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Paul Johnson Weekly Press Conference: Game 4

Sept. 26, 2017




Opening statement:
“Like I said after the game, it was great to get started with a win in the league and a division win. We’ve got a lot to clean up, a lot to work on this week as we get ready to take on another team, the University of North Carolina, that has a lot of really good players. They’ve had a lot of success against us the last couple of years so it’ll be a big challenge for us this week to get ready to play.”

On the difference between UNC from last year to this year in terms of personnel:
“They’ve got a few guys hurt, they’re like every team in college, you transition out. Offensively, they lost the first pick in the draft at quarterback, they lost a running back, their receivers, I think now with [Austin] Proehl being injured, pretty much all the ones who played a year ago. They’ve got some different offensive lineman and different running backs so they’re a different team. They’re young. Right now, they are in the middle of experiencing some of what we did in 2015 it sounds like, every time you turn around another guy is getting hurt. We’re starting to get some of that ourselves here.”

On how to address Georgia Tech’s four fumbles versus Pitt:
“You take care of the ball. You secure the ball, squeeze it high and tight and work on it in practice. We’re not teaching it any differently now than we ever have. This game, I think, it was an issue. The game before we didn’t turn it over at all. Part of our issue with the ball security on Saturday was some fundamental stuff. When you look at the tape, it wasn’t all just the running backs. The first one, he’s looking at the defense. One got kicked out of his hand, that’s a fluke. When you watch the film, the guy is flying sideways and his foot hits the ball and kicks it, you want to have it secured. The other ones, our fundamentals weren’t really good. It’s clearly something we’ve got to get better at or it’s going to cost us a game, no doubt about that.”

On being back in a regular practice routine and what that does for the energy and focus for the players:
“We’ll know more about it today and tomorrow. Last week was semi-routine because we had given the players some time off and got back and started on Monday. Mondays are more typically error correction and conditioning and going through special teams. And today we’ll have a solid practice and we’ll see what kind of reaction we’ll get from players but it’ll really be our first Tuesday practice of the year.”

On what the ACC being more balanced since he began at Georgia Tech:
“I think [being competitive has] become more important to some of the schools. I think that the schools at the top started to pull away with the way they support. There are four or five sports at the top whose budgets and staffs and everything are just lightyears away from the other teams and the other teams have tried to catch up and they’ve put more emphasis on it. I mean, you look at Duke and Wake Forest, when was the last time they were both [4-0]? I grew up in North Carolina and it’s probably been a long time. You’ve got all those teams that, when I first came into the league – not saying those teams – but when I first came into the league, there were three or four teams that you could kind of count on, unless something crazy happened, you were going to win those games. There’s not any now. Every week is a game that, if you don’t play well, you can get beat every single week. And the teams at the top have taken it to another level, as evidence by the last two or three years’ national championship.”

On possible signs in the preseason that the defense could perform as well as it did against Pitt:
“We’ve got a lot of returners back; we’ve got some guys who have played a lot of football. We’re still a young team but the most experience is over there (on defense). I was disappointed in our first game and in the last two we’ve played much better. So hopefully that’s a trend and we’ll continue to play well. I think sometimes, and I’ve said this before with polls and with stats, I don’t get too excited until we’ve played four or five games, when you have a better idea of what’s going on.”

On his confidence that the guard box will be as effective as competition continues:
“Well, I don’t know. That’s kind of why you play the games. Certainly, I think that our best players up front on offense are in those positions. So that needs to be a strength for us. Now, they’re young, but if you go back and you go through practice and grade the films and you do all that, they’re the better players.”

On whether he finds it better to be favored in a game or better to play as the underdog:
“I don’t pay much attention to that stuff. I don’t think it really matters as a team. I promise we won’t ever talk to our team about being 9.5-point favorites or 9.5-point underdogs or whatever. We just talk about the team and getting ready to play and try to go out and play the best we can. As I said earlier, every game in this league is a dogfight and if you think you’re going to win, you won’t. I mean, if you go in lackadaisical and not ready to play, you’ll get hit right in the mouth. I tell our guys all the time, nobody is going to be intimidated watching us get off the bus and as we walk into the stadium, they’re not going to look over and think, ‘Oh my god, we’ve got to play them?’ So you better bring it and be ready to play and prepare.”

On the resilience of the defensive unit against Pitt:
“I think the key was the first turnover, because I believe it was the only one that happened on our side of the field. I think that gave them confidence and when they went out and held them to three plays and they missed the field goal, and then offense was able to come out and tie the game up, that gave the defense a shot in the arm. And we started stunting and blitzing a lot more too. That first drive, they (Pitt) hit two huge plays. One was a busted coverage for a touchdown and the other was the hand-sweep. And we had a couple of missed assignments in that first drive – two or three, actually, on defense. After that we kind of settled down and the rest of the game we only gave up two plays of 20 yards or more. And when you do that and get negative plays, it’s, like I said, easier to play defense.


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