Opening Statement: “It’s good to be back in routine. [Executive Director of Football Administration and Football Chief of Staff] Kevin Lehman and I were talking on the way over here how it’s hard to get back into the rhythm after playing a Friday game and then having an open date.
“This is a really good Georgia Tech team. They’re better than they’ve been previously and they’re playing well at the quarterback position. They can run and throw the ball, and I’m very impressed by how they throw the ball when they choose to do so. They’re also a good defensive football team in that no opponent has had great success against them. They’re extremely well coached and very good in the area of special teams. Their kicking, punting and return games are all extremely dangerous. They’ve also had an open date so this should make for a great matchup at noon on Saturday.”
This game, in a way, has become a little bit of a rivalry. What do you have to do to come out of there Saturday with a win?
“Coach [Paul] Johnson has been at Georgia Tech going on nine years. We’ve played each other quite a bit, but they’ve certainly had the upper hand for the most part. This is a great, challenging game for us. We know we’re playing an extremely well coached team, a coach who I have great respect for.
“For us to be successful against Georgia Tech, we have to limit our mistakes both mentally and physically. They’re a team that maximizes a game in their favor if we turn the ball over. We know that. The other side of it is we cannot give up explosive plays because they are so good offensively. We’re working hard at that, but those are two aspects to look at for us to be successful.”
Two years ago we went down to Atlanta and shut down their running game and built up a big lead only to have them start throwing the ball. Have you devoted more time to their passing game this year?
“We had that happen when we were at Navy and at Georgia Tech and we made note to spend more time in seven-on-seven. You only have a certain amount of practice reps and we obviously have to prepare ourselves against their running game. Coach [Paul] Johnson is so versatile in the running game, but we still realize that we have to do the little things well in the passing game and have different aspects prepared if it does turn into that type of game. Those challenges are big and you have to try to manage your practice schedule and get done what is needed.”
In the game versus Army West Point, you held the offense well below its rushing average. Ben [Humphreys] was telling us that the film showed differently with some mistakes made. Is it hard to get that across to the guys when they were playing so well in that game?
“We did play well; in fact we played really well. Obviously, the weather limited them as well as it did our offense. No offense to Army West Point, but it is not Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech has better personnel and runs the ball better, just to be honest with you. I think our players immediately have seen that and certainly the coaches have as well. Ben is right in that we are going to have to elevate everything we’re doing to have success against this team.”
How do you limit Georgia Tech’s big plays and limit its offense?
“It’s interesting as you study their explosive tape. They come at you from very different ways in the running game. The first thing we have to stop, because it’s a direct vertical line, is the fullback. It starts there because the fullback can create big plays. [Justin] Thomas, their quarterback, is an excellent runner. If it’s not complicated enough to stop the running game, they have good play action passes off almost every run action they have. That is probably the greatest challenge. We have an experienced staff and players who have played against this, so hopefully we maintain correct position on the ball and limit explosive plays.”
Will Keyston Fuller be part of the wide receiving corps with Anthony Nash out?
“Keyston is working right now, but I’m not sure he will be in the group we’ll have playing outside. Keyston has been playing inside while Anthony is an outside player. Right now, most of that will fall on Chris Taylor and Aaron Young. We’re trying to get Keyston’s confidence back. When you come off a knee surgery, confidence comes into play. We can play Ryan Smith out there, as well as Quay Chambers. It will take all of them to step up, as well as our tight ends being able to play in different circumstances. Hopefully those guys can give us some plays that Anthony had given us.”
What are the things Chris Taylor has to do to be the replacement for Anthony Nash?
“Chris has to play with a high level of confidence where his belief system is ready to rock. He’s a really talented player and one of our faster guys. He has good size and has been working on his strength. He just has to put the game together completely, and this is a golden opportunity for him.”
Georgia Tech had their bowl streak interrupted while you’re trying to keep yours alive. How much of a factor is that in games like this?
“I think everyone has that in the back of their mind. That’s a big prize for everyone in college football. As you get into late October and November, all of those games play a big role in that. I’m not saying that talking about it is motivation, but I don’t ignore the fact that they’re all very aware of it.”
How did the open week help you and the team?
“The first thing it did is help us heal people that have been playing hurt or have had something bothering them. That’s important and you’ll always look at who that is. In doing that, you look at the next part of your depth chart in putting together lineups that are confident enough to play.
“The off week is about personnel. Any time you make individual players better, you’re making the team better. You also look at what you’re not doing as well as you would like. We addressed scheme and mistakes that have been made.
“It also allows you to get a jumpstart on the next opponent. We started working on Georgia Tech’s offense, defense and kicking. This put us further ahead and allowed us to have a more meaningful practice on Sunday. All of those are big factors and that’s how I’ve looked at it my entire career. We also have a short week coming up and as a staff, we’re able to look at opponents we have coming up. We utilize the time with the team and as a staff.”
What would it take to close out a close game this weekend if it came to that?
“Good football teams win in the fourth quarter. If you’re a good team, you’ll have the opportunities to win. We keep something in our weight room about fourth quarter victories. This plays into conditioning, both mentally and physically. Your habits have to be great when you’re tired and be able to carry you in those circumstances. Our program embraces those opportunities and young football teams learn from them. You have to execute and finish drives.”
After all of the turnovers in the Virginia game, there have been fewer in recent games. Where have you seen a growth in the offense that has led to that?
“We used up the quota that day and then some. I think its growth at quarterback and a mentality developed at practice. When you’re playing quarterback, everyone thinks it’s about completions. However, the most important thing about every single play we run offensively is that we possess the ball at the end of that play.
“The only offensive play we run that we don’t plan on possessing the ball is a punt. People forget that a punt is part of the offense. It’s a play that can average 40 yards. We would love to score every time we have the ball, but what is the reality in that. Great quarterbacks have to be booed, and there are times you have to throw the ball away, and then everyone in the stadium is mad at you. It just takes time.”
What has Daniel Jones been like at quarterback?
“We knew at the beginning we had a really good football player. His spring practice was exceptional. We made the decision he would be our starter, and he certainly hasn’t disappointed anyone. His work ethic on the practice field and in the film room is outstanding. He’s like a sponge in that he is soaking everything up. He is a big, fast and talented football player and will get better as time goes on, particularly because he is willing to work. He is a humble, team oriented player which is always a great quality to have in a quarterback. We are very pleased with what he has done.”