Home Press Conference: Paul Johnson

Press Conference: Paul Johnson


Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson talks with the media in advance of his team’s game on Saturday with Virginia.

Opening Statement

“Last time we had an opportunity to play in our home stadium, we didn’t play particularly well. Anytime that happens you’re always anxious to play in front of the home crowd again. This week is a very important conference game because the conference race has just started. For some of the teams this is only their second conference game. We already have a conference loss at home and to have a chance to compete for the conference championship, we need to make sure that we don’t do that again. It is an important game for us for sure and for Virginia because they have a loss as well. Historically, there have been pretty good football games (between Tech and Virginia). They came down to Atlanta two years ago and got us and we got them last year by a pretty good margin, although the game was close up until late in the third quarter when we broke it open. I am expecting a hard fought game.”

On the emotions of Al Groh going against his former team

“I don’t know how I would feel. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would feel. If you did it in the next year, although right now I still have ties with Navy’s senior class, but it is probably different if you still have guys that you recruited. You just have to block it out. You would have to ask him. I have never done that so I don’t really know.”

On Virginia’s capitalization on turnovers against Tech

“The only ones that I know about are the two that we played and certainly the game that they beat us in Atlanta, turnovers were big. We had the ball going in to get ready to take the lead in the fourth quarter and we turned it over inside the 10-yard line. I think their quarterback, if I remember correctly was 21-of-24 and they converted a high rate on third down. Last year, we stopped them pretty well offensively and wore them down and got on them pretty good. It has been two different games.”

On “urgency” in the game

“The last nine minutes (of the Wake game) we played with a little urgency. You would like to go out and play better to begin with. I don’t have an answer for you, we just didn’t play very well if you watch the tape. We didn’t execute very well. Defensively we did ok. We did enough on defense to hang around so that we had a chance in the fourth quarter. But, truthfully, it is disappointing to me that when you tie the game up [Wake Forest] took the ball and drive down the field for a field goal, so it wasn’t like it was that stellar either. Let’s not break our arm patting ourselves on the back for that one. I think we can play better all the way around and we need to. I have told them we aren’t playing up to our potential I will be the first guy to say that.”

Do you plan to pass more often this week?

We won’t. We are going to do what we do. If the opportunity presents itself we’ll throw, it just kind of happened in the (Wake) game. We also got behind. It is a lot better when it works; if we throw and it didn’t work everybody complains ‘why are you throwing, you cant throw’. All you have to do is win. If you win it is all ok, if you don’t it’s not.”

On the offense’s confidence level

“We work on our two-minute offense every week at practice. I think that [Joshua Nesbitt] played like an experienced quarterback and he made plays (at Wake). He kept the thing alive on fourth and four with a good decision and a run. On third down he took the short route, threw the ball and got the first down. He made smart decisions, good plays.”

On Joshua Nesbitt

“He is like everybody else. Sometimes he plays well and sometimes he didn’t play as well as he could play. He is at a different standard. What is playing well for him? I am going to hold him to a higher standard than someone that hasn’t played at all. And I think he holds himself to a higher standard, he is a very competitive young man and he likes to win and that is what makes him special as a quarterback. If I had to pick two things that I think separates him from other guys it is his toughness and he is competitive. Those are two pretty good things to have in a football player. He missed some reads in the NC State game, he missed some reads in the Wake Forest game. You are never going to get them all right, but I think what he did was down the stretch he made plays. He played like a warrior in the North Carolina game. That doesn’t mean that he did everything perfect, he puts everyone on his back sometimes and makes plays and that is what he did. Staying alive, being experienced and realizing ‘Hey it’s fourth down, I have to make something happen’.”

On this season compared to last season

“There is not a huge difference in the offensive line from this year to last year if you want to go back and look. I did, I looked at it. We have some short memories if we think that [the offensive line] was knocking people around last year. Anytime we struggle a little bit we jump to conclusions right away. Let’s let the thing play out. Last year we averaged a little over 6 yards per carry last year, this year it is 5.6 ypc.

“If there is one thing that I think that is a little different at this point to a year ago, and I don’t go back and dwell on the numbers. This year we are averaging 29 points a game, last year we averaged 31, that is not a lot of difference. Over the course of the season it might turn out to be, but right now it isn’t. The one thing you can say that we aren’t getting as consistently is big plays and we are not as good on third down. There is no question that we aren’t as good on third down as we were a year ago and I think the big culprit of that is we have had a lot more third and longs than we had a year ago. Last year I think we may have led the country in third down conversions; we were over 50 percent, because we had a lot of third and shorts. This year, we haven’t had as many and even when we have we have missed a couple of those. It happens. Some of it is inexperience and some of it is just not getting it done. People know what they have to do, they just didn’t get it done. That happens sometimes. We have had injuries to the offensive line. That doesn’t help. Saturday night at Wake Forest we played three tackles, two centers, four guards, a lot of guys trying to find the right combination and sometimes it just didn’t gel.”

Did Al Groh need to convince you that he still had the fire to coach?

“I figured that if he didn’t want to do it and have the fire he wouldn’t do it. Clearly I didn’t think he needed the money. I figured he loves football, loves to coach and loves to teach and if you watch him work and run around at practice, it is pretty easy to see he is a high energy guy. He wears our young guys out during practice.”

On his own coaching demeanor

“I think you try a lot of different things until you find what motivates and what works. It is like I told the team yesterday, I am up their tail right now and I am going to be until they play up to their potential. I am not trying to be their friend, I’m trying to be their coach. It wouldn’t be fair to them if I wasn’t hard on them if they are not at their potential. You can look at it a couple of different ways. If we get beat by a team that is more talented and is clearly the better team, but we go out there and try hard and we do the right things, then it doesn’t do any good to yell at them. But, I don’t believe that to be the case to this point. I don’t think we are playing up to our potential and it is up to me to make them play up to their potential. Do I want to be the heavy all the time and the bad guy? No. I would love for somebody else to do it, but I don’t see anybody else doing it so therefore it is up to me.”

On Nesbitt seeing the field

“I think we used a lot of different guys and I think he threw the ball well and played well. There were a couple of passes that he would probably like to have back, but I can’t think of any real errant throws. I think he threw the ball pretty well and gave guys a chance to catch it.”

On special teams

“A punter dropped a snap (at Wake) and kicked it 10 yards; we had two blocking in the back penalties, no the special teams has not improved. The two teams on special teams that have been pretty good are the kick returns and the kickoff coverage. The kickoff returns have been adequate. We haven’t gotten the ball out, but they have been pretty good. The kickoff coverage has been good. The field goal kicker has also been good. He is as good as you can be, 7-for-7. The punt team has not been good and the punt return team has not been up to standards.”



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