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October 22, 2014

Paul Johnson

PAUL JOHNSON:  Good morning.  I think we're coming off a tough loss in the division on the road, and we've got a big challenge in front of us going on the road and in the division again this week.  It seems like every week the teams are very closely matched, and certainly Pitt's playing very well, especially defensively.  I think they're in the top five in the country in a lot of the defensive categories and got a lot of weapons on offense with Connors and the real good runner‑‑ or receiver, Tyler Boyd.
It will be a challenge for us to go on the road again this week.  We definitely need to play better than we've played the last two weeks, that's for sure.

Q.  I know that you just addressed the fact that Tech needs to play better, particularly coming off the losses to Duke and North Carolina.  What are some of the key issues that you tried to address in practice going into this Pittsburgh game knowing how physical of a team they've been and how their defense has played this year?
PAUL JOHNSON:  We've just got to do what we need to do.  Our problem wasn't so much defensively as it was getting the other team off the field.  I usually focus more on what we do than on the other team, but I think you're right, Pitt is very good defensively.

Q.  And then as far as your passing side of the ball, I know obviously, when it comes to running the ball, Georgia Tech does it better than most, but what you can say about your quarterback in Thomas and how he's evolved and maybe where you need him to be or still need some of that work, just how you can assess his play so far.
PAUL JOHNSON:  I think he's played very well.  We've hit some plays in the passing game, and we've missed some, but overall, I think that, minus the Duke game where I think he got a little bit dinged and hurt, I think he's gotten better every game and played well.

Q.  I'm also interested in your quarterback, Justin Thomas.  He's fourth in the ACC in rushing but also first in the country in yards per completion.  I'm sure a lot of that is philosophy and the way you run your offense, but you don't always see a quarterback lead the nation in yards per completion and also run as well as he does.
PAUL JOHNSON:  Well, no, I think he's got a good skill set for what we want to do.  We don't throw the ball a lot.  Most of the time we do throw it, it's off play action, and we've been fortunate to hit some big plays.  He's got a couple of pretty good receivers out there that are big targets that, if you throw it close to them, they do a pretty good job of going to get it.

Q.  Coach, just coming off the Thursday night game, last Thursday night, Chad Voytik, their quarterback, did a really nice job running the ball.  Can you talk about the problems that creates when you have to defend?  Obviously, your quarterbacks have always been good about running guys, but when you have to defend against a guy that can hurt you with the run, how difficult is that?
PAUL JOHNSON:  Well, I think it makes our job a lot harder.  He did a nice job with his read in the package against Virginia Tech.  That was kind of a new wrinkle for them.  They hadn't shown that before.  They ran a lot of other plays.  They ran some quarterback counters, and they really got him involved in the running game.
So there's no question we've got to play better defense.  That's the bottom line.  And it starts with the run defense, and I'm sure they're fighting for the markers up there.  They can't draw up enough plays that work after watching us the last couple of weeks.

Q.  The game turned into a shootout really Saturday night in Chapel Hill.  Was that a function of your mistakes or the fact that they have a very potent offense that put up points against people like Notre Dame and Clemson that are also very good defenses?  I mean, how much of what happened Saturday night do you think was their potent offense or your defensive mistakes?
PAUL JOHNSON:  I think it was some of both.  I think they are very talented.  Their quarterback is a very good player, and they made plays.  Give them credit.  They made plays on offense.  I take nothing away from them, but we also missed 15 tackles and did things to help a lot.  They were good enough, they didn't need our help.  So it became a shootout, you're right.

Q.  Coach, following up there, is it even possible to play good defense anymore?  Not just for you your team, but just across the ACC, it seems guys are scoring 50 points a game.
PAUL JOHNSON:  There's some teams that play good defense, if you look at Louisville and Pitt and Clemson, there are some teams that are playing pretty good.  I think scores are higher because of the no‑huddle stuff and some big plays, but there are still a lot of teams that play pretty good defense.

Q.  You mentioned the 15 missed tackles.  It seems like tackling, especially in open space, is the biggest challenge.  Do you buy into the theory that kids don't really get to practice tackling anymore, hence they're not very good at it or ass good as they can be?
PAUL JOHNSON:  I think that's probably a little bit of it, but I think the offenses spread people out more and get them in space, and it becomes more prevalent that you see a lot of missed tackles.  And there's a lot of good athletes on the offensive side.  But still, football is fundamentals.  If you're going to win games, you've got to be able to block and tackle.  Bottom line, that's what it comes down to. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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