Atlanta Paul Johnson is warning his Georgia Tech players they better not be distracted as they prepare for the program’s first road game at a Big 12 school since 1992.
The warning came in the form of a question: How would you feel if you lost to South Carolina State?
Georgia Tech moved up one spot to No. 15 on Tuesday after its 41-10 opening victory over South Carolina State, but the question from the coach was relevant as he sought to keep his team focused.
The Yellow Jackets play at Kansas on Saturday. Kansas suffered a 6-3 home loss to North Dakota State last week.
Both South Carolina State and North Dakota State are FCS schools. Johnson’s warning was that if Georgia Tech players understood they would have extra motivation following an embarrassing loss, they can expect the same reaction from Kansas.
“It”s like I told them on Monday, you better brace for their best shot,” Johnson said. “Their backs are against the wall. They're going to come out fighting. They’ll be upset. They'll be mad.
“I asked our team, ‘How would you be on Monday if you lost to South Carolina State?’ That’s all you’ve got to think about. They will be upset.”
This is a rare travel opportunity for Georgia Tech (1-0), which hasn’t played a regular-season game west of the Mississippi River since opening the 2003 season with a loss at BYU. Georgia Tech played at Baylor in 1992 in its last game at a Big 12 school.
Georgia Tech also traveled west when it lost to Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, on Dec. 31, 2007.
Kansas will play at Georgia Tech next season. The Jayhawks’ loss to North Dakota State came in Turner Gill’s debut as coach, and it left Kansas with an eight-game losing streak.
Kansas fans booed during the loss.
Johnson said he knows how it feels to be booed by home fans. He said he heard boos and insults as a coach at his high school alma mater in Avery County, N.C.
“Fans will be fans,” Johnson said. “I can remember my first coaching job. I think the first year we didn’t lose a regular-season game in high school and it was actually my hometown. The second year we lost one in the regular season, and as we were coming off the field, they were yelling ‘Fire the bums.’ They were yelling at me ‘Hey, you weren’t any good when you played.’”
Added Johnson: “Fans will be fans. That’s what they do.”
Johnson referred to breakdowns on defense and a slow start for the passing game in the victory over South Carolina State as reasons his players should not look past Kansas.
“If our guys are overconfident off the effort they put out there, it’s going to be a long year,” he said.
“My point to them is we’ve got to get better. I’m not worried about Kansas or whoever it might be that we're playing. We’ve got to get better as a football team and there’s so many things we can do better. That’s our focus this week.”
Johnson said sophomore A-back Orwin Smith could start this week after rushing for 34 yards on four carries in the opener. “I just think he plays a little harder than the other guys,” Johnson said. ... DE Robert Hall will play after serving a one-game suspension. Johnson suspended Hall this summer after Hall’s argument with his girlfriend led to a battery charge.