ATLANTA — One day after one of the more difficult losses of his three-year tenure at Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson’s temperament remained cool.
Speaking on his weekly teleconference Sunday night, the head coach was not very animated nor upset, although the frustration of Saturday’s three-point loss to Kansas was still clearly evident in his voice.
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“You can watch the tape and see why we lost,” he said, bothered by what he had watched earlier in the day. “The reason, in my mind — bottom line — why we lost, was special teams. As poorly as we played on offense and defense, it (special teams) killed us.”
But even while Johnson lashed out about the penalties, poor kicks and lack of field position that stuck his offense into several tough situations against the Jayhawks, he remained relatively calm and level-headed — all things considered.
All things considered being the fact that the loss dropped the Yellow Jackets from 15th to unranked in the USA Today Coaches’ and AP polls released Sunday afternoon.
All things considered being the fact that quarterback Joshua Nesbitt couldn’t seem to get involved in the running game because of Kansas’ stifling defense.
All things considered being the fact that the Yellow Jackets dropped four passes, including one in the end zone.
“We’ve played two games now and it’s never as good or as bad as it seems; either way,” Johnson said. “When you win, it’s probably not as good as it should be and when we lost, well, it’s probably not as bad.”
That sentiment shows he understands that 10 games still separate the Yellow Jackets from the end of the regular season, and as many as two more stand between them and the end of the full year. He believes there is still time on the calendar to make things better.
In one of the more candid comments Johnson made Sunday night, he indicated that his team has to play better than mediocre if it wants to succeed this season.
Two years ago, in his inaugural year on the Flats, some said the Yellow Jackets would be a three-win team. They exceed those expectations, as well as their own and went 9-4, beat rival Georgia and advanced to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Much of that same determinism is what Johnson said he is looking for this season.
“Nothing’s easy. You have to learn that every game in college football is a dogfight and until you go into it with that mentality, then you’re not going to be successful,” Johnson said. “Everybody has 85 guys on scholarship, OK? And there might be a small handful of teams in the country that are good enough and talented enough to punch the clock and get by.
To that end, Johnson said his team’s effort against Kansas was greatly distinguishable from the way the Jayhawks “played like their hair was on fire.”
“They played like their season was on the line,” Johnson said. “We played like we just wanted to get out of there and come home.”
Taylor, Jackson back
Johnson said safety Cooper Taylor and offensive guard Will Jackson will return to practice Monday.
It will be the first time in a week that either has competed after being sidelined with injuries during the season opener two weeks ago.
Taylor left the South Carolina State game with a heat-related injury, while Jackson was removed after apparently spraining his left knee and ankle.