Oct. 5, 2015
Georgia Tech head football coach Paul Johnson met with the media on Monday morning to discuss the Yellow Jackets’ upcoming game at Clemson on Saturday. Kickoff at Clemson is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2.
“Well, certainly we are disappointed with the outcome on Saturday. I thought we got off to a good start, which we hadn’t done in the last game. We just had a lot of opportunities and you have to give North Carolina credit. They made plays and we didn’t at some critical junctures. And right now, our margin for error is razor-thin. So, we have to do things. It’s disappointing that special teams were a drag again. We worked awfully hard on that. There were several plays in the game that could have affected the outcome, like all games.
Now moving ahead, it doesn’t get any easier. We get to go play the No. 6 ranked team on the road again. What we’ve got to do is focus on ourselves. That’s a tough place to play. It’s extremely loud. They’re very, very, good defensively. I think before the fourth quarter collapse against Notre Dame, where they piled up some yards, they were in the top ten in total defense. They may have dropped out of the top ten, but they’re, I’m sure, in the top 25 somewhere. Offensively, they have a lot of skill, a lot of playmakers, a tremendous quarterback, so they’re a very complete team.”
On updates on injured players
“We’re hopeful that we’ll get most of the guys who got hurt in the game back. Once Adam [Gotsis] got ejected, you had the two starting defensive tackles out, we lost Chris [Milton] midpoint. I think at one time we probably had as many as eight or nine starters out on offense and defense. It has just been one of those years. And it has piled up at positions. At A-back, I mean, I looked out there and they played pretty good. We got production out of them, but we played a large part of the game with Austin [McClellan] and Ike [Isiah Willis], who both came here as walk-ons. To their credit, they were playing well, but you’re not ripping off too many 50 and 60 yard plays.”
On if the players still feel confident after last week’s loss
“Well, we’ll see. They will look at it today. I don’t have any reason to believe they won’t. I can name 25 plays. And you can do that in every game when you look. The second touchdown, well, really the first touchdown they score, they fumble the ball and it rolls to their receiver instead of us getting it. The second time, we got a guy that misses the quarterback, unblocked on a scoring play. On offense, we don’t catch the ball right. We’re behind them in the first half of the last series and we throw it too far. We don’t catch it. We get stopped on the goal line. We fumble the ball. We drop an interception. I mean, there are a zillion plays in that game that could have gone the other way.
And that’s the thing about football, it’s not easy to win unless you’re just physically far-superior to other teams. It’s a tough game. In my time here, I don’t know if we’ve ever been physically superior the other teams in the league. Now, we’ve got our share of good players, but it’s not like when I was, for instance, at Georgia Southern, to compare. When we were in the Southern Conference, there were probably two or three teams that could beat us. You could go out with your ‘B-game’ and you could win the rest, or your ‘C-game.’ That’s not the way it is here, they’re close, hard-fought games. And it’s hard to win. And most teams are that way, not just us. Probably 90 percent of the teams in the country are that way. There is very little margin for error. You have to get some breaks. And right now, we are not getting any, they’re going the other way.”
What was your evaluation on how the offensive line played?
“I think we did okay. We played better. I think we got better on offense. Still things we can work on. I’m disappointed on the short-yardage plays. That’s just disappointing. And that’s not all on them, but for the second game in a row, fourth and one, third and one, we missed two third and ones, a third and two, and something else. And when you do what we do, that’s not case.
People can talk about how they lined up all they want. I’m watching the Clemson game all the way back to ’13, Clemson is lined up exactly the way North Carolina is lined up on the goal line, we run exactly the same play and walk in. And Clemson has got good people. Now, it’s not all them. It’s our execution, and again, we missed a call. We had a couple missed assignments. That’s why I say there’s no margin for error. If you have a missed assignment, a guy breaks a tackle, nobody knows. Or if somebody knocks their guy back so far that you get in, nobody notices that they turned the other guy loose. But, when there’s not much margin in for error, it comes into play.”
On Clemson’s defense and Shaq Lawson
“He’s just a good player. He’s big, strong, fast, hard to block, and he’s so versatile. I mean, they drop him into coverage in a bunch of their zone blitzes and match him up man-to-man with backs out of the backfield. He’s a good player; he’s a next-level guy. They’ve got a bunch of next-level guys. They had seven last year that are actively playing in the NFL off of that defense, and they’ve probably got that many or more this year. They’ve got some nice players.”
On the level of importance the A-backs have in the offense
“They are like everybody. Every position is important. No matter what offense you run, the quarterback is going to be the focal point and he’s going to get all of the attention one way or the other. But, there’s not a position out there that’s not important. If you’re hitting big plays, they are knocking guys down on the perimeter. Again, I was watching the ’13 film [versus Clemson] this morning, Orwin Smith and Robbie Godhigh are catching that pitch and going 40 and 50 yards a pop, against Clemson, who has good players. They blocked well for each other. Now we sealed the stuff inside, but they were seniors, more experienced, older guys. And they were both fast and good players. I think these guys are going to get there. It’s just you are asking them to transition straight from high school to big-boy football, and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way. If it wasn’t, you would just play with all freshmen.”
On the team’s execution in the first 16 minutes of the game against North Carolina
“Well, it worked out good. You know, we punted one time in the game. We lost it on downs on the goal line and on about the 40-yard line. And we had a fumble. They had no turnovers. They punted the first two possessions and then they punted one more time in the game. I think they had the ball nine times if you take out the kneel downs or whatever. So, you would like to control the clock, but you want to score. What I was trying to do was score. I didn’t care when we pitched it we got six yards; I would’ve liked to have gotten 60. And we would have scored a lot faster and there would have been more possessions, but I didn’t care that it worked out that way.
I think that what you have to look at, when you break stuff down, is you have to look at the efficiency of what you’re doing. It’s a team game and you play. They’re going to get the ball first to start the second half. So, if we take a knee or just try to run the clock out at the end of the first half, how many times did we have the ball? That would have meant we had three possessions in the half. My nature is if there was 20 seconds left in the half, yeah, we might try to run the thing out. With a minute 29 seconds and three times out, I’m going score if I can. Because if we hit the first play, if the kid doesn’t score and they run him down, we’re on their side of the field with three timeouts and a minute to go. We can do about whatever we want. Now the second play, I ran the ball to see if we could get a first down. We didn’t execute it very good. So, third [down] and 14, I wasn’t going to hand it off and let them take timeouts and get the ball back. I was going to try to make a first down.”
On if the experience of playing at Notre Dame helps the younger players heading into Clemson
“I think it will help the guys who played at Notre Dame. But, unfortunately, a lot of them aren’t playing now. Everybody’s different. That’s a hard place to play. Clemson is tough; it’s one of the toughest. It’s hard to hear. Last time we were there, we had a slew of motion penalties. Their fans do a great job. Our fans did a good job on Saturday trying to make it loud. It’s part of home-field advantage.”