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Paul Johnson Press Conference Quotes

Sept. 22, 2009

A transcription of head coach Paul Johnson’s weekly press conference.

Opening Statement
“We are maybe one day ahead of our preparation this week. We gave the players Friday and Saturday off and then came back and did a normal practice on Sunday. We went to the Georgia Dome yesterday and got in a pads practice, which usually is a Tuesday. We have another pads practice today and then we will have a couple of days to polish up for the game.

“I am disappointed in the way we played Thursday night and the way we coached. It was a group effort. It didn’t turn out the way we would have liked. They did to us what we did to them a year ago. We need to get better. We created a lot of it ourselves. I think Miami has an outstanding football team but they would not have had to the way we played. We did not do much to help ourselves. We could not get them off the field. Offensively, we had very few possessions and did not maximize the possessions we had in the game. We took the opening drive down the field, have two missed assignments on back-to-back plays and have to kick a field goal. They come back and score. The next time we go down the field, we get a touchdown called back and could have made the score 14-10, then we miss a field goal. We talked at halftime; the score was 17-3 and we still had a chance if we hold them. They come out, punch it into the end zone, we then come back with our own touchdown but they punch it right into the end zone again. It was a frustrating game; hopefully we can learn from it and move on because we are playing a very talented team this week. Defensively, North Carolina has eye-popping numbers. Any time you give up less than 200 yards a game, I do not care who you are playing, that is pretty good. They are starting to hit stride offensively; they scored 30 in two of their three games. It will be a big challenge for our guys.”

On Jonathan Dwyer returning to the field
“Yeah, he is back. He practiced yesterday.”

On North Carolina’s previous games
“I think UConn has a very good team. They played them pretty strong. I do not know what UConn’s record is but they are a pretty good team and pretty physical. We are going to find out about our football team this week, and what kind of fight we have in us.”

On Tech dropping out of the national polls
“I do not care about the polls. That is ridiculous anyway. I can look and see so many different things that do not make any sense. How can Oklahoma be ranked ahead of BYU or Oklahoma State sitting ahead of Houston. Teams that have beat teams head-to-head are nine spots behind them. Right now, this time of year, the poll does not mean anything.”

On young players looking at polls
“They better start looking at who they are playing on the field and not the polls. I think you need some leadership and direction. We need to do a better job, as coaches of getting the players focused on that. They also have to care.”

On personnel changes this week
“We have made some but not a large number. We have some guys that are hurt. We played three games in 12 days, we are beat up. Clemson and Miami are both very physical teams with fast athletes. We played Clemson on a five-day turnaround and then came back and played Miami on the road. We are beat up. Honestly, I do not know who we will have available for the game. I know that Robert Hall is out; Cooper [Taylor] and Dominique Reese are questionable. If those guys are out, we will have to slide some guys around and makes some changes.”

On offense playing better
“You can always play better. Take the other night as an example — we played so poorly on offense. I am going to go back to the Clemson game, in which we played so poorly on offense. I do not know if any of you guys caught Clemsons’ stats from Saturday against Boston College but they gave up 54 yards and four first downs for the game. Let’s give Clemson a little credit, they are pretty good. Now 418 yards does not look so bad when the other team got 54. Now we go to Miami, let’s take the first half, first possession. We take the ball, drive down the field, have two missed assignments and have to kick a field goal. I can’t remember whether it was the first or third possession, because we only had three. If we scored every time we would have had it, we would scored 21 points. We get a field goal, get one touchdown called back due to a penalty and we miss a field goal. We start the second half and get three possessions. To my recollection, we score two touchdowns in the three possessions. If you run 50 plays, you are not going to have 500 yards in a game too many times. It is not going to happen. Can we be better on offense, you bet and we need to be better. We need to block the perimeter better, which was atrocious the other night. We have to do a lot of things better but that is the least of my worries right now. We have some bigger concerns than that.”

On putting too many plays into the defense too soon
“We have had too much in. Anytime you can’t do what you are doing, you have too much in. It is better at getting good at something then not be good and do a lot. There are two philosophies; you can do all types of things and not be good at it or you can do limited things and be good at whatever you do. On both sides of the ball we are not that good at anything right now.”

