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October 8, 2014

Paul Johnson

PAUL JOHNSON:  I was proud of our football team last week.  I think that we were able to beat a very good Miami team, a team that's very talented, and I think that we've gotten better each week, as we will continue to need to do.  We have another division game, a conference game at home.  They're all important.  Division games are even more important.  So it'll be another big challenge for us this Saturday.

Q.  You had talked last week when I asked you the question going into that Miami game that you were going to run the ball, if they could stop the run, they were going to beat you.  It was as simple as that.  318 yards you got on the ground to their 107.  What can you say about your rushing attack and your personnel and how you feel they've been performing in the start because obviously Georgia Tech is all about running the ball and these guys seem to be doing it pretty well.
PAUL JOHNSON:  Well, I think that as you said, we've been fairly consistent running the football, and that's what we do, so if we‑‑ if we struggle to run it, we usually aren't very successful.  I think that our quarterback has gotten better each week.  He has a good skill set for what we'd like to do.  The offensive line is coming along, and I think at times they've played well.
We've got to block a little better on the perimeter than we have, and then last week Zach Laskey played really tough.  He played really hard, got some hard yards inside.  If we can continue to keep improving there, we've got a chance to be decent on offense, I think.

Q.  And then as far as your upcoming match‑up, what you see from Duke and what you can say about what their defense poses as far as a threat to what you've been doing on offense.
PAUL JOHNSON:  Well, we play them every year.  They're in our division.  You know, they're playing well.  They're giving up 13 points a game.  They don't usually beat themselves by giving up big plays, and they play hard.  You know, it will be a challenge just like every conference game is.

Q.  I want to ask you about Shaq Mason.  What kind of maturity level have you seen out of him, especially since he became a father this August?
PAUL JOHNSON:  Well, Shaq has been a really good player since he's been here.  I think that from the time he came in, he came to our football camp when he was in high school his junior year, and we really thought that he could be a good player, and we haven't been disappointed.
I think he's mature.  I haven't seen a whole lot of change in him personally.  I think he's been a fairly mature guy.  He likes to play the game.  He's physical, and without question, he's a leader for us on offense and our best player up front.

Q.  Before the season you talked about how on defense last year you guys struggled against teams with really good skill people.  Obviously that was not the case last week against Miami.  What's been the biggest improvement in your mind defensively this year?
PAUL JOHNSON:  Well, I think we've been kind of hit and miss.  We've played well at times and maybe not so well at other times.  The biggest key against Miami was not giving them the ball, keeping them off the field.  We still gave up some big plays, explosion plays to them, because they are very talented.  Just like the rest of the team, I'm hopeful and I think our defense has gotten better each week.
You know, as long as they continue to do that and tackle better, that was a bugaboo early on, and we've got to continue to improve our tackling and get better in that area.

Q.  And to develop on what you said about Justin Thomas, has he exceeded expectations in any area for you this year?
PAUL JOHNSON:  Well, I don't know about exceeded expectations.  I thought he was going to be a really good player.  I think that he's made some crucial plays in critical situations, and that's always a great trait to have for a quarterback.  You never know until they play some, and like I've said all year, I think he's just going to get better the more he plays.

Q.  Duke runs a 4‑2‑5 which I know is designed to defend spread offenses, but with three safeties, is it a good‑‑ I know you've faced every kind of defense you can face.  Is it a good defense to run against the wishbone, the option, or is it something you can exploit?
PAUL JOHNSON:  Well, they don't run a 4‑2‑5 against us, or they haven't.  They've either mixed in what we call 4‑3, 6‑1, or they've played eight‑man front.  I guess in years past they've jumped into about everything.  The players are what make it.  I think that's overrated about whether it's a 4‑2‑5 or eight‑man front or 3‑4.  You've got to line up and beat blocks and tackle people and play your responsibility.  That's what defense is about.
For the last‑‑ we've played them, what, six years in a row, they've lined up pretty much the same way.

Q.  The other thing is you say players‑‑ can you talk about a couple of guys?  Jeremy Cash is a guy for them that creates a lot of havoc.  Is he a guy you've got to pay particular attention to?
PAUL JOHNSON:  Yeah, I think that he's really a good player.  I think he's a guy who makes plays for them and creates a lot of stuff.  Their corners have played well.  They've put their corners out there in a lot of man‑to‑man situations.  I was impressed with them the way they played the speed of Miami.  They've made plays, and inside, the linebacker I guess is the leading tackler, 47, Helton.  He's been a good player for them, too.

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