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October 3, 2012

Paul Johnson

MIKE FINN:  We now welcome Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson.  We'll bring on coach, ask for a brief opening statement, then go to questions.
COACH JOHNSON:  Good morning.  I tell you, we've got a tremendous challenge this week.  When you put on the tape of Clemson, they're scary good.  They're very athletic.  I think all their skill positions offensively, they have next‑level players, and they're executing at a high level.
It will be a huge challenge for us.  That's always a tough place to play.  We've got to bounce back from a really disappointing game on Saturday.  We get thrown right back into the fire against a quality opponent in Clemson.
MIKE FINN:  Questions for coach.

Q.  Coach, looking at the numbers, it looks like your offense is functioning at a pretty high level, but you're struggling on defense.  What do you need to do better defensively?
COACH JOHNSON:  I think that's a fair assessment.  We turned the ball over Saturday.  We stayed away from that, but we had way too many turnovers offensively in the game Saturday.
Defensively I think we've given up so many big plays and our tackling has been very poor.  In my mind the tackling probably cost us our first two conference games in the fourth quarter or in overtime ‑ actually before they got into overtime, we probably didn't need to get into overtime.
That's something we've got to improve on.  We have to cut back on the big plays and get back to playing defensively like we're capable of playing, I think.

Q.  One point brought up before was whether teams hit in practice and tackle during the week or cut back on that.  Do you guys go hard tackling during the week or do you limit contact?
COACH JOHNSON:  We do a tackling drill almost every day.  We have tackling stations.  A lot of times when the defense are doing it against scouts, they may not go to the ground, but they work on angle tackles, short yardage form tackles, all those type deals.
We practice full speed, at least on Tuesdays, at least 15 or 20 minutes on Tuesday on offense.  So our guys are doing it defensively.  It's a little harder.  They go full speed.  But most of the time they try to stay off the ground.

Q.  I guess the big question is, if the defense has so much trouble stopping Tennessee, how tall an order is it to stop Clemson?
COACH JOHNSON:  If we play like we did Saturday, they may not have enough lights on the scoreboard for Clemson.
Hopefully we'll bounce back and we'll play better.  I think you go into the game anew.  Our guys are looking forward to go in and compete and having a chance to rectify.  We'll get guys back from last game that will help us.

Q.  You mentioned defensive problems.  Is that coaches, X's and O's, scheming, or just wrap people up and we'll be in better shape?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, I think if we could tackle better, that would be a good start.  Then as coaches we have to do a better job helping them be better tacklers and putting them in a position they can be successful.
When I tend to look at things, we can help offensively, too, by not turning the ball over, getting in front of people, doing those kind of things.  There's a lot of factors that come into it.

Q.  Al Groh, a guy you think can turn this thing around?
COACH JOHNSON:  We hope so.  Like I said this week, Al has been a good coach for a long time.  I don't think he forgot how to coach in the last two weeks.  We have to get back to doing what we do, tackle better, be better, be productive.

Q.  Paul, Clemson has so many weapons.  If you force them to pass, they have great receivers.  If you try to take away the pass, they have great runners.  Is there a secret to at least containing them, not letting them light up the scoreboard?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, I think we've had some great games with them in the past few years.  The key is you try not to give up the big plays.  They got a lot of big‑play guys.  You try to limit the big plays.
I don't think you're going to shut them completely down.  They have a good scheme, too many good players.  So you got to try to match them.  You got to try to get some turnovers, force them to continue to execute.  If you don't give it to them all in one or two plays, make them have to grind it out.
They can do that.  Clearly if you watch, they can.  But that's a far better chance of trying to stop them than the other when you give it up in one or two plays.

Q.  Is this the kind of game where if your offense can execute some of the six, seven, eight minute drives, that would work in your favor?
COACH JOHNSON:  That would be great.  That would be good in every game, but especially in a game like this.
What's happened in the past, we've had some really great, close games.  They've kind of been that way.  A year ago we were forcing it, they turned the ball over some.  We got up.  In the second half, we were able to hang onto the ball, run the clock six, seven minutes at a time on drives.  That would be a good recipe if it could happen again.

Q.  Looking at the numbers from the Tennessee game, you know you are renowned as a running offense.  You had one of your balanced offensive games.  Was that a function of being behind and throwing to catch up or did you get some good balance on offense in that game?
COACH JOHNSON:  Hmm.  A little of both.  We got ourselves behind.  Actually at half it was tied up.  We came out and got a penalty, killed ourself on the first drive, they scored.  After that, we never caught up.  Had another turnover, got down two scores.  We had to start throwing more than we normally throw.

Q.  The percentage looks good.  Were you happy with the passing game?
COACH JOHNSON:  We've done better throwing the ball.  We had some key drops.  Really about eight minutes to go, we were back to within a score, had a guy way behind the defense, under‑threw it, dropped it, they picked it off.  Actually, hit him in the chest, bounced off.
It's better.  Something we've continued to work on.  If we're that balanced, it's usually not a good thing (laughter).
MIKE FINN:  Coach, thanks for being with us today.  Good luck this weekend.  We'll talk to you next Wednesday.
COACH JOHNSON:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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