ATLANTA — Game No. 4 was always the target.
That was the about point when Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson believed he would best be able to diagnose the status of his latest team and know exactly which direction it could head by season’s end.
But with the Yellow Jackets’ fifth game, a road ACC contest at Wake Forest looming this Saturday, Johnson admitted Sunday evening that right now, he really has no idea who the group is that he’s coaching.
“It’s kind of Jekyll and Hyde,” he said.
What led to such comments?
Perhaps the fact the Yellow Jackets came out Week 1 and, as expected, blew out FCS-contending South Carolina State at home, but then unexpectedly lost on the road to a Kansas team many believed was inferior.
Then, after responding to the Kansas loss with a big ACC-opening road victory at North Carolina, they lacked the full-game necessary focus to beat a red-hot North Carolina State program that hung 45 on them at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“There’s just not a lot of consistency,” Johnson said.
The lack of stability has concerned Johnson, who said he was surprised to see some 43 missed defensive assignments in the film of the Yellow Jackets’ loss Saturday to the Wolfpack.
Physically, he said, his players competed hard and gave the type of effort that he believed was missing against Kansas. Mentally, however, they just were not there. The absent focus belied a bigger problem, he said.
“When you bust that many (assignments) — and we had about the same on offense — we’re doing a poor job coaching and they’re doing a poor job paying attention to detail,” Johnson said. “You try to fix those things so you don’t give things away. So you don’t turn guys loose. So you don’t turn guys loose on offense on the pass rush or block the wrong people, do those things or run the wrong plays.
“There’s all kinds of things we can fix.”
The news on the injury front remained rather muted Sunday evening, as Johnson said he wasn’t sure just yet when centers Sean Bedford and Jay Finch would return to action.
Finch tweaked a hamstring in practice last Thursday and was unable to play in Saturday’s game. Bedford, the senior All-ACC lineman who started against North Carolina State, was chased early in the contest when he suffered a shin injury. Trainers believe he was accidentally kicked by an opposing player during a play.
With both centers out, redshirt freshman Ray Beno — a converted center who has spent the lion share of his career practicing at guard — was thrust into action just six plays into the game. He held his own as well as he could, given the situation, Johnson and several Yellow Jackets said.
For now, Bedford would not be able to play if there were a game Monday, Johnson said. In terms of Finch, Johnson is hopeful the fellow redshirt freshman will return by Saturday.
True freshman A-back B.J. Bostic has now appeared in three games this season, all but assuring he will not burn a redshirt this year.
Since it appears he will be playing the season out, Bostic, a rail-thin ballcarrier noted mostly for his speed, should expect more opportunities, Johnson said.
“He’s an explosive player,” Johnson said. “He needs to play more.”
The 165-pound slot back raced for two big carries against North Carolina State, a cut-back and a block away from breaking one for a big touchdown.
In addition to that 43-yard run, he totaled 51 yards rushing.
With his fourth-quarter interception Saturday, Jerrard Tarrant scored Georgia Tech’s fifth non-offensive touchdown across the last two seasons. He has all five of them — two interception returns, two punt returns and a fumble return. … For the second consecutive game, Phenix City, Ala. native Orwin Smith scored a touchdown to start the Yellow Jackets’ scoring. The touchdowns were the first two of his career. … Wilson’s fourth-quarter interception to Tarrant was his first interception in 169 passing attempts. Before that, he had set the NCAA record for throwing 379 consecutive passes during his freshman and sophomore seasons, without hurling an interception.
“My nature is, when I lose, there’s not a lot of positives about me.” –Johnson, citing few positive takeaways from Saturday’s 45-28 loss