On North Carolina’s offense
“[T.J. Yates] is a different guy but Miami’s quarterback [Jacory Harris] did not hurt us with his mobility, he stayed in the pocket and killed us with pinpoint accuracy. They had guys running open all over the place. The thing that hurt us against Miami is they ran for 200 yards. If a team can do that and throw then you are in a world of trouble because you are taking nothing away. We have to try and take something away this week. You are not going to totally shut down good teams; they are going to get something. You have to try and take something away.”

On penalties due to mental mistakes
“I think you have all kind of penalties. There are mental, like motions and jumping offsides that kill drives. Those are the ones that drive me crazy. If you have an effort penalty, I can live with that because that is part of the game and you are trying hard. Mental are the ones that really get me. The play that called the touchdown back was pure technique. The first drive we had a penalty that was a poor call but when they call them, they all count. The officiating has been fine. We did not lose the game because of the officiating. You asked me about the penalties and that is why I focused on the technique. Some of the other ones were mental. The other team has nothing to do with you not knowing the snap count; that is you.”

On the weather in Atlanta effecting players at practice
“I am not sure anyone was aware of what was happening until after we got out of practice. I think a large part of it happened while we were in practice. I know for myself, I had no idea it was as bad as it was because you get in that bunker mentality and you are locked down working. I know when I started to go home last night, my wife called and said you can’t get home because the road is blocked. I never thought that could happen and when I get there it looked like a lake. I do not think anyone was affected. The hard thing is in our practice were guys missing classes because of our two Thursday night games. Guys have to make up quizzes. We get back and we are missing 35 guys if we start practice at the regular time. We made practice later and then we will miss 20 guys because they have labs. That is the problem when you go off schedule. We can set it up at the beginning of the year when we are in sync. When you change the week, it really messes with class schedules.”

On challenges of preparing for North Carolina
“They have a primary running back, Shaun Draughn. They bring other guys in on short yardage. Their freshman receiver [Erik Highsmith] has been their go-to receiver. The have a pro-style offense and a west coast short passing game. Last year, they ran the ball on us very successfully. We have to do a better job against the run this year.”

On thinking the team would be further along this season
“I thought we would be more efficient on the offense than we are. I think we are better on offense than we were a year ago at this time but we are not as efficient as I hoped we would be. You have to understand I am basing this on one game. To me, I think we played OK against Clemson. There are going to be a lot of teams that struggle against Clemson on offense. They are pretty good on defense. The last game, we were not as efficient. We didn’t have the ball a lot. If you go back and look at the stats through three games this year and last year, we are probably better than we where we were a year ago. I think we are better team but we are not where I want us to be. We scored 30 points in two of our first three games. It is never as good or bad as it seems. We are not as good at running the option as we need to be. We are not as good as throwing the ball as we need to be. We need to be really good at something. On defense, we need to be really good at something as well. If we are not going to be good against passing, then we need to be really good against the run or vice versa. That is what I am saying when I say we are not good at whatever.”

On lack of experience hurting on the defensive end
“The last game was not very good regardless. If I knew what it was it would be easy to fix. I think what it is, especially defensively; we talk about having a lot of guys that have played. Cooper [Taylor] has been hurt on and off. He really hasn’t been healthy for a game yet. You play with guys up front, three haven’t played. We are playing true freshman Julian Burnett a lot at linebacker. We are playing a lot of guys that haven’t played. We have played fairly good defensively. I think we played well against Clemson in the first half but gave up some big plays in the second half. Until you see a pattern, it is probably too early to say where we are but I am not going to drop the expectations on the team from where I think we should be. It is like when you have a kid, it is alright for me to say they are bad but I get frustrated when someone else says they are bad. You set the bar at where you want to be and you do not give in until you get there.”

On freshman Orwin Smith
“I think there were several bright spots in the Miami game. I vaguely remember a receiver [Demaryius Thomas] having six catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. It was not like it was three and out every time we had the ball. Orwin [Smith] is a gifted athlete. We need to get him more involved in the offense. We have to get him out there. He needs to know where to go better. We need to pick our spots and use him. He looks to be a different guy with the ball in his hands. He has made some great plays with the ball in his hands. It is encouraging. I think he can be a good kickoff return guy. Jarrard [Tarrant] is a great punt return guy when he gets a chance. We need to make teams punt; he didn’t get a chance the other night.

