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#MeetThePress: @GTPaulJohnson Previews #UGAvsGT

Nov. 23, 2015

Head coach Paul Johnson met with the media this morning to discuss the upcoming game on Saturday against Georgia at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The two instate rivals will meet on the gridiron for the 110th time at noon on ESPN2.

Full audio of Coach Johnson’s press conference

Opening Statement “Well, I think it’s the time of year that all the fans and most everybody looks forward to the in state rivalry game. Certainly, it’s been a challenging season for us. While nothing could make the challenges and the results go away totally, it would be a good way to try to end the season on a positive note if we could win the last one, the instate rival game. Certainly Georgia has a good team. I think they’re playing very well defensively. They’ve got a lot of good players. Offensively, the last little bit they’ve run the ball very well. Sony Michel has done a nice job carrying the load that way. And we know we’re going to have to play better to have a chance to win the game. I think we’ve had seven turnovers in the last three halves. If we continue down that line, it won’t be pretty. So, we’ve got to get our house in order a little bit and come out. I’m sure our guys will be excited to play and we’ll see what happens.”

On if he could have seen 3-8 season at the beginning of the fall “No. No. Like I said, this is new territory for me. And it’s kind of been a situation where every game, for the most part, we’ve been in and we find a way to self-implode. I don’t know if that’s just playing young guys or it’s just our turn. You know I’ve been doing it a long time, maybe it’s my turn. Saturday is a great example, we’re down there and we’re moving the ball, even when we lost Justin [Thomas]. We’re down there and getting ready to go up 14-7. And we turn a guy loose on the goal line, we don’t follow the fullback like we’re supposed to and we turn the ball over. Then we let them go 98 yards with it. So, you just compound the error on top of errors. We get the ball back, make a couple of first downs, hand it off and get it ripped out of our hands. But, still you’ve got to come out with the ball. Now it’s 21-7 and it’s an uphill climb. You know, as opposed to you being ahead 14-7 or 21-7. That’s kind of the way it’s gone.

You go back to the North Carolina game, and we had every chance to win that game. You look at our division, Pitt, we had every chance to win that game. We can’t get the two [offense and defense] to play together or we can’t seem to make a play at an opportune time. In the North Carolina game, we get stopped on the goal line, we hold them and then we fumble the next play. And then they score a touchdown. It’s been one of those kinds of years. Pitt, we’re coming off our own goal line, we get the first down and we get an offensive pass-interference penalty. Then they hold the ball for the rest of the game and kick a 56-yard field goal. I think every team set a school record for field goals against us this year. So, it’s just been one of those years. And a lot of it has been self-inflicted.”

On if Lynn Griffin is at a point where he understands the offense after moving over from defense “Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think he’s getting better. And it was good to see Lynn do some things with the ball. That’s encouraging. He’s a good athlete and I think that, like anything, the more experience he plays there the better he’ll be. I wish we had moved him in the fall. I wanted to, but at that time he wasn’t sure he wanted to do that. I think he would have helped us. But, a lot of those guys, we’re playing a lot of freshmen, but if you look at that position, I mean next year, we thought Nate Cottrell might be the best guy we had off of a week of practice. So he’ll be back, Qua Searcy will be back and J.J. Green will be back. You know, some of those guys who are playing now may not be playing next year. I looked out there Saturday and at one time we had seven freshmen on offense. And you’re playing with the third quarterback and probably the fourth or fifth B-back. I think the kids are trying hard. We’ve just got to be smarter and hang on to the ball. Effort hasn’t been a problem. I mean they’ve played hard.”

On if he can flush games, being someone who remember every down, every play and every snap “Probably not. But, you’ve got to try. It’s like I said, I can flush the wins pretty easy. You move on, but the losses kind of stay with you. I’ve got a lot better memory of all the games we’ve lost than the ones we’ve won. But, I mean, you have to. It will just eat you up if you don’t. It’s all you can do. But, I don’t have to worry about that individually. I’ll never get that way. The old adage ‘show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.’ Yeah, I am not a good loser. I think everybody around me can tell you that. I think the team can tell you that. So it’s not acceptable. You don’t accept it, but you have to try to fix it and move on. You can’t go back.”

