Paul Johnson: 'This week is about us'

Tech looking for improvement vs. FCS foe Ala. A&M

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerNovember 22, 2013 

ATLANTA -- There's an old story about the lengths to which legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley would go in order to build up that week's opponent.

The laughable habit reached a crescendo when he was reported to have said that an outmanned foe "has the best long snapper I've ever seen."

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson won't take that path this week this week, even though his team will be heavily favored to beat FCS opponent Alabama A&M at Bobby Dodd Stadium today.

"I try to be honest with our football team. I'm not going to fool them. They're smart kids," Johnson said. "But this week is about us. This week is about Georgia Tech and getting better."

Tech is looking for something positive after getting blown out 55-31 by No. 6 Clemson last Thursday night. The tonic may come in an outmanned opponent who is 4-7 overall and 4-5 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

"They'll have good players and they'll come in all jacked up to play," Johnson said. "But to me, our challenge this week is, when you turn that tape on, are you satisfied with what you see.

"I know as a coach, I'm not. You think, how can I help the team. When you watch the tape, what you see is what you are. If you aren't happy, you need to take accountability and get better or decide this is who I am."

The tape room was probably an ugly place this week after Tech had perhaps its most disappointing performance of the year at Death Valley.

The Tech offense couldn't move the ball or catch the ball and the defense struggled for the first time in weeks against an opponent with superior talent.

As a result, Tech is looking to fix some of the same problems that have plagued it all year.

With the Alabama A&M game almost like a glorified practice game, the Yellow Jackets have one final opportunity to deal with fixing mistakes before they host rival Georgia in the regular-season finale.

"You're constantly working to improve what you do," Johnson said. "I think everyone can get better in what they do. What as I was talking about was fundamentals and getting back to basics. This is a good week to do that."

When asked for examples of items that needed to be cleaned up, Johnson didn't hesitate to give them. He listed: playing the deep ball, the kicking game, catching the kick, cutting off pursuit on the inside, blocking the perimeter and running the right routes.

Tech could end up feeling pretty good about itself this week. Alabama A&M is 4-7 and a mid-level team in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

The Bulldogs are fairly average team on offense (160 yards rushing, 190 yards passing per game) that has scored 17.2 points per game. Tailback Barrington Scott is the team's workhorse base and has rushed for 803 yards in 10 games.

He's had four straight games of 20 or more carries and went for 202 yards last week against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

On defense Alabama A&M features a pair of linemen who were named to the preseason All-SWAC team: Reginald Bailey (three sacks, 12 tackles for loss) and Corey Johnson (two sacks).

"They're physical," Johnson said. "When you talk to the coaches in that league and we've talked to a lot of them, they've said that their front seven is the most physical of anybody in that conference.

"They do a lot of things and play a lot of defenses. It will be a good test for us."

Johnson has never really had much problem with FCS opponents. Tech is 7-0 against FCS teams and beat Elon 70-0 in the season opener.

Tech will be dealing with numerous injuries. Offensive lineman Chasse Roberts will sit out the game with a concussion.

Linebacker Brandon Watts was "gimpy" and A-back Robert Godhigh was on crutches last Friday.

But the Jackets did get veteran guard Ray Beno back from a foot injury a week ago and Charles Perkins should be ready after suffering a minor concussion against Clemson.

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