Speak Low

Oct. 4, 2011

Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

In five games this season, Georgia Tech has outscored opponents 80-14 in the first quarter and 67-14 in the third.

Curious Tech fans might want to ask Head Football Coach Paul Johnson, “What do you say to the players to get them so fired up?”

His answer likely would be a little calmer and a whole lot less “Hollywood” than what they might have imagined. There are no “Win one for the Gipper” speeches here.

During his weekly Tuesday morning press conference, Johnson, whose team puts its No. 13 ranking and 5-0 record (2-0 in the ACC) on the line Saturday afternoon against Maryland at Bobby Dodd Stadium (kickoff is at 12:01 p.m.), didn’t get into specifics of what he says in his locker room remarks, but he did give a hint of what he does not, and will not say.

“The Knute Rockne speeches, I’ve coached 32 years. I’ve never seen that make a difference,” he said. “You can take a team, Western Carolina came in here. [Head Coach Dennis Wagner] could have dug Knute Rockne up. It wouldn’t have helped him. The rah-rah stuff don’t mean diddly.”

Johnson was as down on the pre-game on-field antics. That dates back to his days at Georgia Southern.

“I used to get tickled, because the big thing was all the teams jumping up and down in the end zone, ‘We ready. We ready,'” he recalled. “I used to see that and I’d look at the assistant and say, ‘They THINK they’re ready.’ Then when the game would start, suddenly they weren’t as ready as they thought. Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t do much for me. Focus and knowing what you’ve got to do and going out and playing hard and trying to get better, that’s what gets it.”

Johnson is hoping his team gets it done more effectively against the Terrapins on Saturday than it did last Saturday in Raleigh, N.C. against North Carolina State, when it nearly let a 21-7 lead get away and allowed the Wolfpack to get from 42-21 to the final of 42-35 in the final minute.

“We’re always trying to put teams away,” he said. “I don’t know how much N.C. State got back into the game. We don’t fumble the ball and they pick it up, it’s a 14-point game. You wouldn’t expect that to happen. But you’re always trying to stop them. Guys that were out there were playing. You’ve just got to make a play.”

While Johnson said the enthusiasm and effort has been there, the execution could be better. That was obvious in practice all last week. The players also were made aware of Johnson’s displeasure with their performance.

“I could and I got after them accordingly,” he said. “They’ll tell you that there was more than one occasion that they got flame-sprayed in practice last week. I’m a firm believer that you play like you practice most of the time and we were just kind of not sharp and that’s the way we played in the game, not sharp.”

He expects that to change this week.

What will not change is any pre-game or post-halftime antics.

Fans looking for that will have to make due with the Ramblin’ Wreck.

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