On if Georgia has any type of advantage in playing Georgia Southern the week before they play Tech “They really played three option teams in a row if you want to count Auburn. I don’t know they played Georgia Southern pretty good. They held them to 10 points. You know, they [Georgia Southern] scored seven on defense. They’ve got really good players. The two outside linebackers are NFL guys. I think No. 84 is probably a first-round draft pick. He’s really a disruptor and a good player, the [Leonard] Floyd kid. Jordan Jenkins has really played. I think his senior year he’s playing better than he’s ever played. And then they’ve got big guys inside. So, they’ve played pretty good defensively if you go back and look. You know, they’ve played against us. We’ve played against them. I don’t think there will be a whole lot of change. They played three fronts against us last year, that’s what they play against everybody. Nobody is going to reinvent the wheel in three days. You might have a tweak or an adjustment, but you might do something to try take advantage of what they’ve done or they may try to take advantage of something we do. But, there’s not going to be a lot of wholesale changes. If you go back and look at this year, I think out of the 11 games we’ve played, 10 teams have lined up the same way.”

On Matthew Jordan’s play on Saturday “He’s played in one game. He’s a tough kid. I think he’s a decent runner. He throws the ball adequately. He’s got to make better decisions than we did on Saturday, when to pitch it, when to keep, when not to throw it and when to throw. The first time he ran the option to the left, he turned up field and he pitched it on the ground and I got after him pretty good. That’s a pretty good indication when I got after him good that he won’t ever turn it loose again. And he didn’t for a long time. That’s just human nature. The play before the interception, the safety was really rolling down hard on the option. We came back with a play-action and the guy is wide open. Ricky [Juene] is probably 10 yards behind him, he gets a little pressure and he pulls it down. I yell at him, ‘The guy’s wide open. You’ve got to turn it loose. Next time he turned it loose. The guy wasn’t wide open. When you’re dealing with young guys, you’ve got to be careful what you’ve asked for because you’ll get it right at the time you don’t need to get it.”

On if he will time open up his home to players on Thursday for Thanksgiving “Yeah, what happens is, as you can imagine, not very many players come to the head coach’s house. We’ll have a lunch here for the team and families. We’ll have a little thing that we do and the coaches’ wives will bring desserts and all that kind of stuff. Then anybody that doesn’t have a place to go, most every coach opens up there home for them to come over. As a general rule, most of our guys go with guys. We have enough guys that live close in the area. And they’re through Thursday at lunch and they don’t have to be back until Friday at 3 p.m. So they usually go home with somebody. Once in a while you’ll have a few come to the house, but not often.”

On Marcus Marshall’s ability to get outside on the pitch “Yeah, I thought he did a good job when he got the pitch out there on some of the speed-option stuff down the line. We’d like to finish a couple of them and get them in the end zone, but you’ve got to block a little better for him too. Marcus Marshall is, a general rule, pretty good with the ball in his hands. But, unfortunately you don’t have the ball in your hands every play and you’ve got to do other things. So, that’s where his challenge is. And you know, he’s a freshman. Even though you’ve played 10 games, they’re freshmen. It’s like my wife said, he was playing in high school last year at this time. The speed of the game and the people we are playing against are a little bit different.”

On if there has been any silver lining that he’s been able to pull out from this season “Well, I think the things that have been a positive to this point is, one, those freshmen will be sophomores and they’ve all got a chance to play and they’ll have experience. And there are no moral victories. I’m not into moral victories. But, the one thing I’ll say about these kids, for the most part, and I think it says something about their character, they don’t quit. It’s like the dog that keeps running into the car. He isn’t getting in, but he keeps running. And they’ve kept coming. And sometimes when you get in a situation like this I would imagine, again I haven’t been in one, but I would I imagine it might be easy to quit running into the car. I think that the freshmen are like drinking from a fire hose. I don’t think that they’ve figured out that they possibly could not run into the car. But the older guys have kept playing. They are just kind of resilient and keep going. And that’s all you can ask them to do. We’d like to do it smarter and better. It’s like I told the team after the game Saturday, ‘What’s happening is not acceptable. I’m not going to accept it. I don’t think anybody is going to accept it, but I will give you credit.’ They’re still fighting like hell in the fourth quarter. They’re still playing. And I have seen a lot teams who wouldn’t. They’d just sack the bats and go on.”

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