ATLANTA — Paul Johnson says he won’t be satisfied with Georgia Tech’s defense until the unit records a shutout.
Based on the matchups, the Yellow Jackets might have that opportunity this week.
Mississippi State, coming off a 3-2 loss to Auburn, will bring a struggling offense to Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Defense, meanwhile, has been a strength in the Yellow Jackets’ 2-1 start.
Georgia Tech ranks second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and fourth in the nation in pass defense. The YellowJackets beat Boston College 19-16, and the defense also played well last week in a 20-17 loss at Virginia Tech.
Boston College and Virginia Tech, the two defending division champions in the conference, combined for one second-half touchdown against Georgia Tech.
The defense already has four interceptions, only one less than the team’s 2007 total, and it is tied for first in the ACC with 2.67 sacks per game.
The statistics are impressive, but Johnson doesn’t have that shutout yet.
“I think you’ve got to set the bar high,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to set the bar too low. Have we played good defense? Yeah. Can we play better? Yeah, we need to.
“In my mind, the perfect game on defense is when they don’t have any points. Zero. That’s what I’m going to strive for and until we get there I’ll find something wrong every time.”
Johnson said the expectations should be high because there is talent and experience on the unit, starting with a defensive front led by seniors Vance Walker, Darryl Richard and Michael Johnson.
The unit is allowing an average of 16.7 points per game, but ranks only seventh in the ACC with its average of 147 yards rushing per game.
“I think it’s coming together but it’s definitely taking some time,” Richard said. “We have to eliminate our missed tackles and missed assignments. We’re giving up too many yards after contact.”
Mississippi State (1-2) was 0-for-14 on third-down conversions against Auburn. The Bulldogs managed just 116 total yards and six first downs and failed on all three fourth-down attempts.
There’s a new reason to worry about the Mississippi State offense. Top tailback Anthony Dixon’s status is in question due to a bruised hip. He left Auburn’s game in the first half with the injury and is considered day to day, according to coach Sylvester Croom.
Dixon rushed for 1,734 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first two seasons, including 1,066 last season. He had 171 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first two games.
Backup Christian Ducre rushed for 49 yards against Auburn.
Johnson says Mississippi State, which finished 8-5 last season, has good skill players.
“Sometimes their offense gets overlooked a little bit because they do have good skill guys,” Johnson said. “They have good personnel. They just haven’t put it together yet, and hopefully they’ll wait one more week before they do.”