Six months in Iraq
ATLANTA — Paul Johnson insists he doesn’t care that Georgia Tech’s first loss of the season knocked the Yellow Jackets out of the Top 25.
“This time of year the poll doesn’t mean anything,” Johnson said Tuesday.
The coach is much more concerned about his team’s poor play at the end of its stretch of three games in 12 days, including games on back-to-back Thursday nights — a narrow win over Clemson, followed by last week’s 33-17 loss at Miami.
Johnson said the loss revealed problems that must be fixed as Georgia Tech prepares to face No. 22 North Carolina on Saturday.
“We’ve got to get better,” Johnson said.
Georgia Tech (2-1 overall, 1-1 ACC) was No. 14 before falling out of the Top 25.
Since taking a 24-0 lead against Clemson on Sept. 10, Georgia Tech has been outscored 60-23. The Yellow Jackets held on for a 30-27 win over Clemson.
“I thought we played OK against Clemson,” Johnson said. “We missed some stuff or whatever, but there are going to be a lot of teams that struggle on offense against Clemson. They’re pretty good on defense.”
Johnson called Miami “an outstanding football team” that was helped by Georgia Tech’s lack of consistency on offense and poor play on defense.
“We didn’t do much to help ourselves,” he said. “We could not get them off the field. Offensively we had very few possessions and we didn’t maximize those possessions when we had a chance during the game.”
Miami held Georgia Tech’s spread option offense to 95 yards rushing, a dramatic drop after the team rushed for more than 300 yards in each of its first two games.
Johnson called his offense “the least of my worries right now.”
Star running back Jonathan Dwyer, the 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, was limited by a shoulder injury to five carries for 7 yards against Miami. Dwyer returned to practice on Monday and is expected to play against North Carolina.
Johnson downplayed a move from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3 scheme on defense.
“It won’t matter what we play if we don’t put our eyes where they belong and play defense,” he said. “That’s part of our problem. We worry too much about all of that stuff instead of putting our face on somebody and putting our eyes where they’re supposed to be and doing our job. We could play a 4-12-9 and it won’t matter.”
Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Dave Wommack is looking to replace defensive end Robert Hall, who will miss this week’s game with a knee injury. Defensive backs Cooper Taylor and Dominique Reese are questionable with undisclosed injuries.
Wommack said he is trying to simplify his scheme this week.
“We had so many missed assignments in the game,” Wommack said. “We had some confusion. We ran too much defense. I put that on me more than on my players. We had too many different schemes going against them.”
Wommack confirmed he will add a third linebacker, instead of the “Wolf” linebacker/safety spot held by Reese, in some situations.
Johnson has strongly endorsed the move for a simplified approach against North Carolina.
“We had too much in, yeah,” Johnson said. “Anytime you can’t do what you’re doing, you’ve got too much in. It’s better to get good at something than not be good and do a lot.
“There’s two philosophies you can have. You can do all kinds of stuff and not be good at anything or you can do limited stuff and try to be good at whatever you do.”
Added Johnson: “On both sides of the ball we’re not really good at anything right now.”