vs. Florida State
When: 3:30 p.m.
Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta
TV, radio: ABC (WSB-2), 1240-AM
Web site: www.ramblinwreck.com
ATLANTA — Paul Johnson had to laugh on Tuesday when asked about following the path of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who is approaching his 79th birthday next month.
Might the 51-year-old Johnson, who is in his first season at Georgia Tech, try to coach that long?
"In my 70s? If I’m still around I won’t be coaching," Johnson said.
"I’m trying to make it to Nov. 7. It’s amazing how dumb you get in one week."
Johnson had Georgia Tech in the Top 25 for the first time this season at No. 21 before last week’s 24-17 loss to Virginia. The Yellow Jackets fell to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference as they fell out of first place in the Coastal Division and out of the poll.
It won’t be easy for Johnson to keep Georgia Tech in the ACC race. The No. 16 Seminoles will bring a four-game winning streak to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday.
Next week, the Yellow Jackets play at North Carolina, which replaced Georgia Tech at No. 21 in The AP poll. Johnson has to guard against one loss leading to a three-game skid.
"This is kind of a gut check for us to come back," Johnson said. "I think our guys will respond and come back and play hard."
Johnson said he is sticking with sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt, who has returned from a hamstring injury to reclaim the starting job from freshman Jaybo Shaw.
Shaw remained on the sideline as Nesbitt fumbled twice on Virginia’s side of the field and threw an interception. Each of the turnovers came in the second half, including a botched handoff at the Virginia 5.
"He needs to learn to value the ball better, and I think there is no one more disappointed than he is about that," said Johnson of Nesbitt.
But Johnson refused to pin the loss on his quarterback.
"Everybody wants to talk about our quarterback, and he made some mistakes," Johnson said.
"It’s not like he’s played for four years. A lot of the stuff that has gone on out there is not his fault. He’s got to have time to set his feet."
Shaw played most of Georgia Tech’s 38-7 win over Mississippi State on Sept. 20 and started in a 27-0 win over Duke the following week.
How does Johnson explain his decision to stick with Nesbitt to the fans?
"Fortunately, I don’t have to explain it to the folks," he said. "I just have to explain it to my team.
"I think Jaybo is going to be a good player. I watch practice every day and I play the guy who looks to be the best in practice. Last week Jaybo had a decent practice, and I’ve got confidence in him if we put him in the game. ... But to this point he hasn’t been the best quarterback in practice, so we go from there."
Nesbitt is second on the team with 375 yards rushing. He leads the team with six touchdowns.
Nesbitt has had less success as a passer in Johnson’s spread option offense. He is 28-of-60 passing for 463 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Shaw, who has completed 65.2 percent of his passes (15 of 23 for 321 yards), also has passed for two touchdowns without an interception.
The spread option is a run-first attack, and Nesbitt said Tuesday he remains confident.
"We’ve responded real good," Nesbitt said. "We came out to practice today and got better."
Have ACC defenses made adjustments to the triple option?
"Not really," Nesbitt said. "I think it really jut comes down to who plays the hardest, who wants it the most."
Johnson said he is not surprised that the loss to Virginia led to more talk about his quarterbacks.
"I’ve coached for 28, 29 years. The most popular guy on every team is the backup quarterback," Johnson said. "It just is. This is no different.
"Both of those guys are going to play for us. They’re both good players. Right now, it’s not a quarterback controversy in my mind."
Johnson said "it’s pretty hard to put somebody in a game" when Nesbitt did not deserve to be removed from the game.
Added Johnson: "An old coach told me one time, ‘If you listen to the fans, you’ll be sitting with them before long."’