ATLANTA — Upset by what he saw on the field last week, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is taking a more active role with the offense ahead of his team’s game against No. 14 Miami.
The Yellow Jackets were held to only 124 yards in a 24-7 loss to No. 5 Clemson, a low during Johnson’s nine years at the helm of the program, and he is trying to make sure his usually productive spread-option attack returns to form against Miami.
Johnson said Tuesday he is demanding answers from his players and assistants. He praised Clemson’s defense but said he saw far too many missed assignments in the loss he called a “train wreck.”
“We’ll see how we do this week but clearly we’ve got to play better,” Johnson said, adding the lack of offense was “totally uncharacteristic” for any of his teams, including during his time at Georgia Southern and Navy.
“We’ve got to do it better,” he said. “We’ve got to play better. We’ve got to coach better. It’s like I told our assistant coaches, you’re accountable for the way they’re playing just like I’m accountable for the results.”
Johnson already is heavily involved as offensive coordinator. He calls the plays during games and takes the lead in constructing game plans.
This week he is trying to send a message by taking a more direct role.
“The team aspect, from start to finish, I’m going to have my hands on it,” he said, adding the change doesn’t mean he lacks confidence in his assistants.
“We’ve got guys over there who have been in this offense for 25 years,” Johnson said. “They know what they’re doing. It’s just more of an emphasis maybe when I’m standing over there. And more of an emphasis when I’m hands-on.”
Johnson has reason to react quickly to the first loss for Georgia Tech (3-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). The Yellow Jackets finished 3-9 in 2015, their first losing season under Johnson. A second straight loss to Miami (3-0) could erode confidence.
Johnson sat in the offense’s team meeting on Monday and challenged players to explain missed assignments.
“I wanted them to know that’s unacceptable and I wanted some answers from them,” he said. “I wanted to know why did this happen. What was the problem? Is this so confusing to you that you don’t know what you’re doing? Did somebody tell you to do that? And I also wanted some accountability in front of the whole group.”
Johnson said Georgia Tech can’t afford mistakes against teams like Clemson and Miami.
“We’re not going to have better athletes than Clemson,” he said. “We’re not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t beat them if you go out and execute and play. But you’re not going to beat them if you have 25 missed assignments because you don’t give yourself a chance to execute.”
Miami will be Georgia Tech’s first ACC Coastal Division game.
“We can’t harp on it,” said quarterback Justin Thomas. “We’ve got our whole division that we still have to play that we haven’t started on yet. Everything that we’ve got to look forward to at the end of the season is still right here in front of us.”
Georgia Tech’s offense could face another tough test this week. The Hurricanes lead the nation with their average of only 7.7 points allowed under first-year coach Mark Richt, the former Georgia coach. Miami launched the Richt era with lopsided wins over Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and Appalachian State.