In the wake of his team’s Orange Bowl championship, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has been asked to given an address at the American Football Coaches Association. Johnson will make a speech at the general session Tuesday. At an Orange Bowl news conference, Johnson said he was asked to speak on the team’s consistency.
It’d be hard to argue he’s not a suitable resource on the matter. In seven seasons at Tech, Johnson’s 37-19 record in ACC play is behind only Florida State (43-13), Clemson (40-16) and Virginia Tech (39-17). The Jackets have had a winning ACC record in six of the seven years and were .500 in the other.
“We haven’t had a bad year that’s bad at Tech,” Johnson said. “There’ve been some bad years (in Tech’s history). Just look in the book. All of them haven’t been great, but it’s not like we’ve played conference games where we lost by 40. (Or) we go out there and we’ve got no chance.”
In the same interview, I was working on a blog post that, in now looking for it to hyperlink, I am embarrassed to say I apparently never posted. (I’ll do it tonight. Wow. Embarrassing.) But anyway, the thrust of it is about how Tech is in good position going forward, perhaps the best it has been since Johnson took the job.
“I don’t know that it’s a lot different,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s contention was that, going back to the team’s consistency, the Jackets have competed every year. It’s an easy point to argue. In 2008, Tech tied for the Coastal title and would have won it outright but for the 20-17 loss to Virginia Tech. In 2011, the Jackets had control of the game when linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu received a personal foul penalty for punching Logan Thomas’s helmet, flipping the game’s momentum. (Not to put the game squarely on that one play. The Jackets had subsequent opportunities to stop the Hokies, but failed.)
In 2012, the Jackets lost games in overtime to Virginia Tech and Miami that they led in the final minute of regulation (and still went to the ACC title game). In 2013, the Jackets lost a 17-10 game to Virginia Tech in which they were clearly the inferior team, but still could have won with one or two plays. That could’ve meant another Coastal title.
“That’s what I’m saying,” he said. “That’s exactly right. It’s that close every year.”
He brought up the 2010 Virginia Tech game, which, given how often I’ve heard him talk about it, I suspect still rankles him. In that game, the Jackets were inside the Hokies’ 10-yard line with a 14-7 lead with about four minutes left in the second quarter when quarterback Joshua Nesbitt threw an interception. It prevented a potential two-touchdown lead, but, more critically, Nesbitt broke his arm on the play and was lost for the season.
To that point in the game, Johnson said, “we’re beating Tech up in Blacksburg,” he said. “I mean, beating the stuffing out of them.”
I go back and forth on the matter. In some ways, the 2014 Tech team was clearly superior to past teams. The offense was much more efficient and the defense more opportunistic than previous Jackets teams under Johnson. But, you could make the case that it was only four or five plays better than previous teams. But, maybe that's a more significant difference than would seem.
Said Johnson, "People don't realize how hard it is to win."