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Paul Johnson Press Conference

Oct. 5, 2010

Coach Johnson

Coach Groh


Head Coach Paul Johnson’s Opening Statement
“Last time we had an opportunity to play in our home stadium, we didn’t play particularly well. Anytime that happens you’re always anxious to play in front of the home crowd again. This week is a very important conference game because the conference race has just started. For some of the teams this is only their second conference game. We already have a conference loss at home and to have a chance to compete for the conference championship, we need to make sure that we don’t do that again. It is an important game for us for sure and for Virginia because they have a loss as well. Historically, there have been pretty good football games (between Tech and Virginia). They came down to Atlanta two years ago and got us and we got them last year by a pretty good margin, although the game was close up until late in the third quarter when we broke it open. I am expecting a hard fought game.”

On the emotions of Al Groh going against his former team
“I don’t know how I would feel. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would feel. If you did it in the next year, although right now I still have ties with Navy’s senior class, but it is probably different if you still have guys that you recruited. You just have to block it out. You would have to ask him. I have never done that so I don’t really know.”

On Virginia’s capitalization on turnovers against Tech
“The only ones that I know about are the two that we played and certainly the game that they beat us in Atlanta, turnovers were big. We had the ball going in to get ready to take the lead in the fourth quarter and we turned it over inside the 10-yard line. I think their quarterback, if I remember correctly was 21-of-24 and they converted a high rate on third down. Last year, we stopped them pretty well offensively and wore them down and got on them pretty good. It has been two different games.”

On “urgency” in the game
“The last nine minutes (of the Wake game) we played with a little urgency. You would like to go out and play better to begin with. I don’t have an answer for you, we just didn’t play very well if you watch the tape. We didn’t execute very well. Defensively we did ok. We did enough on defense to hang around so that we had a chance in the fourth quarter. But, truthfully, it is disappointing to me that when you tie the game up [Wake Forest] took the ball and drive down the field for a field goal, so it wasn’t like it was that stellar either. Let’s not break our arm patting ourselves on the back for that one. I think we can play better all the way around and we need to. I have told them we aren’t playing up to our potential I will be the first guy to say that.”

Do you plan to pass more often this week?
We won’t. We are going to do what we do. If the opportunity presents itself we’ll throw, it just kind of happened in the (Wake) game. We also got behind. It is a lot better when it works; if we throw and it didn’t work everybody complains `why are you throwing, you cant throw’. All you have to do is win. If you win it is all ok, if you don’t it’s not.”

On the offense’s confidence level
“We work on our two-minute offense every week at practice. I think that [Joshua Nesbitt] played like an experienced quarterback and he made plays (at Wake). He kept the thing alive on fourth and four with a good decision and a run. On third down he took the short route, threw the ball and got the first down. He made smart decisions, good plays.”

On Joshua Nesbitt
“He is like everybody else. Sometimes he plays well and sometimes he didn’t play as well as he could play. He is at a different standard. What is playing well for him? I am going to hold him to a higher standard than someone that hasn’t played at all. And I think he holds himself to a higher standard, he is a very competitive young man and he likes to win and that is what makes him special as a quarterback. If I had to pick two things that I think separates him from other guys it is his toughness and he is competitive. Those are two pretty good things to have in a football player. He missed some reads in the NC State game, he missed some reads in the Wake Forest game. You are never going to get them all right, but I think what he did was down the stretch he made plays. He played like a warrior in the North Carolina game. That doesn’t mean that he did everything perfect, he puts everyone on his back sometimes and makes plays and that is what he did. Staying alive, being experienced and realizing `Hey it’s fourth down, I have to make something happen’.”

On this season compared to last season
“There is not a huge difference in the offensive line from this year to last year if you want to go back and look. I did, I looked at it. We have some short memories if we think that [the offensive line] was knocking people around last year. Anytime we struggle a little bit we jump to conclusions right away. Let’s let the thing play out. Last year we averaged a little over 6 yards per carry last year, this year it is 5.6 ypc.

