Nov. 25, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
You would barely know from most of what Paul Johnson and Jimbo Fisher said Sunday afternoon that the Georgia Tech and FloridaState coaches have anything on their minds other than getting ready to square off Saturday in Charlotte for an ACC title.
Unless you asked specifically about last Saturday, there was little mention on separate teleconferences that each team lost a non-conference rivalry game.
The Yellow Jackets and Seminoles each suffered hugely disappointing losses, Tech by a wide margin at Georgia and the Seminoles when Florida closed the game – in Tallahassee – with 24 straight points.
The first step this week? Shake the funk.
“We just got to snap out of it,” said Fisher, whose 10-2 team is now ranked No. 12 in the nation. “You understand your goal is to win the conference championship. [Players] will be down [Sunday]. We got to get juiced up and ready to run.”
The Jackets (6-6) have fallen short of expectations this season, but it’s a waste of time to ponder that now. There’s work to be done, and it won’t be as simple as flipping a switch. Tech players and coaches were abundantly frustrated Saturday in Athens, and even now Johnson may not be able to put his finger on his team’s pulse.
ESPN.com’s ACC blogger Heather Dinich asked the Tech coach if he could point to something or someone that/who triggered the Jackets’ second-half turnaround. They won their last four ACC games after a 1-3 start.
“With the kind of season we’ve had I don’t know that you can say we had a turning point,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve played better in the second half of the season . . . We’ve got to see if we can’t play a whole lot better than this past Saturday or we’ll have a similar result.”
The Seminoles lost fast-rising NFL prospect Tank Carradine Saturday night to a torn ACL. The former junior college star defensive end who considered Georgia out of Butler (Kan.) Community College had 5.5 sacks last season as a junior reserve for FSU, and this season led the ACC with nine sacks after replacing All-American Brandon Jenkins in the starting lineup after he went down with a foot injury in the season opener.
Even without Carradine, Florida State won’t be as burly as the Bulldogs were, but the ‘Noles are in some ways capable of making matters similarly difficult.
“Speed, speed, athleticism. They play hard, with an edge,” Johnson said. “They can run, and they’re very athletic. Every bit as fast [as Georgia].”
Johnson was speaking of the ‘Noles on both sides of the ball and special teams, too.
Senior quarterback E.J. Manuel has come of age, although he’s been injured a few times this season.
“He gives them a lot of flexibility to do a lot of things,” the Tech coach said. “I might compare him to . . . Tajh Boyd at Clemson.”
That’s a look back of sorts. Fisher, too, acknowledged that there can sometimes be something to gain in reviewing a previous disappointment. He was asked if the team that can move past Saturday’s mind-numbing loss fastest will have a leg up, and if looking back at the way FSU responded earlier in the season after being upset by N.C. State might help.
“No doubt. You remember there’s still a lot to play for,” he said. “You have to reflect back on past experiences to play like you need to be able to play.”
Senior A-back Orwin Smith is slated to be a guest on a teleconference today with Tech players, joining Tevin Washington and Quayshawn Nealy. That may not be a drop-dead indication that Smith will return this Saturday after missing the Georgia game with an ankle sprain, but it doesn’t seem like a bad sign. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.