. As soon as you start talking about it, it’ll come right back to you.”

On Georgia Tech’s passing offense:
“You would hope the game dictates that. We are who we are. When you run 55 plays, it’s hard to throw the ball 30 times — that’s not who we are. I think that we did a much better job of protecting [QB Justin Thomas] a week ago and when you protect him and you get where he can see, he’s a pretty accurate guy. He has always been a pretty accurate guy throwing the ball. Certainly, that needs to be an aspect and what we need to be able to do if people put everybody up on the line to play the run, we need to be able to hurt them with the pass and we’ve got to be able to protect him to do that. So whether it’s five-man protection, six-man, seven-man, whatever, you’ve got to use whoever [you can] to protect the guy.”

On what he can count on for Georgia Tech to do well on a regular basis:
“I know what we need to do to do well. It’s pretty simple this week — you need to be able to run the ball and stop the run. You’d like to win the turnover battle, which would be huge. For us, we need to be able to hit a couple of big plays in the passing game, off play action or whatever. If we do those things, then we’ll have a really good chance to win. The one thing I know I can count on, I think Harrison Butker is going to kick the ball pretty well. He has all year. I think for the most part, Justin Thomas is going to get us in the right plays and the right situations. I think you can pretty much count on that. I’d like to think that we’re going to play hard.”

On if the offensive like taking more pride in its play:
“I hope so. It’s like I told our team, the last play [at Pitt, when Georgia Tech was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-one] just magnified the game, just what has happened. As much as it is physical execution, sometimes it’s just not being smart. We weren’t very smart on that last play either. You can say, `Well it’s a stupid play call.’ Okay, if that’s what you think, then that’s what you think. When they don’t work, then none of them are very good. We could have made it about 100 times easier on ourselves if we had lined up where we were supposed to, if we had stepped where we were supposed to … We’ve just got to make more plays and be dialed in and go … What bothers me is us not executing what we needed to do. From that aspect, we all need to take it personally; I do. I would hope that the offensive-line coaches do, the offensive line, the running backs. Everybody should take it personally; it’s the only way I know to play the game.”

On whether a win this week could be a turning point, much like after two-straight ACC losses in 2014:
“I think each team is different. What happens with every team is when you finish the game, you have to come and watch the tape. What you put on the tape is what you are. I have guys with discipline [issues] come in my office going, `Coach, I’m a good kid.’ Don’t tell me you’re a good kid. If you’re a good kid, you wouldn’t be in here six times. What you put on tape is what you are. Where you have a problem as a coach is if guys can come in and they can sit down and watch the tape and say, `Man, if I’d done that exactly like I was supposed to it wouldn’t have made a difference.’ That’s when guys I think tend to go, `Enough.’ I don’t think our guys are there if you ask them. They can sit and watch the tape and they can say, `Wow, if we had done this like we were supposed to or I had done this [like I was supposed to] then we would have had a chance.’ So they get frustrated too. When you watch it, nobody wants to fail. Nobody goes out there and doesn’t rush the passer because they want to. They don’t go out there to tackle the ball-carrier and miss him on purpose. But if you can look at it and say, `If I had got that guy, that would have been a touchdown or that would have been a big play,’ then that drives people that are competitive to try to get better.”

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