If Georgia Tech wins this week, the door flies open

Josh+Nesbitt+2

If Paul Johnson and Josh Nesbitt dare to look ahead, they'll see endless possibilities for the Jackets. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Paul Johnson will not look ahead. Why? Because he’s a football coach.

His players will not look ahead. Why? Because they know if they do and Johnson finds out, he will take their scholarship letter, wrap it around a Twinkie, shove it down their throat and drop them from a rooftop — just because that’s Johnson’s idea of tact, and maybe fun.

But I don’t play for Johnson and I’m pretty sure I can outrun him. So here goes: Georgia Tech plays No. 4 Virginia Tech Saturday night. It’s the Yellow Jackets’ biggest conference game since at least 1998 (against then No. 6 Florida State — a loss) and maybe since the national championship season of 1990 (against then No. 1 Virginia — a win).

Should they win, the remainder of their opponents are set up like bowling pins: Virginia (2-3), Vanderbilt (2-4), Wake Forest (4-2), Duke (3-3), Georgia (3-3). I’ll let you try to figure out which is the strongest of that bunch right now.

Johnson said this on Monday: “I think [players] are smart enough to know that if they look past this game, they’re going to get drilled.”

I say this: Win this game and Georgia Tech is on a path to at least a top-1o finish in the rankings, possibly higher. After this game, Tech will be past the difficult part of its schedule. The Jackets also have three things working for them that the school just down 316 doesn’t right now: a starting quarterback (Josh  Nesbitt) who is making plays and improving by the week; an offensive line that is knocking people over; and a belief among players that they belong on the same field with everybody else (with snapshots of the scoreboard to back it up).

Defense is an issue. But it says something that the Jackets can go on the road and win at Florida State, when we sensed how much that game meant to the Seminoles’ players after they walked onto the field in locked arms with their embattled coach, Bobby Bowden. It says something that the Jackets were humiliated at Miami one week on national television but bounced back the following week to smack North Carolina. It says something that players are following their coach and their quarterback, because this is football and that’s where it always starts.

In the last three games, Nesbitt has not only rushed for 290 yards and five touchdowns, he has completed 22 of 33 passes for 486 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. What he has done is give an option team an unexpected option — the pass. What that does is enable an offense to overcome the shortcomings of a defense (as we witnessed in the 49-44 Chaos Bowl in Tallahassee).  What that does is open the door to possibilities in the regular season, the bowls and the polls.

The first BCS rankings come out Sunday. Tech is ranked 19th by the Associated Press poll (which is not a part of the BCS formula but is influential with other voters), 20th in the coaches’ poll, 21st in the Harris poll and anywhere from 15th to 21st in computer rankings. Defeating the No. 4 Hokies would not make up for the loss at Miami. But it would put the Jackets in position to run the table and get back in the mix. The serious mix, not the Meineke Car Care Bowl mix.

Johnson has worked hard at keeping his players grounded. It started immediately following last season when he told them, “You haven’t done anything yet.” He repeated the message through the off-season. He has hammered them verbally even after wins.

Keeping them on an even keel now, he believes, won’t be an issue.

“You just have to approach this like another game,” he said.  “Our guys understand it’s important. As far as the conference race goes, it’s probably a must-win game. But I don’t need to tell them that. They know. All that other stuff doesn’t matter.”

The other stuff, he’d rather not talk about. But it’s sitting there.

368 comments Add your comment

Yellow Fuzz

October 12th, 2009
4:13 pm

Tech75

October 12th, 2009
4:17 pm

Where has this guy been my whole life?

I’ve had to suffer thru Crud Barson, Fill Bulcher, Pepper, Bill Lewis, Chan…

The ones I enjoyed, Ross and O’Leary, left for greener pastures (allegedly).

He hasn’t won an ACC or National Championship, but he’s headed that direction.

To quote the infamous “m”: “Halle-damn-looyah”.

RAMBLE ON!!!

October 12th, 2009
4:24 pm

Tech75, you got to save the best for last.

U-no

October 12th, 2009
4:25 pm

This is the real test coming up, and I believe the Jackets are up to it. The defense is the only question mark, and hopefully they will perform well enough to keep VT from running away with the game. Our offense is looking great now. Great game in Tallahassee, and now that Nesbitt has proven he can throw the ball we do have options beyond the option.

It’s nice to have no competition from the east northeastward direction of the compass. Too many problems to solve over there to hear much smack talk out of the Pups! While we have the opportunity let’s make all who love the White and Gold happy!

