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Paul Johnson's Press Conference Transcript From Tuesday

Nov. 25, 2008

Opening Statement:

“I was really proud of the effort of our football team last Thursday night against Miami and think we put together all three phases of the game better than we had all year. We played with a lot of effort and it was a big win for our program. This week, we have a huge challenge going into Athens. The University of Georgia is a very talented team. They have unbelievable skill players on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Defensively, they are very skilled and run well. We are going to work hard this week and looking forward to the challenge of going into Athens and competing against a top team from the SEC.”

As you look at Georgia on film, what is your assessment of them?

“It’s not going to change what you do from week to week what you have to do to win. They’re very skilled and are going to make some plays. What we have to do is try is limit their big plays and prevent them from being scoring plays. We need to be very sound in the kicking game. On the flip side, we need to take care of the ball on offense and get some big plays. It will definitely be an interesting game.

“They have a lot of things that stand out to me on offense as I watch their film. [Quarterback Matthew] Stafford has a very strong arm and has been very productive. Their two wide receivers [A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi] are really good players and they have a couple good running backs. Between the quarterback, two receivers and the running back [Knowshon] Moreno are all probably first-round draft picks. They are all very talented.”

What enabled you to be so effective against Miami last week and what can you take into this week?

“I think our guys executed at a high level. Our quarterback [Josh Nesbitt] played extremely well. He wasn’t at 100 percent yet, but this week is about as close as he has been in the last two games. He did a tremendous job directing the offense and we got the best game all year from our offensive line. It was an effort game and now we need to play with that effort this week against Georgia.”

Knowing that you need Virginia to beat Virginia Tech on Saturday for you to go to the ACC Championship game and the fact your game is at the same time, how much will you be paying attention to the score?

“I’ll be a little occupied during that game I think! I haven’t thought about it a whole lot this week. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. I learned a long time ago not to worry about things you can’t control. In my mind, after the Miami game we guaranteed at least co-champs of the Coastal Division. Of course, we’d like to have a chance to play in the championship game, but we’ve done all we can in ACC play. We are going to focus on Georgia Saturday at Noon and whatever happens, happens.”

With this being your first Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry game, are there are special stories coming out this week?

“Not so far. Our preparation has gone like any other game. Having had the opportunity to coach in another big rivalry [Navy vs. Army], it gives you some experience with this kind of thing. We have to do what we can do, go play the best game we can and let the chips fall where they may. If we’re good enough, then we’ll be good enough and if we’re not, then we won’t.”

Can you talk about your special teams’ performance against Miami and what made you decide to use the on-sides kick in the first half?

“We made some plays and I think we covered kicks well, pinning them inside the 20 yard-line three times. We had a decent night on the kick-off returns, but I think we missed some opportunities in the punting game. There were two occasions when I think we could have blocked a punt. It could have been a really good night in the special teams if we had done a few more things.”

“Off the tape, he’s the best running back we’ve played. If you watch all their games, you can probably count on one hand the amount of times the first defender gets him down. He’s very valuable in that he’s a great pass receiver, is a tough match-up coming out of the backfield and is an all-around great player.”

Do you feel the need to do anything or say anything different to your players because of the rivalry game?

“It is what it is. All of the talking in the world is not going to change anything. You have to go out and win the game. All we can do is go out and play and we’ll see if we’re good enough. Most people probably think we’re not right now. My job as the coach here is to get us to the point where we are the favorite. Does that mean that I think we don’t have a chance? Nope. I don’t know if we do or not, but we’ll see when we get there. I’ll be able to tell you by the second or third quarter. I know we’re not afraid. I’m not afraid. What’s the worst thing that can happen? We’ll lose. We’ve done that. All we can do is go play and see what happens and our guys are definitely excited to go do that.”

Have you even been part of a rivalry that has been one-sided?

“You bet – the one I just came from! It was pretty one-sided. It might have gotten in their (Army’s) heads, but I don’t know. I was on the other side. I know, for us, it was always a big game. People ask me what the comparison is. Picture for 364 days a year that is all you hear. It was no different there than it is here. Every weight in the weight room said `Beat Army.’ The fight song ended with `Beat Army.’ When the freshman squared the corners, it was `Beat Army.’ At Army, it was the same way the other way. I understand rivalries, for sure. I know how important they are. If you said at the beginning of the year that this could be a close game, most people would have said you were nuts. I mean one team was picked to win three games and the other was preseason No. 1 in the country. Here we are and who knows. That’s why you don’t play the games on paper.

“Any time you coach at a certain place, you appreciate the rivalry. The people at Navy think the Army-Navy game is the biggest in the country. The people here like Georgia Tech and Georgia, while the people at Georgia Southern the biggest rivalry is Georgia Southern and Furman, and then later Appalachian State. Every school has those games. You realize it’s important. I don’t think you try to minimize it, but when you walk away from it you want to know you did the best you could. There’s no magic that is going to happen because it’s Georgia and Georgia Tech. The team that plays the best on that Saturday in November is going to win the game.”

What differences did you see in your team from the North Carolina game to the Miami game?

“Being ready to play is part of it. You don’t want to take anything away from North Carolina because they played well and beat us, but we didn’t show up to play. Last week, we were ready to play and I could see it in warm-ups. If I knew the answer why, I’d bottle it and save it for all games. Sometimes, guys are more ready than others. I was talking to [Atlanta Falcons head coach] Mike Smith this morning about the way they came out to play Sunday [vs. Carolina] as opposed to a week ago [vs. Denver]. They’re professionals and sometimes teams do that.

“On Thursday, I told our assistant coaches before we came out of the locker room that I had not seen our guys like this in warm-ups since I’ve been here. You knew they were ready to play. They were excited, bouncing around and you could tell. I didn’t know what was going to happen or how we would play, but you could tell they were ready. We went out and played well and it was our best effort game of the year.”

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