ATLANTA — The mantra is one Paul Johnson is fond of sharing with anyone who will listen.
“Good teams,” he has said, “don’t lose two games in a row.”
By those standards, his 2008 Georgia Tech squad was a good team.
Whenever the Yellow Jackets succumbed to an opponent last season, their swift reply the following week was victory.
Well, it is a new year, a new team and a new season. But one thing that has not changed for the Yellow Jackets is that simple quotation that has been firmly implanted in their minds.
“Good teams don’t lose two games in a row.”
With that mentality, Georgia Tech’s head coach has asked his players both publicly and privately to remember the last impression they made.
It wasn’t pretty — a 38-3 loss to LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“We got the crap beat out of us the last game we played,” Johnson said this preseason after witnessing what he felt was poor effort from his team in one preseason practice. “You’d think we remember. We walk around like we’ve done something. We ain’t done crap.”
The players agree.
“We embarrassed coach Johnson. We embarrassed Georgia Tech and the ACC on top of that,” B-back Jonathan Dwyer said. “That whole game still has a bad taste in my mouth, and I know it does in everybody else’s.”
It wasn’t the Yellow Jackets’ strong performance that they seemed to enjoy throughout the regular season. Racking up nine wins, Georgia Tech had surprised the nation and watched its fanbase expand.
In the months since the bowl defeat, the preseason media has jumped on that same bandwagon, almost forgetting that final game.
Some publications have gone as far as to name Georgia Tech a lock to win the ACC championship. Others have splashed their covers with images of players like Dwyer and All-America candidate safety Morgan Burnett, hailing them as the nation’s best.
The two believe that they must approach last year’s bowl game loss as a motivator and keep it fresh in mind.
“Oh, that’s real big,” Burnett said, “because like coach said, that’s the last impression that America got to see of Georgia Tech — 38-3. So we’re trying to motivate each other and show our improvements because we all played bad that game.”
Broadcast nationally on ESPN, the game may have given some football fans the wrong impression of Georgia Tech, Dwyer said.
“Big teams play on national television and late at night, and we want to be able to get Georgia Tech exposure and players exposure and things like that,” he said. “If so, we have to come to play.”
Its first ESPN game is Sept. 10 at home against Clemson. The contest is being billed as a student-led whiteout, in which all Yellow Jackets fans are asked to wear white.
As frustrating as the loss may have been to witness, the Yellow Jackets know they can’t totally forget about last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“We use it in a good way,” linebacker Brad Jefferson said. “It really makes you mad to see how they did us that last game. So now, when we see other teams, it’s like, ‘We don’t want that to happen to us anymore.’
“So now, we’re just dedicating ourselves to go full steam ahead against any team that we’re playing each week. We want to finish the season like we will start it — full speed ahead, full steam ahead.”