Georgia Tech-Duke Preview
(AP) - Paul Johnson didn't mince words when assessing Georgia Tech's loss at Notre Dame.
Hardly anyone escaped the coach's stinging post-mortem.
''I think we had triple the missed assignments we've ever had in a game I've been a part of,'' Johnson said Monday, putting the total at more than 70. ''We got rattled a little bit. When you have a lot of young guys on the road in a hostile environment, that happens. A lot of guys got wide eyes. Some older guys, too.''
Next up for the No. 20 Yellow Jackets (2-1) is the ACC opener on Saturday against Duke, a team that upset them in Atlanta last season.
''It's a good way to put last week behind us,'' Johnson said, adding that the key to getting over the 30-22 setback in South Bend will be treating this like any other week. ''You do the same things that you do when you win. We'll cover our mistakes, we'll talk about them, and then you flush it. We'll finish that today, and we won't mention it again.''
Quarterback Justin Thomas said he's already moved on.
''Our goals are still in front of us,'' he said after practice. ''We haven't even started the ACC yet.''
While Johnson was still willing to talk about the last game, here's some areas he covered:
- The offensive line, which has four returning starters from last season, was ''atrocious'' in its blocking against Notre Dame's linebackers. ''You wouldn't expect it,'' Johnson said, ''but that's what we're getting.''
- Thomas tried to do too much when the Yellow Jackets fell behind early. ''You've got to let it come to you. You can't get frustrated, but that's hard, especially when you're a competitor like he is,'' the coach said. ''We've got to help him more. He can't win the game by himself.''
- B-back Patrick Skov, a transfer from Stanford, has yet the master the finer points of his fullback-like position. ''He gets the tough yards. He runs hard. But he's got to open his eyes and look where he's going,'' Johnson said. ''When guys are slanting out, you need to cut inside. When guys are crashing inside, you've got to bounce outside. You can't be a bull in a china shop. It's not how many guys you can run into.''
- After losing both starters from a year ago, the A-backs have shown their inexperience. ''They need to be more consistent,'' the coach said. ''They need to know their assignments.''
- There's no excuse for junior kicker Harrison Butker missing a pair of field-goal attempts, including a virtual chip shot from 30 yards. ''You've got to be able to make a 30-yarder with the wind behind you,'' Johnson said. ''Certainly with a guy of his talent, we absolutely expect that.''
- The defense isn't Johnson's specialty, but he weighed in on the secondary as well. ''We had way too many missed tackles back there,'' he said.
- Overall, the Yellow Jackets ''played horrible,'' Johnson added. ''I don't know if we can play any worse. Certainly not on offense, that's for sure.''
So, was there any part of the game to be happy about?
''I thought in spots - and I emphasize spots - we played OK defensively,'' Johnson said, clearly with some reluctance. ''We gave up too many big plays. We gave up some huge third downs. But I thought in spots, we showed we had the ability to play.''
Compounding Georgia Tech's problems, there have been a rash of injuries at A-back. Johnson was vague on specifics, but did indicate that Qua Searcy, a redshirt freshman A-back, will be out for an extended period because of a ''lower extremity'' injury. Broderick Snoddy is also is ailing, leaving the Yellow Jackets potentially short on depth at the key position.
Last season, Duke handed the Yellow Jackets one of its two regular-season losses, pulling off a stunning 31-25 victory at Bobby Dodd Stadium. On Saturday in Durham, the Blue Devils (2-1) also will be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season, a 19-10 setback at home to No. 17 Northwestern.
The Blue Devils are allowing just 93.3 yards per game on the ground and - if not for a 55-yard touchdown run on a third-and-1 against the Wildcats - would have a top-10 run defense. Their run defense ranks fourth in the ACC and tied with Air Force for 16th in the FBS.
Johnson calls it ''probably their best defense since I've been here.''
They'll get quite a test this week from the Yellow Jackets and a triple-option offense that regularly puts up huge rushing numbers.
Duke linebacker Zavier Carmichael said Tuesday discipline is key because ''you can easily get lost in the chaos'' of Georgia Tech's system.
If they make that stop at the line of scrimmage for no gain, their per-game average drops to 75 yards - which would be good for 10th in the nation.
''We can't just assume that since we had a great first half, the second half will be the same way,'' Carmichael said. ''We have to keep on putting the steam on and keep applying pressure throughout the game.''
The Yellow Jackets annually rank among the nation's top rushing teams and this year is no different. Georgia Tech's average of 377.0 yards on the ground trails only Navy (393.0).
''They've been the same way for quite some time,'' Duke safety Jeremy Cash said, ''and why try to fix something if it's not broken?''
Duke did a decent job of slowing the Yellow Jackets last year, holding them to 282 yards rushing in Atlanta. Georgia Tech had rolled up at least 300 yards on the ground in every meeting with Duke since 2008 - the Jackets' first season under Johnson.