Techjock

October 12th, 2009
4:25 pm

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a merry christmas

Tommy

October 12th, 2009
4:27 pm

Tech goes 11-1 as I predicted and to a bcs bowl. Unless Miami loses, which isn’t likely, we don’t win the acc. That is fine though. 3-0 versus the sec, and the only loss to a top 10 team should get you to the bcs. I just hope they don’t stick us to play Boise.

Andrew Sherwin (The Dude)

October 12th, 2009
4:28 pm

If Tech keeps outscoring its opponents, the “what about that defense, though” comments will dwindle in number.

Disconcerting silence

October 12th, 2009
4:29 pm

An Atlanta Journal icon leaves after over 50 years, praised by national sports journalists and legendary sports figures alike, and there’s no public comment from Schultz or Bradley? There’s no coverage of it in the Monday print edition?

Have I missed something, or is there a backstory that only the insiders know?

Supes

October 12th, 2009
4:29 pm

Shultz,

The ONLY way Tech can beat VaTech is by outscoring them in some wild shootout. That’s it. Have you seen Tech’s defense? Giving up over 1000 yards on defense in the past 2 games against so-so competition. Miss State and FSU.

You saw what VaTech has been doing, getting progressively better in every stage of the game since their opening game loss to Alabama. They destroyed Boston College.

If there is a defense that will man up against Tech’s offense is VaTech.

Can Tech win this game, possibly but unlikely. Tech’s defense is worst than UGA’s and that’s saying something!

45-42

October 12th, 2009
4:30 pm

“Where has this guy been”?

Prior to becoming a head coach, Johnson spent eight seasons as offensive coordinator at the University of Hawai’i from 1987 to 1994. He helped lead the Rainbow Warriors to their first Western Athletic Conference title and their first bowl appearance and victory, in the 1992 Holiday Bowl. In 1995 and 1996, he served as Navy offensive coordinator and brought his option offense with him. In 1996, Navy recorded its first winning season in 14 years, going 9-3, including a victory at the Aloha Bowl. Johnson has performed well against rivals, including a perfect 6-0 mark against rival Army while head coach at Navy and a 1-0 start against rival UGA while head coach at Georgia Tech.

Georgia Southern

Johnson formerly served as the head coach at Georgia Southern University. During his time at Georgia Southern, the Eagles captured the NCAA Division I-AA national football championships in 1999 and 2000, and finished as runners-up in 1998. He is also one of only four coaches to ever record 50 wins in their first four seasons as head coach at the Division I level.

Navy

In 2002, Johnson departed Georgia Southern for Navy. Johnson’s initial season saw the Midshipmen win only two of twelve contests, although the season ended on a high note with his first victory over Army. Subsequently, Johnson’s teams have enjoyed a high degree of success. The 2003 team completed the regular season with an 8–4 mark, including wins over both Air Force and Army, and earned a berth in the EV1.net Houston Bowl, Navy’s first bowl game since 1996. However, the Midshipmen lost to Texas Tech, 38–14. In 2004, Johnson’s team posted Navy’s best start in over 30 years,[citation needed] finishing the regular season 9-2 and once again earning a bowl berth, this time in the Emerald Bowl. Johnson coached the Mids to a win over New Mexico 34-19, the fifth bowl win in the school’s history. That gave Navy 10 wins on the season, tying the record for wins at Navy, which had stood since 1905. As a result, Johnson won the NCAA Coach of the Year honors. The 2005 squad recorded a final mark of 8–4, which was highlighted by victories over Army, Air Force, and Colorado State in the inaugural Poinsettia Bowl. In 2007, Johnson coached the Midshipmen to their first win over rival Notre Dame since 1963, winning 46–44 in triple-overtime.
Coach Johnson has dominated the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition, going 11–1 (.917) in his five years, with the only loss against another service academy coming at the hands of Air Force in his first season. He is the only coach in Navy’s history to go 6–0 in his first six seasons against Army, and his 2006–07 senior class was the first in Navy history to win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for all four years.

Much of Johnson’s success has been predicated on his triple option flexbone offense, a run oriented attack that has led NCAA Division I-A/FBS football in rushing yards three of the last four years. Some have criticized the triple option as an antiquated, unbalanced system unfit for major college football, which may explain some BCS teams’ reluctance to offer him a position despite his accomplishments at both Georgia Southern and Navy. Johnson has rebutted this argument in numerous press conferences and interviews, asserting that several top teams, including 2005–2006 national champion Texas and 2006–2007 national champion Florida, use various forms of the option. He has repeatedly stated that the superior athletes in power conferences could help the triple option flourish. In 2008, Johnson told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach: “If we can run it against Boston College at Navy, why can’t we run it against Boston College at Georgia Tech? If we can beat Pitt with this system at Navy, why can’t we beat Pitt at Georgia Tech? Are we going to get worse players at Georgia Tech?”

