ATLANTA -- Many coaches like to say that a team’s biggest improvement comes between the first and second games. That gives the staff a way to look at the film, make the needed changes and motivate the players by using some visual evidence.
Georgia Tech hopes to see its defense take a big step forward against Tulane at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The defense wasn’t necessarily bad in the opener against Wofford. But it wasn’t good, either.
“We have to play better defensively,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “We missed a lot of tackles, had far too many missed assignments and let them possess the ball more than what we probably needed to.”
Wofford rushed for 271 yards last week, although 92 of those came on one play. But Georgia Tech couldn’t find a way to get them off the field. Wofford had 16 first downs and 326 total offensive yards and averaged 5.4 yards per play. Wofford even had the gall to win the time-of-possession battle.
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“When you miss tackles and let them stay on the field on third down, then they are going to accumulate some yards, and that’s what we did,” Johnson said. “Third-down defense wasn’t great, but a lot of that was because of first-down defense. We gave up 4 or 5 yards on first down, and we know firsthand how that works.”
The defensive front played well. Tackles Adam Gotsis and Shawn Green played well, as did redshirt sophomore Rod Rook-Chungong and freshman KeShun Freeman at one end spot. Tyler Stargel didn’t get tested much on the other side.
The defense will face a different look against Tulane. The Green Wave run a pro-style offense that features redshirt freshman Tanner Lee at quarterback and freshman Sherman Badie at running back. Lee completed 22-of-44 for 262 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s loss to Tulsa, and Badie carried 15 times for 215 yards and one score.
“They’re both good players,” Johnson said. “The running back has a lot of speed. You can see that when he gets in the open field that he is very elusive. I was impressed with the freshman quarterback. I thought he was accurate for the most part. He stood in there and played with a lot of poise.”
The Georgia Tech offense accumulated 508 yards last week, 226 on the ground and 282 in the air. Quarterback Justin Thomas had an uneven first half but played very well in the second half and showed the could run the offense. Thomas should be able to handle more of the playbook this week against the Green Wave, including some triple-option that he wasn’t called upon to run against Wofford.
Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said his team has spent time all summer trying to prepare for Georgia Tech’s attack.
“Our players are aware of the game plan,” the third-year Tulane head coach said. “We just have to execute what we’re trying to accomplish. Our first year here, we had trouble with that offense, but a year ago, we finally played well against that. It’s hard to mimic because (Georgia Tech) is the only team that does this that we have to face. So it’ll be a lot different for us.”
Tulane allowed 592 yards against Tulsa last week, with 438 coming through the air. The Green Wave allowed 4.3 yards per rushing attempt and allowed Tulsa to complete 47 percent of its third downs.
Georgia Tech will likely be able to use its A-backs more often Saturday. They totaled only eight of the 43 carries, as Wofford sold out to stop that portion of Georgia Tech’s attack. They were effective when called upon as Charles Perkins, B.J. Bostic, Tony Zenon and Broderick Snoddy all had big plays.
“There’s some things we missed out there,” Johnson said. “We missed some open guys and we had a couple missed assignments in pass protect and that kind of thing. There’s always things you can clean up.”