“If there is one thing that I think that is a little different at this point to a year ago, and I don’t go back and dwell on the numbers. This year we are averaging 29 points a game, last year we averaged 31, that is not a lot of difference. Over the course of the season it might turn out to be, but right now it isn’t. The one thing you can say that we aren’t getting as consistently is big plays and we are not as good on third down. There is no question that we aren’t as good on third down as we were a year ago and I think the big culprit of that is we have had a lot more third and longs than we had a year ago. Last year I think we may have led the country in third down conversions; we were over 50 percent, because we had a lot of third and shorts. This year, we haven’t had as many and even when we have we have missed a couple of those. It happens. Some of it is inexperience and some of it is just not getting it done. People know what they have to do, they just didn’t get it done. That happens sometimes. We have had injuries to the offensive line. That doesn’t help. Saturday night at Wake Forest we played three tackles, two centers, four guards, a lot of guys trying to find the right combination and sometimes it just didn’t gel.”

Did Al Groh need to convince you that he still had the fire to coach?
“I figured that if he didn’t want to do it and have the fire he wouldn’t do it. Clearly I didn’t think he needed the money. I figured he loves football, loves to coach and loves to teach and if you watch him work and run around at practice, it is pretty easy to see he is a high energy guy. He wears our young guys out during practice.”

On his own coaching demeanor
“I think you try a lot of different things until you find what motivates and what works. It is like I told the team yesterday, I am up their tail right now and I am going to be until they play up to their potential. I am not trying to be their friend, I’m trying to be their coach. It wouldn’t be fair to them if I wasn’t hard on them if they are not at their potential. You can look at it a couple of different ways. If we get beat by a team that is more talented and is clearly the better team, but we go out there and try hard and we do the right things, then it doesn’t do any good to yell at them. But, I don’t believe that to be the case to this point. I don’t think we are playing up to our potential and it is up to me to make them play up to their potential. Do I want to be the heavy all the time and the bad guy? No. I would love for somebody else to do it, but I don’t see anybody else doing it so therefore it is up to me.”

On Nesbitt seeing the field
“I think we used a lot of different guys and I think he threw the ball well and played well. There were a couple of passes that he would probably like to have back, but I can’t think of any real errant throws. I think he threw the ball pretty well and gave guys a chance to catch it.”

On special teams
“A punter dropped a snap (at Wake) and kicked it 10 yards; we had two blocking in the back penalties, no the special teams has not improved. The two teams on special teams that have been pretty good are the kick returns and the kickoff coverage. The kickoff returns have been adequate. We haven’t gotten the ball out, but they have been pretty good. The kickoff coverage has been good. The field goal kicker has also been good. He is as good as you can be, 7-for-7. The punt team has not been good and the punt return team has not been up to standards.”


Defensive Coordinator Al Groh

On How Saturday’s Game Will Be Different
“Every Saturday night, there are only two ways you can feel in your competition. You can feel a sense of satisfaction from accomplishment you get because the result was in your favor, or you can have that haunting feeling of loss that everything you did all week brought you no satisfaction. So if you are in competition, or if you are a veteran of competition, then it really does not make a difference what color jersey the team you are coaching wears, all that counts is the result. That is what I work for every week. I try to work toward the satisfaction of our team accomplishing something, and avoid that haunting feeling that causes sleepless Saturday nights. This will be the same for me as it has been for 41 years.”

On Any Advantage Of Previously Coaching With Mike London
“We do what we do, especially since we are in the process of installing our system of a radical change right now which really throws our compass off. Clearly, the advantage is on the Virginia side. I say that because one, I taught our defense that we are doing here to the head coach and to the secondary coach. They have all my play books and all my cut-ups. Those two coaches and the linebackers coach have sat through endless hours with me discussing defense, making game plans, and analyzing our performance. There is no dilemma or no secret analyzing how Al Groh thinks.”

On knowing the personnel at Virginia
“Well, it helps me, but I don’t think Jason Peters or Brad Jefferson or Mario Butler or those guys, have an intimate grasp of the skills of those players. What’s more important is if our players had personnel recollection or history with their players.”