Georgia Tech

On December 7, 2007, Paul Johnson accepted the head coaching job at Georgia Tech. In 2008 he led the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to a 9-4 record, including their first victory against in-state rival Georgia since 2000 with a score of 45-42 in Athens, GA. On December 2, 2008, Paul was tabbed ACC Coach of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA). Georgia Tech, ranked 14th in the BCS standings and 15th in the Associated Press poll, finished the regular season with a 9-3 record, remarkably better than every preseason projection. Sports Illustrated predicted Johnson’s first Yellow Jacket team would win just three games, and Tech was picked to finish fourth in the ACC’s Coastal Division. With a 5-3 record in ACC play, the Jackets tied Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division title. “This is an honor for the football program at Georgia Tech, the coaching staff and the players,” Johnson said today. “There are a lot of great coaches in the ACC, so it’s humbling to win such a prestigious honor.” Johnson, who came to Georgia Tech in December after a highly-successful, six-year tenure at Navy, inherited a roster low in scholarship numbers and overloaded with youth. Only 76 players are on scholarship, including three senior walk-ons who were awarded scholarships prior to the start of the season, below the maximum of 85 scholarships. The roster includes 75 freshmen and sophomores, and 16 of 22 starters are either freshmen or sophomores. Paul is (6-1) at home in games played at Bobby Dodd Stadium and is (3-1) against ranked opponents. In 2008, Johnson defeated three Top 25 opponents (#18 Florida State, #23 Miami, #13 Georgia) in November. On December 2, 2008, Johnson was named 2008 National Coach of the year by CBSSports.com. In his first year at Tech, Johnson produced one first team All-American (Michael Johnson), the ACC Player of the Year (Jonathan Dwyer), and eight 1st Team, 2nd Team, and Honorable Mention All-ACC student-athletes. In 2009, Johnson led the Yellow Jackets to their first win over Florida State in Tallahassee in school history, a 49-44 shootout that featured over 1000 total yards between the two teams.

Tech75

October 12th, 2009
4:33 pm

Hey 45-42… I didn’t need the history / resume. I was being facetious. yeeeesh

You must have that on a web page where you can copy/paste it.

m

October 12th, 2009
4:34 pm

I think we should all Thank God and Greyhound (and DRAD) that chan gomer gailey is gone forever!!! Hallleeeeeeedamlooooyah!!!!

Any Tech fan that ever defended gomer or supported gomer or helped him get to stay for 6 long lousy years….you suck as bad as he did and still does.!! And you should be ashamed of yourself.

Paul Johnson is the real deal. As he gets all the players on the same page…and more specifically, as he gets more and more of his players and less and less of gomer’s, the SKY Will Be The Limit.

So even those these sports writers that are very, very slow to realize what is going on….Paul Johnson is like a train. He will run over you….back up….and run over you again. And there ain’t a damne thing you can do about it.

There is a new sheriff in town…his name is Paul Johnson. And the future is so bright we will all need to wear shades.

wxwax

October 12th, 2009
4:34 pm

I like Johnson and Tech.

But I’m having trouble seeing 22 complete passes in three games as an offensive threat. Nesbitt is a courageous, tough young man but his throwing form is just awful. Let’s be honest here.

Hey Supes

October 12th, 2009
4:35 pm

Hey Supes – dont look not, but I thinbk Jonathan Crompton just threw another TD pass on your bullpups

midnite

October 12th, 2009
4:35 pm

I hear my UGA is #2 in the polls…oops, I mean just #2 shoooo!

Hey Supes

October 12th, 2009
4:35 pm

don’t look now*

45-42

October 12th, 2009
4:36 pm

Wanted to make sure all the Georgia people that blog had a chance to read it.

RAMBLE ON!!!

October 12th, 2009
4:36 pm

Hey I got an idea, lets have a Black Out!!!

no wait, bad idea.

Tommy

October 12th, 2009
4:38 pm

Supes you do know the fsu game was a tale of 2 halves. we stopped them in the second half. And if we wanted, we could have scored again and won 56-44. Our defense will look like it did against unc against va tech.

Blackberry Cobbler

October 12th, 2009
4:39 pm

“His players will not look ahead. Why? Because they know if they do and Johnson finds out, he will take their scholarship letter, wrap it around a Twinkie, shove it down their throat and drop them from a rooftop — just because that’s Johnson’s idea of tact, and maybe fun.”

