ATLANTA — Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson insists his players have not given up on a season that started going sideways in September.
Yet, he also knows the maximum effort hasn’t been enough to change the results.
The Yellow Jackets are in danger of finishing 3-9 if they lose Saturday at Miami and in two weeks to Georgia. Last year they went 11-3, won the Orange Bowl and earned a No. 8 final ranking.
Picked in preseason to win the ACC Coastal Division for a second straight year, Georgia Tech keeps finding ways to lose close games.
Other than the blowout defeat at Clemson last month, the Jackets had chances to beat Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Virginia Tech in the closing minutes but came up short each time.
It’s no wonder they’re 1-6 in conference play.
“This year, it seems like whatever has had a chance to go wrong goes wrong, and I think you make your own breaks,” Johnson said Monday. “I’m not crying about that. We’ve got to do a better job of doing the detailed things to make our own breaks.”
Injuries have accounted for 70 missed games by players expected to make big contributions, causing Georgia Tech to play 10 true freshmen and 13 redshirt freshmen.
But those circumstances don’t entirely explain the multitude of mistakes that have dragged the Jackets down.
In last Thursday’s 23-21 home loss to Virginia Tech, Broderick Snoddy lost a fumble twice in the second half and Marcus Allen lost one in the fourth quarter that led to the Hokies’ game-winning touchdown, which Lawrence Austin helped along with an egregious pass interference penalty.
And an unsportsmanlike flag on offensive guard Errin Joe derailed the Jackets’ chance of attempting a winning field goal on the final drive.
“I think that this team had continued to try to play hard,” Johnson said. “I think they want to do well. I think they’re frustrated just like everybody else is, the coaches, the players, the fans — I mean everybody is frustrated.”
Quarterback Justin Thomas, the team’s undisputed leader, has taken a beating physically and has missed the playmaking abilities of running backs Quaide Weimerskirch, C.J. Leggett and Nate Cottrell, each of whom missed the whole season with injuries.
Four true freshmen — offensive lineman Will Bryan, receiver Brad Stewart and running backs Marcus Marshall and Mikell Lands-Davis — have each worked as starters.
“Sometimes it’s a valuable lesson in that you learn that winning is not easy,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you take it for granted, and it’s not easy. It’s never easy. But I think he’s handled it about as well as you can handle it, probably. He’s a very competitive guy himself.”