Johnson: Wake is Air Force at "Warp Speed"

The following is the transcript of Monday's conversation between's David Ausiello and Navy head football coach Paul Johnson. It was edited slightly for space considerations.

GM: How long ago does (1-2) seem?


PJ: "This has been a crazy season with all the mid-week games.  With everything, it's hard to believe it's half over.  At the same time it seems like we've been going for awhile.  I'm pretty good about once we play putting in behind me. "I'll worry about the record at the end of the year."


GM: Does your family appreciate the excitement of Navy football – 2007 style?


PJ: "I'm sure they would much rather win by a lot if we could."


GM: Before the Duke game, I asked you about three things the team did well and needed to improve on.  How about now?


PJ: "Third downs have been good.  I think passing efficiency has been good.  And I think we have been able to score some points."


GM: And you have made fewer turnovers…


PJ: "We need to try and get some [too].  We haven't gotten very many."


GM: What about converting turnovers into points.  Navy has struggled at that this year.


PJ: "Well, it's where you get them.  It's so funny, I always laugh when people say, ‘well they got a turnover and it set them up and they only had to drive 80 yards with it.'  To me a turnover sets you up for a score on the other team's end [of the field] or on a short field – and we haven't gotten many of those."


GM: The fake punt against Pitt – can you talk about what led to that happening?


PJ: "It wasn't a fake punt.  It was a rugby punt and the kid decided to run on his own.  If we are rugby punting – we are punting on the run - and if you get outside of the contain, we always give the guy a chance to run with the ball.  Well, they lined up in punt safe and we certainly didn't get outside of the contain.  He cut back inside and he thought that he could make it."


GM: So that was a split section decision by the punter?


PJ: "Well if they are lined in punt safe you would think that you would know that you probably weren't going to make it especially unless you got outside the contain guy.  I mean you certainly wouldn't want to run off-tackle with it in punt formation which is basically what we did."


GM: I can't even imagine what that conversation [with Punter Greg Veteto] was like afterwards…


PJ: "It was short.  [But] guys make mistakes…I make them, everybody makes them.  You just move on."


PJ: "(Adding.) And the reason why we rugby punted it is because they actually got a hand on the other one.  So it was more for protection than anything else."


GM: How important is the first series on offense for Navy?  It seems like it really serves as a table setter for the rest of the game.  I mean if you hit that first play – especially it is a pass - the offense has tended to take-off a bit.


PJ: "For us it's important that you score every time you get it right now."


GM: It appears as if Navy has been using more variations on offense this year.  Is that a function of necessity or are the players more comfortable with the system and able to handle it now?


PJ: "Nah, it's the same stuff.  We haven't done anything really different.  Actually we're probably not as simple on defense as we are on offense."


GM: Can you explain that?


PJ: "Well, offensively we run the same stuff every week.  Defensively, to a large degree, we do [the same stuff], but we don't have nearly as many missed assignments on offense. I think we have a base [on offense] and when things aren't going good you try to fall back to [it].  It's just the nature of what we do.  It's not that complicated to begin with. We've been pretty much wide open [on offense], but you have to be.  I mean there's been a situation when we need to score every possession." 


GM: At one point though, you questioned why you called certain plays because you couldn't execute them.  Have you progressed out of that mentality?


PJ: "No, there are still certain things I don't do."


GM: Is that a function of the players?

PJ: "I think you play to the people you have.  We've got some players that are playing well.  Our quarterback has been playing well.  He can do a lot of things.  We've got enough stuff that he can do that gives us a chance to win that he's very good at.  And so are some of the other guys.  So it doesn't make sense to ask him to do stuff that he's not as good at when there's things he can do."


GM: The defense had success against Air Force but not so much against Pitt. Is that more because of a size or speed disadvantage or did you feel the effort may not have been there as much?


PJ: "Actually, [our defense] might have been better [against Pitt than Air Force].  Well, I mean as missed assignments and not out-leveraged.  We were fortunate against Air Force.  I think people made far too much out of that.  They kind of self-inflicted.  They shot themselves in the foot several times.  They had the ball, people forget, they had the ball first and goal at the nine – got a late hit penalty then they had a holding penalty…we got a couple of stops against them…we didn't get many stops.  How many times did Air Force punt?  Not very many…"


GM: Are you encouraged with the defense going forward?

PJ: "I don't know if I'd say encouraged.  I'd say I didn't see a lot of difference in the two games.  Well, Pitt has better players.  I don't know if there was a remarkable difference.  I think this week we will find out where we are because you'll see the Air Force offense running at warp speed."


GM: Is that one of the things that stands out – Wake's speed?


PJ: "On both sides of the ball, but offensively we're going to get pretty much verbatim what Air Force did except it's going to be a lot faster and with bigger people."


GM: 12th Mid – is it going to happen?  Have you thought about starting the search early…


PJ: "(Interrupting) I don't know.  I haven't even thought about it.  I might start [a search for] defense."


GM: Is that something that someone will come to you [and ask about it]?


PJ: "No, that's something we will probably do for the last game if we do it.  It's probably the last home game of the year."


GM: Will you start that conversation about whether to do it or not?


PJ: "Yeah, I'll decide whether I want to do it or not.  If we do it, we'd have try-outs like we've always done."


GM: What games did you catch on television this weekend? What do you make of the upsets?


PJ: "It's crazy.  Kaitlyn and I watched a bunch of games for awhile on Saturday.  I watched any game that was on.  I watched five or six at a time."

GM: Was there anything that stood out?


PJ: "Just how crazy it is – it's unbelievable how many teams went the length of the field in 30 or 40 seconds with no timeouts.  Kids, like the Cal [quarterback] who ran the ball and stuff like that.  I mean it happens.  There 18, 19 year-old kids.  I think the biggest thing for me is that you realize that other than the regional area and that fan base, nobody really cares if they win or lose.  You go ‘dang, they lost, ok, next game.'  You know, you hit the [remote]."


GM: But at the same time…the upsets…what do you attribute that to?

PJ: "I think some of it is trap games.  They just happen to fall at the right time. 
Kentucky's got a decent football team and they had LSU at the perfect time.  If they play them two weeks from now, they probably get beat by 30.  I don't know.  I mean they got them coming off Florida.  And if the LSU tight end doesn't drop the ball in the end zone, the [score] goes 31-17 – it's probably game over."


GM: Do you think because of the upsets it lends more credence to a playoff?


PJ: "I think if it ends up being South Florida and Boston College [in the BCS Championship], you're going to hear people screaming all over the country.  I think it would be funny if it did." 


GM: Did you see Kyle Eckel score on Sunday?


PJ: "I'm happy for Kyle.  I saw him score.  I was flipping [through the games].  I don't watch that much pro football, but I did see it at the end when he scored.  I'm just happy for him."


GM: There were times when Navy would schedule Lafayette or Colgate on Homecoming. 


PJ: "That would have been a lot smarter."


GM: Now it's Rutgers [last year] and Wake Forest [this year]…


PJ: "They didn't ask me.  I could think of heck of a lot of [teams] I would have picked instead of Wake Forest."




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