This is EXACTLY why CMR will never win a NC at UGA or even another SEC unless the conference is full of weak sisters. He doesn’t possess this intensity and his players don’t respect him enough.

Here we go again

October 12th, 2009
4:41 pm

I’m sure this has been answered before, but ASSUMING Tech can find a way to squeak by VT this weekend (a big assumption, I know), and assuming that VT, GT and Miami also win out, what is the tie-breaker rule for the ACC CG? Because unless I’m mistaken, at the end of the season that would leave GT, Miami and VT tied atop the coastal standings, all with one loss to each of the other 2 teams, a la TX Tech, UT and OU last year in the Big 12 south. Is the tie-breaker the BCS ranking? I hope not.

Tech75

October 12th, 2009
4:42 pm

hey wxwax…. that’s what people said about Phil Rivers, and look how successful he was/is.

mowreck

October 12th, 2009
4:42 pm

Who’s to say that maybe the defense that shut down NC will show up for the VaTech game? If it does, then we have an excellent chance, especially playing at home … fill the stadium folks!

East Cobb Hokie

October 12th, 2009
4:46 pm

Congrats on the W guys. I think we all know that there is not very much relevance to the Clemson, UNC, MSU, and F$U game and this weeks. I expect a mind game between CPJ and Bud Foster, with in game adjustments determining outcome. Both are great at doing that.

Ramblin Wrecker

October 12th, 2009
4:52 pm

I think an interesting thing about GT’s defense is that they have played better at home. Plus on Saturday night, in a game that looked like one defensive stop by Florida State could cost GT the game, it was GT’s defense making a stand and they started to force mistakes by FSU and tilted the possessions in GT’s favor. After that it was GT’s game.

My main concern is Tyrod Taylor’s ability to run. For that reason, I’m almost glad that GT doesn’t pressure the QB too much, because he’d just take off and run and gash us for long gains. Maybe they can contain him and play more coverage to force him to make a mistake (can you say Morgan Burnett?).

This will be a program defining moment on Saturday night.

mountain_jim

October 12th, 2009
4:52 pm

I just don’t see Tech’s Dline having enough pressure to stop VT. Last year, rushing 4 got more pressure than rushing 6 or 7 does this year. And it shows in the secondary against good passing teams. I think the air goes completely out of GTs balloon this week, sad to say.

Ted Striker

October 12th, 2009
4:53 pm

Jeff — Never seen you run but I’ve reviewed your personnel file. If beer is at the finish line, I’m not sure Dwyer would stand a chance either. There’s speed, then there’s need.

THE U

October 12th, 2009
4:55 pm

33 – 17 !!!!!!!!!!!!! hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

snapshot

October 12th, 2009
4:57 pm

Tech is not expected to beat VT but that is ok. I like the position Tech is in. More pressure on VT than on GT.
Go Yellow Jackets!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tommy

October 12th, 2009
4:58 pm

Here we go..if the 3 are tied in conf record, it then goes to the highest bcs ranking. which is why i wanted ok to beat miami. i doubt miami will lose to clemson or unc. s fla could knock them off i suppose.

RAM

October 12th, 2009
4:58 pm

Win your division and your reward is playing in a half-empty stadium in Florida… Yeah, the sky’s the limit.

Tommy

October 12th, 2009
4:59 pm

Passing teams are what has gotten us on defense. VT is not a strong passing team. It will be a close nail biter

David - Tiebreaker policy

October 12th, 2009
5:00 pm

No need to look at this unless we can beat Va Tech… but here it is…

http://www.theacc.com/sports/m-footbl/fbtiebreaker.html

booger

October 12th, 2009
5:00 pm

lets not read too much into the win at FSU. Had Nesbitt not snatched the fumbled ball back from FSU in the third quarter, this game could have gone the other way. Both teams were weak on defense and the victory went to the slightly better Tech offense.
Virginia Tech is for real on both sides of the ball. If Tech is to win, the defense will have to bring their AAA game.
Otherwise, me and a lot of other techies are going to look like the poor nole fans on those tight shots espn likes to use when you lose.

Hey RAM

October 12th, 2009
5:03 pm

Tech may have a smaller gathering of loyal fans- but they are indeed loyal. Georgia fans seem to be jumping off the bandwagon when the team is only 3-3. So keep talking about unfilled seats…

THE U

October 12th, 2009
5:03 pm

33 – 17 !!!!!!!!!!!!! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Bitterly jealous Dawg fan

October 12th, 2009
5:04 pm

Y-y-you b-better get to the “stadium,” a half hour early, or they might run out of free hot dogs and C-C-Cokes when you buy your w-w-walkup tickets.

