ATLANTA — Paul Johnson didn’t mince words when assessing Georgia Tech’s loss at Notre Dame.
Hardly anyone escaped the coach’s stinging post-mortem.
“I think we had triple the missed assignments we’ve ever had in a game I’ve been a part of,” Johnson said Monday, putting the total at more than 70. “We got rattled a little bit. When you have a lot of young guys on the road in a hostile environment, that happens. A lot of guys got wide eyes. Some older guys, too.”
Come Tuesday, it will be time to move on.
Next up for the No. 20 Yellow Jackets (2-1): the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Duke, a team that upset them in Atlanta last season.
“It’s a good way to put last week behind us,” Johnson said, adding that the key to getting over the 30-22 setback in South Bend will be treating this like any other week. “You do the same things that you do when you win. We’ll cover our mistakes, we’ll talk about them, and then you flush it. We’ll finish that today, and we won’t mention it again.”
But, while he was still willing to talk about the last game, here’s some areas he covered:
— The offensive line, which has four returning starters from last season, was “atrocious” in its blocking against Notre Dame’s linebackers. “You wouldn’t expect it,” Johnson said, “but that’s what we’re getting.”
— Quarterback Justin Thomas tried to do too much when the Yellow Jackets fell behind early. “You’ve got to let it come to you. You can’t get frustrated, but that’s hard, especially when you’re a competitor like he is,” the coach said. “We’ve got to help him more. He can’t win the game by himself.”
— B-back Patrick Skov, a transfer from Stanford, has yet the master the finer points of his fullback-like position. “He gets the tough yards. He runs hard. But he’s got to open his eyes and look where he’s going,” Johnson said. “When guys are slanting out, you need to cut inside. When guys are crashing inside, you’ve got to bounce outside. You can’t be a bull in a china shop. It’s not how many guys you can run into.”
— After losing both starters from a year ago, the A-backs have shown their inexperience. “They need to be more consistent,” the coach said. “They need to know their assignments.”
— There’s no excuse for junior kicker Harrison Butker missing a pair of field-goal attempts, including a virtual chip shot from 30 yards. “You’ve got to be able to make a 30-yarder with the wind behind you,” Johnson said. “Certainly with a guy of his talent, we absolutely expect that.”
— The defense isn’t Johnson’s specialty, but he weighed in on the secondary as well. “We had way too many missed tackles back there,” he said.
— Overall, the Yellow Jackets “played horrible,” Johnson added. “I don’t know if we can play any worse. Certainly not on offense, that’s for sure.”
So, was there any part of the game to be happy about?
“I thought in spots — and I emphasize spots — we played OK defensively,” Johnson said, clearly with some reluctance. “We gave up too many big plays. We gave up some huge third downs. But I thought in spots, we showed we had the ability to play.”
Compounding Georgia Tech’s problems, there was a rash of injuries. Johnson was vague on specifics, but did indicate that Qua Searcy, a redshirt freshman A-back, will be out for an extended period because of a “lower extremity” injury.
Last season, Duke handed the Yellow Jackets one of its two losses, pulling off a stunning 31-25 victory at Bobby Dodd Stadium. On Saturday in Durham, the Blue Devils (2-1, 0-0 ACC) also will be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season, a 19-10 setback at home to No. 17 Northwestern.
“Duke has probably their best defense since I’ve been here,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a big challenge, especially considering the way we played last week.”