Highlights from coach Paul Johnson's Tuesday news conference
1. A critical aspect of the game will be third-down performance when Georgia Tech is on offense and Virginia Tech is on defense. (I’d guess it’s a critical part of every game, but especially so Saturday.)
The Hokies are tied for No. 3 in the country in third-down defense at 23.3 percent. The Yellow Jackets' offense is No. 2 in the country at 64.0 percent. Johnson said Virginia Tech’s aggressive style creates sacks and negative-yardage plays on the first two downs, leading to third-and-long situations.
“I don’t care who you are, nobody’s going to make third and long very consistently,” Johnson said. “The key to being good on third downs is trying to stay out of long-yardage situations. The few that you do have in a game, if you can convert half of them, you’re going to be pretty good on third down.”
2. Johnson’s comparison between former Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas and starter Michael Brewer: “Logan Thomas was a tremendous athlete. He probably through the years hurt us as much running as he did throwing. He was a big, physical guy. Brewer’s more of a typical pro-style-type quarterback in that he wants to throw it. Not that he won’t run, but they’re not going to have a lot of designed runs for him. He’s more of a pocket guy, throwing guy.”
In the Hokies’ 28-21 loss to East Carolina Saturday, when they fell behind early and had trouble running the ball, Brewer threw 56 times, a school record.
3. Johnson addressed the team’s difficulties in playing consistently over four quarters in the first three games. He called the first game “a wash,” given that it was the first game for several players. In the second, when Tech fumbled the ball away on the first plays of the first and third series, he said that might have been not a matter of focus as much as execution. Further, Tulane scored its first touchdown on a pass that was deflected and could have been an interception.
“And then (against) young guys, they were able to put together two long scoring drives,” he said.
The team played considerably better on both sides from the middle of the second quarter forward.
Against Georgia Southern, Tech was done in by a lack of focus in the second half, which led to a litany of mistakes on both sides of the ball, and a few big passing plays by Georgia Southern.
“And in college, sometimes the momentum gets going, it’s hard to get it stopped,” Johnson said. “It was just one of those things, I think the guys relaxed. The thing that was disappointing to me was the mistakes we made in the second half. Unforced stuff. You’ve got a guy that’s supposed to be on the pitch, he takes the quarterback. Or a guy that’s supposed to be on this, and he does something else. Or the quarterback throws it to the wrong side of the field. Those kind of things that are self-inflicted. Sometimes with a young team, that’s going to happen.”
4. Johnson said he had intended to use a no-huddle tempo against Georgia Southern, but decided against it once the offense started out so hot, scoring five touchdowns in the first five possessions.
“It was going about as good as it could go,” Johnson said.
The team continues to work on it in practice and that the Jackets might use it against Virginia Tech.
“Just don’t know,” he said.
He didn’t sound terribly sold about its value. The utility, in his opinion, is if a defense is changing its looks play to play and the quarterback is missing his checks at the line of scrimmage. Having the team line up without huddling would give Johnson time to make a play call or check after seeing the defense's alignment.
“But if you’re prepared and you’re not missing that stuff and you know what to do, I don’t know that there’s an advantage,” he said.
Johnson said Justin Thomas gets most of the checks he makes right and is “doing OK” for a first-year starter.
5. A terrific comparison between former quarterback Joshua Nesbitt and Thomas (I guess it was the day for comparing past and present quarterbacks):
“Josh, he could will himself. It’s like, Hey, if it’s fourth-and-2, I want it. Give me the ball. They’re not going to tackle me. Justin’s more kind of like, Hey, it’s fourth-and-2, what do you want to run, Coach? It’s not like, It’s fourth-and-2, I’m scared I got to pitch it or I’m scared I got to throw it. It’s just, let’s run the play.”