ATLANTA — Just for fun, Paul Johnson offered a reminder of his glistening coaching record at Georgia Southern.
Then he quickly added “But that’s all history now.”
Johnson’s time at Georgia Southern, including back-to-back I-AA national championships, looks better than ever these days as he tries to end his Georgia Tech team’s sudden two-year slump.
Georgia Tech (3-3) will try to end a three-game losing streak when its takes a break from its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule to play Georgia Southern (3-2) on Saturday.
Since the start of last season, the Yellow Jackets are 6-12 overall and a distressing 2-10 in ACC games. Last week’s last-second 37-34 loss at Pittsburgh , dropped Georgia Tech to 1-3 in the conference this season.
Johnson has offered reminders that the Yellow Jackets’ first two losses came to Top 25 teams Clemson and Miami and there is still time to salvage a winning season. Even so, the visit from Georgia Southern prompted memories of his time with the Eagles as an assistant under Erk Russell and coach when losing streaks were extremely rare.
“I’ve got really fond memories of the place,” Johnson said Tuesday of Georgia Southern. “When I was there we were very successful. I was looking at it today, I think my last two years there as offensive coordinator and the five years as coach we were 26-4 and 62-10, so we won a lot of games.”
Johnson was Georgia Southern’s coach from 1997-2001. The Eagles won five straight Southern Conference championships and won national titles in 1999 and 2000.
The Eagles have lost two straight games under first-year coach Tyson Summers, including a last-second loss to Arkansas State last week.
POSSIBLE MILESTONE: A win over Georgia Tech would be a highlight for the Eagles, who began their transition to the Sun Belt and FBS in 2013 and beat Bowling Green in the GoDaddy Bowl last year. Following the bowl win, coach Willie Fritz left Georgia Southern to take over the Tulane program. “A win obviously versus a Power 5 team and probably more importantly a team that’s in our state is an important piece,” Summers said. “If we can find a way to win this one and be 4-2, it’ll be a step to getting us back on track.”
PEACHY TRIO: This will be the second of three games against state rivals for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets beat Mercer 35-10 on Sept. 10 and close their regular season at Georgia on Nov. 26.
MATTHEW TIME: The Eagles had an extra three days since their loss to Arkansas State on Oct. 5, but Hurricane Matthew interrupted plans for extra practice for Georgia Tech. “We were trying to take care of our families and our community,” Summers said. “We tried to have a little bit more time with our staff but really haven’t been able to do it with our players like you would think.”
BIG SCARE: Georgia Tech survived a late scare to beat Georgia Southern 42-38 in 2014. The Eagles rallied from a 35-10 deficit to lead 38-35. “I think we kind of felt like it was over at halftime, and to their credit they came back with guns blazing,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to be ready to play one of our better games.” The two option offenses combined for 1,064 yards in the 2014 game.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN COACHING CONNECTION II: Georgia Tech offensive line coach Mike Sewak was Georgia Southern’s coach from 2002-05. Sewak’s son, Nick Sewak, is a long snapper for the Eagles.