September 1, 2018 Atlanta - Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson instructs Georgia Tech running back Qua Searcy (1) in the first half of the Georgia Tech home opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, September 1, 2018. Georgia Tech won 41-0 over the Alcorn State. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Paul Johnson: Ball security ‘not rocket science’

Georgia Tech has fumbled six times this season, two each by quarterback TaQuon Marshall and A-back Qua Searcy, one by A-back Clinton Lynch and one by walk-on A-back Josh Blancato. It is a concern for coach Paul Johnson as the Yellow Jackets’ Saturday matchup with No. 3 Clemson approaches.

“We’ve got to hold onto the ball,” coach Paul Johnson said. “You can’t keep laying the damn ball on the ground and expect to win. It’s not rocket science.”

Searcy conceded that his fumble against Pittsburgh was due to a lack of concentration and that he was being lackadaisical. Searcy didn’t fumble the entire 2017 season, the same as Lynch. Searcy said he was working on it.

“It’s always the guy you don’t see,” Searcy said.

The Jackets’ six fumbles in three games are actually a little lower than Tech’s rate in most seasons in Johnson’s 11-season tenure. It has been above two fumbles per game in nine of his first 10 seasons. (The one exception: The 2014 Orange Bowl season)

However, the fumbles this season largely seem as though they could have been avoided. Searcy’s fourth-quarter fumble against South Florida was particularly costly, as it prevented Tech from going ahead by 10 points and then gave the Bulls the chance to drive for the go-ahead score. It recalled the lost fumble by A-back J.J. Green in the waning minutes of last season’s opener, the double-overtime loss to Tennessee.

“Starting back to last year, it’s happened far too frequently, when you have a chance to put the game away and seal it,” said Johnson, before turning his attention to the Tech defense. “Now, having said that, we fumble the ball on the 11-yard line, you also don’t have to let them go 89 yards and score with six minutes left in the game.”

In last year’s 24-10 loss to Clemson, the first big play of the game was a Tech fumble. On the fourth-play from scrimmage, B-back KirVonte Benson fumbled, giving Clemson the ball at the Tech 45-yard line. The Tigers were in the end zone two plays later, on their way to a third consecutive win over the Jackets.

“It’s not the end of the world if you have to punt,” Johnson said.

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