ATLANTA — Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was still moaning Sunday.
Johnson ripped the No. 15 Yellow Jackets after they opened the season with a 37-17 victory over Jacksonville State, and he wasn’t feeling much better a day later.
“We’ve just got to find a way to be motivated,” Johnson said. “We have for whatever reason a problem with that at times. There are games you can tell when everyone’s up and games when they’re not.”
The Yellow Jackets (1-0) don’t have much time to correct any shortcomings. They play their Atlantic Coast Conference opener on Thursday night, a nationally televised game against Clemson and the first of two straight weeknight games that will go a long way toward determining if Georgia Tech lives up to expectations this season.
“If they can’t get excited about a conference game at home on national TV, they probably don’t have a pulse,” Johnson said.
The only significant injury was sustained by the new backup to star running back Jonathan Dwyer. Preston Lyons, a transfer from Colgate, dislocated his shoulder and won’t be able to play against Clemson.
Johnson is more concerned with his team’s mental state, though the Yellow Jackets were never seriously threatened by their lower-level opponent. That was more than fellow ACC teams Virginia and Duke could say; both lost to Football Championship Subdivision on the opening weekend.
That didn’t seem to faze Johnson.
“If you watched the first play, we knocked four players straight to the ground,” he said. “Then all of a sudden it just kind of disintegrated a little bit. Playing a lot of people might have had something to do with it.”
But, Johnson quickly added, “They had put it in second gear long before we ever took anybody out.”
Is that just the typical moanings of a coach who never wants his players to get too comfortable? Or a legitimate concern for a team that may still be reveling in last year’s surprisingly strong season? The Yellow Jackets should find out Thursday night.
“Coach is right,” said Dwyer, who ran for two touchdowns but didn’t play after the Yellow Jackets built a 31-7 halftime lead. “They beat us in the second half, they scored more than we did. We need to go out there in the second half with the same enthusiasm and intensity as in the first half. That is what he was looking for and we didn’t (do it). That is why he was disappointed.”
Of course, the Yellow Jackets rested most of their starters over the final two quarters, wanting them to be as fresh as possible against Clemson.
But that didn’t excuse five fumbles, several dropped passes and some missed opportunities for interceptions.
“The good thing is that we won the game,” Johnson said. “We will have to be 100 times better on Thursday night or we will get run out of our own stadium. Hopefully our guys will take the challenge, and will be ready to go.”