Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wasn’t particularly thrilled with his team’s effort in winning its season debut.
With the ACC schedule set to begin and a short turnaround between games, though, his team doesn’t have much time to correct any shortcomings.
Johnson looks for more passion and crisper execution from his 15th-ranked Yellow Jackets on Thursday night when they host Clemson, which expects to have C.J. Spiller back in the lineup.
Georgia Tech is expected to contend for the ACC Coastal Division title along with Virginia Tech, but it didn’t look like a team striving for a BCS bowl at times in Saturday’s 37-17 victory over Jacksonville State.
The Yellow Jackets fumbled five times and dropped several passes, leading Johnson to question the team’s mental toughness.
“We have a little problem with killer instinct and our intensity levels and playing hard,” Johnson said. “That is something we have to work on.”
Georgia Tech will have to find a way to get motivated in a hurry or any title hopes could be over before the season is three weeks old. The Yellow Jackets have another Thursday night game next week at Miami, which upset then-No. 18 Florida State 38-34 on Monday.
“We’ve just got to find a way to be motivated,” Johnson said. “We have for whatever reason a problem with that at times.
“The good thing is that we won the game. We will have to be 100 times better on Thursday night or we will get run out of our own stadium. Hopefully our guys will take the challenge, and will be ready to go.”
Clemson comes to Bobby Dodd Stadium after defeating Middle Tennessee 37-14 in its opener Saturday.
The season started in spectacular fashion for the Tigers with Spiller opening the game with 96-yard kickoff return, but he tweaked his hamstring on a 50-yard punt return to start the second quarter and didn’t play the rest of the contest.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said his star senior, who passed up the NFL and a likely first-round draft spot for one last crack at an ACC championship, could’ve played if the Blue Raiders had tightened things up. He didn’t want to risk Spiller getting seriously injured and missing the game against Tech, something that happened last season.
Spiller sat out last year’s 21-17 loss to the Yellow Jackets with an injured hamstring he suffered the previous week.
“I’m fine,” said Spiller, a Heisman Trophy hopeful. “We’ve got such a short turnaround, they’d rather have me fresh for next week.”
The Yellow Jackets, winners of four of the last five meetings with Clemson, defeated the Tigers last season on a 24-yard TD pass from Josh Nesbitt to Demaryius Thomas with 5:22 remaining.
Tech junior Jonathan Dwyer rushed 21 times for 109 yards in that game, and got off to a stellar start to this season.
Dwyer, the 2008 ACC player of the year, scored on the first play from scrimmage Saturday, taking an option pitch 74 yards for a touchdown. He finished with seven carries for 95 yards and two scores, while Nesbitt had 93 rushing yards and a 10-yard TD run on 14 attempts.
Although Johnson was frustrated with some of the team’s miscues in the opener, the offense shined with 497 yards - 335 on the ground.
It may be tough for the Tech ground game to pull off another performance like that this week.
Clemson, fifth in the ACC in rush defense last season at 127.4 yards per game, limited Middle Tennessee to 92 yards on 37 attempts.
Clemson’s retooled offense received a lift against the Blue Raiders from Kyle Parker, the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener since 1945. Parker, an all-ACC performer in baseball, finished 9 of 20 for 159 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.
“He was outstanding,” Swinney said. “He made big plays with his feet, showing a lot of poise. I was really proud of him. He has a good presence and great instincts in his ability to make big plays.”