Zzzap! Take that stinging rebuke, Bugs!

THE U

October 12th, 2009
5:05 pm

Hey Ram at 5:03PM:

It’s easy to remain loyal when you’re used to being a loser. That’s why Tech fans are loyal, you stupid nerd.

33 – 17 !!!!!!!!!!!!! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

THE U

KB

October 12th, 2009
5:06 pm

I’m optimistic but it’s all going to come down to the defense. If they can come out on Saturday showing a defensive improvement on the magnitude of what the Falcons displayed against San Fran then the sky is the limit. Otherwise this game is going to get ugly really fast. Nesbitt’s been an amazing leader all season but determination alone won’t stop VT.

I totally believe GT is capable of making the necessary adjustments and delivering an epic game on Saturday.

booger

October 12th, 2009
5:08 pm

didnt the u play vt? forgotten what the outcome was………..

Mike

October 12th, 2009
5:10 pm

This is pretty much a pipe dream column for several reasons:

1) Bud Foster…he is a mastermind D coordinator. No way can you compare his defense to FSU which is now last in the ACC.

2) Tech has had trouble offensively against the two most talented defenses they have faced…Clemson and Miami. North Carolina sports a good defense, but the offense is so inept it makes up for it. Even then, Tech didnt pull away till the fourth. Va Tech is easily better than all of these teams.

3) NO DEFENSE WHATSOEVER FROM TECH. Dating back to UGA game last year, they have been shredded by everyone but Jacksonville St and the previously mentioned punchless UNC squad. Are they really going to fix this in time for Tyrod Taylor and a Va Tech team that is absolutely on fire? Doubtful.

Defense is the biggest concern with Tech. If the defense is going to continue to give up major yardage, the offense will HAVE to outscore everyone which is not going to happen every week. Just ask the 2008 UGA squad. Right now, Im not sure you can expect Tech’s D to stop anyone left of the schedule but Vandy. IMO the offense is in a position where they HAVE to score every time which is NOT good.

Old-fashioned Hater

October 12th, 2009
5:11 pm

wow a respectable article from Schultz thats sole purpose is not just to foster TECH/uga hatred in the comments. I enjoy the positivity. I hope its genuine and not just Mark Bradley beating him to his usual weekly inspire-hatred game. see article “can-richt-again-lift-uga…” by Bradley this morning.

THWG

misterwax

October 12th, 2009
5:11 pm

I think the best shot for Miami to lose 1 more game is on the road at Wake Forest….If that happens and we beat VT, then we meet WFU down in Tampa most likely for the ACCCG…I already have hotel reservations just in case.

Wow

October 12th, 2009
5:12 pm

GT beats a team that is 2 and 3 saturday, and they have beaten a bad clemson team, jax st, are u kidding me, a bad miss st team, and a horrible north carolina team, ,,,ARE U KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THEIR D IS JUST AS BAD AS UGA’S IF NOT WORSE ……………. GT LOSES TWO MORE MAYBE THREE AND THE REST OF THEIR SCHEDULE IS JUST AS BAD….GIVE ME A BREAK

Creighton

October 12th, 2009
5:12 pm

I’m a Dawg fan. But my Dad went to Tech. I’m really excited about this game for Tech on Saturday, and I hope they do well. If so, there’s little stopping them from having a fantastic year. I’m a huge Nesbitt fan. That guy has as much grit, toughness and resolve as any player in the country. Going through the coaching change and the system change, I admire him hanging in there and making the best of the situation. Go Dawgs! Go Jackets!

45-42

October 12th, 2009
5:12 pm

Every one can’t lose to us 45-42 and have a .500 record since playing us last.

GTSteve

October 12th, 2009
5:13 pm

I’m almost glad that GT doesn’t pressure the QB too much,

I was thinking the same thing Ramblin

45-42

October 12th, 2009
5:13 pm

3-3 this year
4-4 since we last met
LOSERS

misterwax

October 12th, 2009
5:13 pm

watch for the Canes to lose on the road at Wake Forest….that game will be key for us to go forward.

Wow

October 12th, 2009
5:13 pm

GT IS IRRLEVANT AND IT WILL PROVE ITSELF COME SAT NIGHT WHEN THEY ACTUALLY PLAY SOMEBODY WORTH A DAMMMM