On not getting opponent to punt
“It is frustrating on a lot of levels when you can’t make the other team punt. Not just from the punt return standpoint. I am sure the defense was frustrated too.”

On expectations of team
“It is a tough game. You can’t run from expectations and neither do you want too. You want to have them. Every fan base thinks they are going to win. I guarantee North Carolina’s fans think they are going to win on Saturday. Georgia Tech fans think their team is going to win. That is the great thing about being a fan. Clearly, both teams can’t win. It is tough; they are 18-19 year old kids. It takes a special team to get up each and every game. A couple things need to happen. Either you need to have some special leadership, a special team; or you have to be so talented that you can win with your B game or C game because you are not going to win with your A game every time out. There is a cliché in coaching that your team will only get up for two or three games a year. Well if you are Florida, who do I got to get up for. The first two games they were going to win. Urban [Meyer] would probably say they didn’t play well against Tennessee. They will probably get up for Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, whoever and they will go because they are supremely talented. On paper, Washington should probably not beat Southern Cal but if you believe the pundits then you might not think it could happen. That is why you play the game. You have to have a burning desire to win and you have to understand it doesn’t just happen because you want it too.”

On team’s desire to win
“It is early in the season. I was disappointed. If I knew why we played that way Thursday night then we probably would not have played that way. When the game is over, the first thing I am going to do is look at myself and wonder what could have I done better. When we have that many mental mistakes, we have to look at what we are doing and teaching because we are not getting it across. Nobody screws up because they want too. It is a double-edged sword. We have to cut back because we may be doing too much in certain areas. We also need to have a better focus and effort out of the guys doing it. It is a team thing. Like I tell them all the time, when we look up at the scoreboard, we all lose or we all win. We have to find that happy medium. If you are asking me if my team wants to win, of course they want to win. Every team that plays wants to win. Can we learn how to win. Can we learn how to do all the little things necessary to win and that defines every team.”

On players stepping up on defense to bring energy
“I would imagine Julian Burnett’s head will be spinning so much, he will find it hard to line up correctly. The guys who have played need to bring the energy to the defense. Good players make plays. That is the bottom line. If you want to bring energy, you need to make plays. In the first half of the Clemson game, Derrick Morgan made plays. It can’t be one or two guys every game. It needs to be different players that step up and make plays. It will be interesting to see how we play on Saturday. We will find out a lot about our team on Saturday. We are also playing a good team. Sometimes the other team just might be better than you. It does work like that sometimes.”

On wanting to beat North Carolina after last year’s loss
“I do. Personally, I would like to beat North Carolina. I can’t answer for the 120 guys on the team but I guarantee they want to beat us too. We are not going to win the game by wanting to beat them more. We have to channel that to go out, play harder and more efficiently than them. That is the biggest misnomer out there that we are going to win this game because we really want too. They can change that with one lick to the head. Then maybe it is I did not want to win that as much as I thought I did.”

On chances of winning the ACC
“I have no idea. It is like I told our team in the locker room after the game. We are in the same place we were a year ago and we had a few chances to win the ACC last year. If we go on the road and beat North Carolina or if we beat Virginia at home, it is a long year. I do not know who Miami might lose to or if they are going to lose. They might lose Saturday to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. You can’t control that. The only thing we can control is the North Carolina-Georgia Tech game on Saturday. If we can win that game then we stay alive. If we lose, are we still alive, I do not know the answer to that. Historically, I do not know the last time there was an ACC team that went undefeated in the conference. It has probably been a while. We play eight conference games but probably will not know where we stand until we play six or seven of them. We thought we were out of it two or three times last year. You just find a chance to get back in it. It is a long year. We have played three games and we will know more about our chances as we play more games. It is not time to jump ship just yet.”

On the long snapper position
“We have several. We may try a different guy this week. If we do, it will be a freshman. A lot depends on how practice goes this week. Our big job is helping the guy who is doing it not to snap it high. He doesn’t want to do it; he doesn’t do it on purpose. We need to find a way, fundamentally, to help him not do that.”

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