ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 23: Cornerback Step Durham #8 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets tackles quarterback Ben Dinucci #3 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by )
Photo: Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Photo: Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Paul Johnson gives superlative praise to Georgia Tech defense

Georgia Tech’s defensive performance against Pittsburgh wasn’t just commendable. Coach Paul Johnson said Monday that, in one important aspect, it might have been the best of his tenure at Tech.

“We tackled well on defense,” Johnson said following his team’s practice. “That might be the best game we’ve tackled since I’ve been here, really.”

It was all the more impressive given the number of check-down passes that Pitt quarterback Ben DiNucci threw to receivers in open space, where Tech defenders were often trying to bring them down one-on-one. The sure tackling was a big part of why Pittsburgh was 1-for-13 on third down, Tech’s lowest rate (7.7 percent) in Johnson’s 122-game career at Tech.

Johnson didn’t have an explanation for what led to the performance. In the season-opening loss to Tennessee, he called out the team’s poor tackling in the double-overtime loss.

“We didn’t do anything different (in practice),” he said. “We just got guys on the ground. Had a little better leverage and just tackled better.”

Saturday, defensive end KeShun Freeman said that players were responding to teaching from defensive coordinator Ted Roof to wrap up ball carriers.

“It’s not always about making the big hit, but you get the person on the ground when you get there,” he said.

Safety A.J. Gray said that the defense missed five tackles.

“I feel the whole defense is playing good as a unit,” he said.

The Yellow Jackets likely will have an even greater challenge Saturday against North Carolina, whose offense spreads the field in an attempt to create one-on-one matchups.

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