Oct. 29, 2016
GEORGIA TECH HEAD COACH Paul Johnson
“I was disappointed with the way we played in the second half, I think that we found a way to make enough plays to win. The quarterback made some big plays in the second half. A lot of the same problems we have had all year – can’t get off the field defensively and we had back-to-back turnovers off the kickoff return and on the very first play of the second half. Hopefully we learned a very valuable lesson.”
On Justin Thomas’ performance:
“They were forcing him to run the ball on the option and he made some runs and he had a couple quarterback draws and then was able to get a couple of nice scrambles.
“The quarterback, he throws the ball if you protect him. [Duke] was selling out to stop the run, the touchdown to Clinton [Lynch] was the same as Georgia Southern. We caught them with the safety right down in box and they’re trying to play the option and check the play, we hit some. They had about two or three gimmick defenses and we hit them with big plays in the first half on two of them for touchdowns.”
On A.J. Gray’s performance:
“It was a great effort play by A.J. to save the score. It was a great effort play. You’d like to see the guy not run down the middle of the field untouched but it was a great effort play by A.J. Gray.”
On the positives to take away from the game:
“Yes, when you win. It’s hard to win. It’s really hard to win … There’s a lot of parity in the league … It’s hard to win in this league.”
On what Justin Thomas means to this team:
“I thought he played very well today. He made plays. We had other guys make plays, Clinton Lynch made plays. Ricky Jeune made a couple plays, Brad Stewart made a big play on the first series, Marcus Marshall had a long run, A.J. Gray had a play on defense. Terrell Lewis got a fourth down stop. We had some guys make plays, we’ve just got to be consistent.”
DUKE HEAD COACH DAVID CUTCLIFFE
“It’s very rare that you start a game the way we did, and the outcome ends up being the way you want it – speaking of the early explosive plays, even when we were ahead in the down and distance in the first quarter, when you’re playing this offense, basically four turnovers (two fourth downs and two fumbles) – to have 344 yards of offense at halftime and only seven points, that’s a really pretty bad picture.
“So what do you do? Now the flip side. You go on the locker room, you adjust some X’s and O’s, you talk as a staff, then you look some young people in the eye that you believe in, and tell them step-by-step what we have to do as a team to put ourselves back in the game. There are a lot of people that run from these situations. At the worst of times, people jump off bandwagons, but not this group of young men. It was really impressive to see the battle wage forward, and everybody took part – kicking, offense, defense – some really good things that occurred.
“But we just couldn’t finish. You have to look at Justin Thomas and say he might have had his finest hour. He played like a senior, that’s what I told him after the ball game. Take nothing away from them. They did what they had to do to win the game there at the end.
On going forward
“For us, what are we going to do? We’ll study this and learn that we need to do better, and learn what we’re doing exceptionally well and who’s doing it. I’m excited about Sunday. I’m excited to see our team grow. It’s been pretty interesting to see this team grow and adjust each week. I believe in my heart of hearts that we will see great response. I’m anxious to get back and have a great Sunday. That’s right where we’re focused, and that’s not coach-talk.
On Duncan’s injury
“I’m very sad about Jela Duncan’s injury, which appears to be season-ending. We will support him. That’s something that this time has found a way to make it work, support them with their actions. Respond to it and step up, honor them with their play.
On what caused the defense to surrender the big plays in the first half
“I felt a little guilty with the open date, it’s been a while since we played. We haven’t tackled live in a while. I still don’t know if that’s the case or not. That’s a Catch-22. We practice hard, we lock up, we mimic tackling. But I’ve seen that happen with teams. We said it multiple times; I don’t know if they always believe it, but this isn’t Army. They’re not. No offense to Army, but they’re not. They’ve got speed, they break tackles. This team runs for its livelihood, and you better tackle them. They obviously throw for it, too.
On defensive adjustments that were made that led to the turnaround
“We felt like we had solid match-ups, so the biggest adjustment was to minimize the risk you take, hope you don’t give up so many big plays. At halftime, you see an 82-yard run, a 50-yard run, a 4-yard pass … that’s a nightmare. Part of it is just lining up and doing your job, each man do his job and not have to dial up a win. Do a little less rather than a little more.”
GEORGIA TECH PLAYERS
Justin Thomas, QUARTERBACK, RS-SR
On becoming the 39th player in FBS history with at least 4,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards.
“That’s huge, as many people that have played the game. For me to be the 39th player to do that, that is special. In this type of era and some of the quarterbacks that have come through in college football, it’s a great accomplishment. That’s not all me though, the guys have protected me and just like today guys have had to make plays to put me in that situation. So that’s huge and hopefully there is more at the end of the season.”
On his 46-yard run in the 4th quarter.
“They brought an extra guy that we couldn’t handle; I knew I had to make him miss. They did the same thing on the play before so I knew it was coming. I had to make him miss because there wasn’t anyone else on the perimeter and I took full advantage of it.”
On opening up the passing game in the first half.
“Throughout the week the coaches said we were going to have to throw the ball and that’s what we did. The guys protected well up front and everyone made plays on the outside when the ball came to them.”
On staying in the pocket under pressure.
“That’s something I have been working on all season and during the offseason, not being so ready just to run out and to go through my progressions even when there is a little pressure.”
On his message to the team before the game-winning touchdown drive.
“I said we have to go score, no matter what the situation was we had to control the clock and put a number on the board. That’s what we did, everybody dialed in and we focused back in after a slow start. We played then the same way that we played at the beginning of the game. We can’t slack off like that, we have to play like that during all four quarters.”
Clinton Lynch, A-BACK, RS-SO
On his 46-yard touchdown reception.
“It was just a little corner route, (Justin Thomas) put it on the money and I had to go get it. I knew that I just had to get it into the end zone.”
On Justin Thomas opening up the passing game.
“We have full confidence in him throwing the ball. He threw a great ball to me on both of my touchdowns actually. It’s just good to have a guy like that on your team.”
On Justin Thomas’ demeanor during the game-winning drive.
“It was really just finishing the game and staying focused. The game is never over, you just have to keep fighting.”
Corey Griffin, DEFENSIVE BACK, RS-JR
On giving up 21 points in the third quarter.
“Well it all comes back to execution, lining up right, putting your eyes where they need to be and executing. We couldn’t get lined up or execute the defense.”
On the tempo of Duke’s offense in the second half.
“We repped the defense all week and I guess when we saw it live it was a different speed and different tempo then when we saw it in practice.”
On the forced fumble by A.J. Gray in the third quarter.
“That play was huge, overlapping each other with great effort. I was on the post, the guy broke and I couldn’t get him on the ground. A.J. (Gray) made a great hustle play, got the ball out and Step (Durham) recovered it. It was a great effort play.”