Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson uttered the “p” word on Tuesday: panic.
But he didn’t use it as a sign of defeat. He quickly clarified what he meant, saying he wants his team to play with some urgency, like “their hair’s on fire” in Saturday’s game at Wake Forest.
Johnson seemed somewhat frustrated with his team at his weekly press conference, saying that he’s never coached a group that has played like this one: a decent win against S.C. State, followed by a surprisingly flat loss at Kansas, followed by an inspired win at North Carolina, followed by another surprisingly flat loss to N.C. State.
“If they haven’t figured out they can lose they aren’t very smart,” Johnson said.
He said he’s watched the tape of the 45-28 loss to N.C. State several times, starting at 4 a.m. Sunday morning.
He counted 43 mistakes made by one unit, and 42 by the other, though he couldn’t remember whether the offense or defense won that battle of the brains. When the team plays well, he said the average number of mistakes made by either unit numbers in the teens. From releasing men that are supposed to be covered, to blocking the wrong man, to not blocking at all, Johnson said he’s at a loss to explain some of the errors that were made against the Wolfpack.
“They can’t explain it either,” he said, referring to the players.
It’s especially disconcerting on defense because of the experience. Though there are a few players starting who didn’t start many games in previous seasons, they have played a lot of snaps.
Johnson pointed out two plays, one in which a receiver was supposed to be double-covered down the sideline. Instead, the cornerback let him go and the safety was looking at the man and not the ball. The result: a catch and first down.
On the second play, a touchdown at the end of the first half, Tech was supposed to be in a four-deep zone. The receiver was wide open under the goalposts.
“It makes you talk to yourself,” he said.
On offense, he pointed out a play at N.C. State’s 1-yard line in which the middle linebacker walked up to the line and stood right in front of a lineman. Instead of being blocked, the lineman let him run through. Johnson asked rhetorically, “if you don’t block him, who is going to?”
He said the team even busted the first offensive play of the game.
“I’m as disappointed in the way we are playing on offense as on defense,” he said.
He said he sees the effort in practice, and his captains are leading by example. He’s at a loss to explain why the switch isn’t being turned on for game days. Physically, the team is fine. If they were getting pushed around and losing that aspect of the game, he said he would be really worried.
But here’s the positive: as badly as they played against the Jayhawks and the Wolfpack, they had chances to capitalize on momentum and take control. Johnson wants to see that happen against Wake Forest.
“This team could still be pretty good if they want to play with some urgency, but they have to decide,” Johnson said. “Either you want to be good or you want to be mediocre. They’ve been told that from Day 1.”