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November 25, 2014

Paul Johnson

COACH JOHNSON:  I think our bye week came at a good time last week.  We had a lot of bumps and bruises as you would at this time of the season.  We were able to get a jump‑start on Georgia, get some guys healed up, as well.
Got a really big game this week against a very quality opponent.  I think they're ranked in the top 10 in about every poll.  They've had a lot of success against Georgia Tech for a while now.  It's a big challenge for our guys, but we're looking forward to going over to Athens to play.

Q.  What concerns does the Georgia run game pose for you, and what is the key to stopping them this week?
COACH JOHNSON:  They have a lot of star runningbacks.  Anybody that's watched them play, Nick Chubb is about as good as anybody in the country.  Sony Michel, Keith Marshall.  They have a lot of five‑star runningbacks in their program.
You know, offensive line they're good.  I think they've got quality receivers and a veteran quarterback.  They're a tough team to play.

Q.  What are the keys to stopping them?
COACH JOHNSON:  We play better.  I think we have to do better on third downs.  You'd like to create some turnovers if you can.  They do a good job of taking care of the ball.  We need to play clean on the other side and try to control the clock a little bit.

Q.  Obviously you have another game to go here, but just what the team has done to this point in the season, to know that you have that ACC championship opportunity, the adversity you faced, the hard work, what can you say about your guys?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, I'm proud of our guys.  I think it's been a resilient bunch.  They worked hard, stuck together, played together as a team.  That's what it's about.  We're excited about the opportunities in front of us.
Right now clearly our whole focus is on the rivalry game with Georgia.  As soon as that's over, we'll get geared into the ACC championship game, which will be a huge game in its own right.

Q.  When you look at the coastal division, what can you say about the talent, how the ACC has grown in that division itself?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, I think there's good balance in our league.  All you have to do is look at the standings and see that.  It's been that way really since I got in the league.
I think if you look, probably Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech have been predominantly the teams that have won the coastal more than anybody else, or at least represented.  But you've got to be ready to play every week.  There are not any gimme games.

Q.  Coach was commenting that your passing game has been really good this year.
COACH JOHNSON:  I think we hit some play‑action passes.  We probably aren't throwing it any more than we did.  In fact, we're throwing it less than we did a year ago.  We're completing at a little higher percentage.  Our receivers have been good.
Justin has a good arm.  I think he's a pretty good passer.  People start crowding us on the run, we can get play‑action, we'll take some shots.  Kind of fits in with what we try to do.

Q.  I know you sometimes get asked about teams getting a bye before they face you.  You get the bye before Georgia.  Do you think that benefits you in this case?
COACH JOHNSON:  I don't know.  I think it gives you an extra day or two to get healthy, maybe get an extra day or two to prepare.
I don't think it hurts you.  I don't know how much it helps.  So we'll see.
I mean, you can look at it both ways.  You do get a little more healthy.  In other ways, you have to worry about losing continuity, getting out of rhythm.  So we'll see how it goes.

Q.  How would you describe the contributions that DeAndre Smelter has made for you the last couple years?
COACH JOHNSON:  I think DeAndre has been a huge boost for us.  He is a really good athlete who is a really tough kid.  He's a good football player, not just a good athlete.  I think he's going to probably have a great opportunity to play on the next level.
To get that kind of talent to come out, it's been a real blessing for us.  He's a great young man to coach, as well.  He's as good a person as he is a player.

Q.  How does he help the development of Justin with his reliability?
COACH JOHNSON:  All the receivers, not just DeAndre.  I think they have a pretty good chemistry together.  When you have confidence that when you throw the ball, the guys are going to come down with it or at least not let the other guy get it, that helps you to kind of take more chances.
I think Justin has a lot of confidence in DeAndre, no question.

Q.  Talk about the rivalry game between you and Georgia.  People outside the state of Georgia don't know how significant this game is.
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, it's a huge rivalry game.  I think, like anything, you're in the state.  Both fan bases really don't care for the other side.  It's huge and it gives you bragging rights for the year, for 365 days.
It's kind of compounded for us because we sit in the middle of the SEC.  We hear that a lot, too.
No question it's a big game.  Georgia's got the better of it the last 35 years.  But it's a game that we look forward to playing every year.

Q.  Talk about Georgia's running game.  What do you have to do to stop the runningbacks?
COACH JOHNSON:  They have a stable of good runningbacks.  Nick Chubb is as good as anybody we've seen.  Sony Michel, another freshman, is a great player.  Keith Marshall.  They got a lot of good backs.
Their offensive line is a veteran group that does well, opens up holes.  They're adept at running the football.  I don't think you stop them, I think you slow them down, and don't give up a lot of big plays.

Q.  About the rivalry game.  Because of that, any concerns about getting the guys locked in for this week's game when you have Florida State on the horizon?
COACH JOHNSON:  No, I don't think so.  This is a big game for our guys.  They grew up playing against these guys in high school.  It's 90 minutes up the road.  They know each other.  Our guys will be focused on this one.  There won't be any looking forward.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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