ATLANTA — Paul Johnson’s first two Atlantic Coast Conference games look more like a rude initiation than a polite welcome.
Johnson must take Georgia Tech on the road the next two weekends to face the two teams who played in last year’s ACC championship game — Boston College and Virginia Tech.
"I jokingly said they didn’t give us any favors when they gave us the two division winners on the road back to back," Johnson said Tuesday as he talked with reporters about Saturday’s game at Boston College.
Georgia Tech opened with a 41-14 home victory over Jacksonville State on Thursday night, giving the Yellow Jackets a chance to show progress made in Johnson’s spread option offense.
Jonathan Dwyer and quarterback Josh Nesbitt each ran for two touchdowns as Georgia Tech rushed for 349 yards, had 484 total yards and only one punt.
It was a confidence-building win.
"We showed our fans and the nation what this offense can do," Dwyer said. "We have a lot of talent here and we were productive."
Added Nesbitt: "Every game we play this year, teams are going to have to respect our offense."
Boston College returns 12 starters from an 11-3 team that won the ACC’s Atlantic Division.
Georgia Tech started 14 freshmen and sophomores against Jacksonville. Many of the 26 freshmen and sophomores on Johnson’s two-deep depth chart will be playing or starting for the first time in a conference road game.
"We’ve got to make sure we’ve got them prepared as a coaching staff and they’ve got to be focused and dialed in on what the task at hand is," Johnson said. "They can’t be going up there to see what kind of lobster they’re going to have or checking out to see who is at the game."
Johnson said his young players must match the effort and toughness he expects from the Eagles.
"Boston College is the kind of team that is physical and will hit you right in the mouth," he said. "We’ve got to be ready to hit back.
"I think it’s all about going into the game in the right frame of mind, and that’s a transition here. ... I don’t think our guys are used to that, and that’s partly from being young, too."
Nesbitt will be making his first road start. Johnson said he doesn’t want the sophomore to feel he has to carry the offense, even though he said the sophomore has shown maturity in his new starting role.
"I thought he did well in that aspect," Johnson said. "He has progressed, but we’re not going to put a whole lot more on Josh than we’re going to put on everybody else.
"The onus this week is on those guys up front. They better get their tail in gear, and they know it, because if they get physically slapped around then we’re going to have a hard time."
Nesbitt and Shaw combined to complete 8 of 15 passes for 135 yards against Jacksonville State, perhaps more passing yards than some observers expected based on Johnson’s time as the head coach at Navy, Hawaii and Georgia Southern.
"The thing I found ironic is how everybody knew what we were going to do before the season started," Johnson said. "We hadn’t played a a game and I read all year we’re not going to throw the ball. ... There may be some games we throw it 30 times. There may be some games we throw it five. It just depends on how the defense is playing."
Boston College led the ACC and ranked second in the nation with its average of 75.5 yards rushing allowed per game last season. Johnson may threaten to throw 30 times, but on Tuesday he sounded excited about the challenge of pitting his option offense against Boston College’s run defense.
"I’m not going to go into that game and say we can’t run the ball," Johnson said. "Everybody says ‘Oh, you can’t run the ball against them.’ We’ll see. That’s why we play the game. If we can’t run the ball, it will be a long night, I’ll tell you that."
Note: Georgia Tech already is facing a depth problem at linebacker. Inside linebacker Brad Jefferson will miss the game with a wrist injury. Johnson said outside linebacker Anthony Barnes "probably is doubtful" with a less serious injury. ... Johnson said he expects DE Michael Johnson to have fewer snaps on special teams after the senior "got gassed" against Jacksonville State.