On facing the players he developed
“I am not sentimental toward institutions. Whether they are NFL institutions or NCAA institutions, my sentiments, my emotions, my affections, and my appreciations is for individuals. As a result, most of my best friends in this world are people that I coached or coached with. Nothing changes that. There are a lot of players that are now playing for teams in St. Louis, Houston, New York, San Francisco and Atlanta and they are still among my best friends even though they are not on my team anymore. That will always be the case. There are many players on the current Virginia team that I look forward to having that relationship with in the future. I have much appreciated the players that have stayed in touch with me the past few months, so that is why I say I look forward to developing those relationships as they move on into their circumstances.”

On the biggest lesson learned in Charlottesville
“There is no biggest lesson because it is an all-encompassing job; whether it has to do with social issues, organizational issues, scheme, how to utilize the people around you, and how to utilize your skills, which changes based on the people around you. Also what functions might prevent responsibilities that might intrude on taking time away from the responsibilities that the coach brings to the table. Just like with players, for every organization the head coach that comes into the program brings a certain skill level and that is why he is there in the first place. If other responsibilities deprive him of taking advantage of that skill level, the team is really being deprived of a resource that it really should be taking advantage of. There is no school you go to get a degree to be the head coach; it is on the job training. It is all observation. Everybody who does it for a period of time works out a way to not only get the best out of his team, but get the best out of himself.”

On his decision to continue coaching after he was done at Virginia
“That is what I do, that is who I am. It lets me be the person that I am. (Wife) Ann and I spoke very quickly afterward, and despite what many people were saying to me… they were really trying to give good advice, and were saying `you have had a lot of good times in your career, you have been to Super Bowls, you have been head coach in the NFL, you have been the head coach in college, and are well-set financially. Why don’t you take a little time off and see what you want to do? Go to Europe. Why go through all this some more?’ I very quickly said to Ann, `I appreciate that advice, I could probably retire from football right now, but I am just not ready to retire from me.”

On what he felt after he was done at Virginia
“I was able to say what I said, and be very comfortable with it because I only ever had one agenda, and that was do the best for my team that I could. I really did not have any other agenda. I did not do many speaking engagements, I did not do this or that, I am really just a football guy. So I gave a lot of time to that, and tried to give as much time to the players as they needed from whoever was their head coach at the moment, knowing how important that is to players. Were there some decisions I would change? Sure. I did that every week of every season, so a lot of that introspection, so if you wait until a certain point in your career and say you are going to look back at the last nine years of my career, then your probably repeated a lot of your errors. If you are willing to immediately thereafter step back and say what we could have done differently, then you make progress forward. Most of those things have been dealt with at previous times.”

On the defense against Wake Forest
“Our fundamentals continued to improve. We saw a lot of things at the skill level that players did both collectively and individually at the best level yet. As a result in many cases we had one of our better performances. I thought the players clearly had the necessary level of resilience and positive energy given some of the circumstances that were there. There are going to be challenges in every season, and there are going to be challenges in every game. It is not just about schemes, it is about the collective mentality of the players, whether it is the whole team or within an individual unit. We were able to deal with those situations, and not only were the results able to point that out, but their demeanor, their attitude, their energy was there when I was taking to them on the bench between series. It was very positive, and particularly when that score was 17-6 we were playing every series with the game on the line. Any more points, two points, three points, and certainly seven points probably would have made the margin too big. They clearly understood that, and that was a positive on how they responded to that.”

On simplifying things last week
“We try to be analytical and a little introspective, which involves self-criticism as well as self-reinforcement at certain stages. Every week it is the job of the coach to do whatever it takes to bring out the very best out of the players. In that case we decided to place ourselves in a little bit of tactical jeopardy, and just depend on the players to solve the problem. You can only do that for so long, because then you become a target because people will say `they are not going to adjust.”

On Virginia’s offense
“We have quite a bit of familiarity with the offense in that it’s very similar to the offense that we ran there for many years. In fact there are quite a few plays that probably have different names then, but the lines and the play book are going in the same direction. It is apparent that that has been helpful in the transition, because a lot of the players and the quarterback in particular have a lot of background in making these reads, making these runs, and blocking these throws. I think it the combinations of issues with many players on the Virginia offense have more accumulated repetitions running their schemes, then the Georgia Tech players have on defense. Secondly, the built-in knowledge the decision makers up there have on how we go about things. Those guys were with us for a long time, and I feel like we taught them a lot of things. I have never met the offensive coordinator so I do not know how he thinks.”



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