Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said his team is its own worst enemy at times.
After reviewing film of the 27-13 loss at Clemson, he said “really unexplainable deals” are occurring too frequently.
He rattled off a list of errors made against the Tigers: blocking the wrong player, not blocking a player, roughing the kicker, not catching a punt at the 1, committing penalties on kickoff returns.
“Little things make big things happen,” Johnson said. “We’re not taking care of the little things very well.”
Johnson pointed out a few more areas that were Tech did well last season, but have led the Jackets to being 5-3 this season: blocking on the perimeter, third-down conversions, turnovers and penalties.
The Yellow Jackets led the nation in third-down conversions last season. This year they are sixth…in the ACC. Johnson said that there’s more affecting that stat than third-and-longs. On third-and-short plays Tech is sometimes losing yards, turning third-and-3 into third-and-4 because of missed blocks or incorrect reads. Doing so prevents the team from going for it on fourth-and-short.
The team has an even turnover margin after finishing plus-8 last season.
The team is also losing 10 yards a game in penalties, committing an average of 57 yards per game compared to 47.1 yards last season.
Lastly, there’s the blocking. Much has been made about not having the big-play threat of Demaryius Thomas at wide receiver. Johnson pointed out he was also a good blocker. Because Tech isn’t sealing the edge as well, the triple option hasn’t been as effective on the outside.
Tech can’t afford to lose any of its next three games if it hopes to make it back to the ACC championship. It must defeat Virginia Tech next Thursday inBlacksburg, and Miami and Duke at home if it is to have a chance to defend its conference title. Even if that occurs it will need the Hokies to lose again.
So, the Yellow Jackets can’t keep making little mistakes, especially the ones made by the special teams in Death Valley. The team had a chance to block a punt and instead ran into the kicker and drew a penalty. Another player had a punt go right through his arms at the 1-yard line, resulting in atouchback. There were other penalties committed, as well.
“That’s the whole thing in the kicking game, not making mistakes,”assistant coach Charles Kelly said.
Tech must get its special teams issues fixed soon. Virginia Tech features some of the best special teams unit in the conference. Kelly said theHokies seldom miss a chance to take advantage of special team’s errors like the ones the Jackets were making.
“They’ll make you pay for it,” Kelly said.
The Hokies are averaging 16.8 yards per punt return and 22.2 yards per kick return this season. They’ve returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns this season.
But Tech has a few days to get the issues worked out and try and avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time since Johnson took over, as well keep its title hopes alive.
“You get frustrated,” Johnson said. “I’m competitive. I hate to lose. It’s been my experience if you hate to lose bad enough you don’t lose a lot. When I lose I’m miserable.”
“Guys just got to make plays,” Johnson said.