ATLANTA — This week's coaching change at Clemson showed Paul Johnson that university presidents and athletic directors have short memories when it comes to games won by an embattled coach.
What have you done for me lately is no longer the valid question, according to Johnson.
"It's a 'what have you done for me yesterday' business," Johnson said Tuesday, one day after Clemson coach Tommy Bowden resigned.
Georgia Tech plays at Clemson on Saturday. Interim head coach Dabo Swinney took over for Bowden, and Johnson said he has warned his Georgia Tech players to expect the midseason coaching change to motivate the Tigers.
"You know what? You better get ready for them to come out and play like their hair is on fire because that's usually what happens," Johnson said.
"That's what I told our guys on Monday. We'll get their best shot. So we've got to prepare to go in and get their best shot."
Georgia Tech, 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, will bring a three-game winning streak to Clemson. But the Yellow Jackets were fortunate to survive last Saturday's 10-7 victory over underdog Gardner-Webb.
"You're going along and you're real smart and then you win a game 10-7 and you're not so smart, one week later," Johnson said.
Johnson said he has struggled to move past the Gardner-Webb game, even as his team faces a crucial ACC game.
"Clearly we were disappointed in the way we played," he said. "I was disappointed in myself and getting them ready to play.
"What do I learn from it? I learned that you better not take anybody for granted. I'd like to think I didn't. But clearly I did a very poor job of getting my team not to. I might as well have said nothing because nothing I said sank in, evidently. So I did a very poor job in getting us ready to go."
Georgia Tech was without its two top quarterbacks, Josh Nesbitt (hamstring) and Jaybo Shaw (concussion), against Gardner-Webb. Johnson's spread option offense was limited, with third-stringer Calvin Booker making his first career start.
"After watching the tape, honestly I don't know what else we could have tried," Johnson said. "Nothing we did was very good. We weren't very efficient at anything.
"We weren't going to run the option part of the offense with (Booker). It's not his bag. He's not a threat to run the ball ... so we had to concentrate on the other areas and we didn't execute them very well."
Nesbitt and Shaw are back this week, splitting snaps in practice. Nesbitt is expected to make his first start since Sept. 20 against Mississippi State.
Johnson said he is not worried the game against Gardner-Webb will hurt his team's confidence.
"I don't think this team has ever had a confidence problem," he said. "I think you've got so many young guys playing who believe in themselves. I don't think confidence is an issue with this team. That's not one of the problems."
Johnson said "a little" overconfidence could have been the problem against Gardner-Webb.
"We were fortunate to win the game," he said. "Like I told the team Monday, you go to Clemson and play a good game and you win, nobody remembers the last one."
Georgia Tech has won three of the last four games against Clemson, and Saturday's game looked especially attractive when the Tigers were No. 9 in The Associated Press preseason poll.
Bowden left after a 3-3 start, including 1-2 in the ACC.
"You hate to think it happens after six games, but that's the nature of the business," Johnson said. "It's gotten to be a pretty lucrative profession, and when that kind of dollars are flying around, expectation levels go way up."
Johnson said he hopes to talk with Bowden "when the time is right."
"Usually when that happens you need a little time to reflect," he said.
<B>Notes: Johnson has named permanent team captains: defensive linemen Darryl Richard and Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Andrew Gardner. ... Georgia Tech leads the nation with 9.33 tackles for loss per game.