Like many fans, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson hasn’t been pleased with his team’s play in the past two games, losses to No. 3 Clemson and No. 10 Miami.
But, as Tech prepares to play Pittsburgh Saturday, he also wanted the strength of competition recognized as well.
“The other thing that people have got to put into perspective, for now, we’ll see how it goes, but we’ve played two top-10 teams that are undefeated,” he said after his team’s Monday practice. “And when you make mistakes, you’re not going to be able to play with them. I don’t care who you are.”
Tech was particularly compromised in the 35-21 loss to Miami by two fumbles within the span of three second-quarter plays that were both returned for touchdowns. It was the first time that the Yellow Jackets have given up two touchdowns on fumble returns in a game in school history.
Johnson said the first “could possibly have been a 14-point swing. But we didn’t get it done.” On the first, left tackle Eason Fromayan was apparently assigned to pick up a blitzing linebacker on the back side of the play, but double teamed the end instead. The linebacker, linebacker Trent Harris, had a free shot at quarterback Justin Thomas and forced the fumble, which was picked up and returned for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
On the play, a play-action pass, A-back Clinton Lynch ran open down the seam and would have had a shot at a touchdown — which would have tied the game at 14 – with a well-delivered pass. Offensive line coach Ron West said the line should have slid its pass protection to account for Harris.
“That’s on us, us as coaches,” West said. “Because we didn’t get it communicated, so they didn’t have it. That’s on us.”
While the Yellow Jackets performed far better offensively than it did against Clemson, when it gained 124 yards of total offense, Tech still could have done better if not for its own mistakes. Missed assignments on blocks and penalties that put the offense behind schedule to gain first downs were critical.
“That’s probably the No. 1 thing glaring is we found a way for Georgia Tech to beat Georgia Tech,” West said.
Johnson agreed with the assessment.
“We made too many mistakes to win the game,” he said. “We just had some issues, some terrible mistakes.”
Blocking on the line was part of the problem, he said, “but we’re not playing up to my expectations anywhere.”
Tech can take encouragement from the play of B-back Dedrick Mills, who gained a career-high 99 rushing yards along with one reception good for nine yards and a touchdown despite Miami setting its defense to control that part of Tech’s offense.
“I think he’s carrying it better, and I think he’s seeing things,” quarterbacks and B-backs coach Bryan Cook said. “There’s a couple things where he needs to maybe hit it in a different gap, but he’s starting to see things well.”
Mills is ninth in the ACC in rushing at an even 75 yards per game. He is the highest-ranking freshman in the conference. In part because the job has sometimes been split, Tech has not had a B-back average 75 yards per game since Anthony Allen in 2010.
“He’s a tough kid,” Johnson said. “He likes to play, he plays hard. He’s going to be good. He’s still a work in progress.”