Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson shake hands after Clemson won 49-21 in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, September 22, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Paul Johnson: Play of Georgia Tech offense ‘embarrassing’

Following his team’s 49-21 loss to No. 3 Clemson on Saturday, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was highly critical of coaching and execution and vowed that quarterback play will improve.

“Fundamentals – we’re not doing a very good job of coaching ’em,” Johnson said. “Just call it what it is – we’re not.”

Tech fumbled eight times and made a string of mental errors on both sides of the ball. The defense sometimes had trouble getting lined up before the snap.

“Well, we got our tails kicked,” he said. “We got outplayed, outcoached and we got beat by a really good football team.”

Quarterback TaQuon Marshall was responsible for four fumbles. He had some difficulty with option pitches. It was one of a number of mistakes by Tech that Johnson touched on in his post-game news conference.

He pointed out the fumbles, a false start that pushed the Jackets out of field-goal range on the first drive and a mistake in pass protection that resulted in a sack. He said that field-goal kicking “an exercise in futility sometimes.” (Kicker Brenton King was wide on a 43-yard try in the second quarter and was replaced on placement kicks by Shawn Davis.)

“They’re really good upfront; they’re hard to block,” Johnson said of Clemson’s defensive line. “They’ve got big guys. And when you get the opportunities, you’ve got to execute and you’ve got to play. You can’t pitch the ball on the ground. You just can’t do those things.”

Johnson said he was frustrated with the play of the offense, which brought back eight starters, although B-back KirVonte Benson is out for the season (knee) and center Kenny Cooper is returning from a foot injury.

Often a unit that has been among the most efficient in the country, the Jackets were held to 203 yards of total offense by Clemson.

“It’s embarrassing,” Johnson said. “I can promise you we’re going to get better fundamentally at quarterback. I’ll promise you that.”

Johnson said he will take a more active role in coaching the quarterbacks, the domain of quarterbacks and B-backs coach Craig Candeto. Besides his troubles pitching the ball, Marshall completed one of six passes for 29 yards.

“He can be better fundamentally and we can coach him better,” Johnson said of Marshall. “But it’s not all him.”

To that end, Johnson found fault with the pass protection. Marshall was sacked three times.

“We’ve got to coach ’em better in pass protection, clearly, because we’re not very good at it,” Johnson said.

Johnson was also critical of a number of failed center-quarterback exchanges.

“You’ve got to care enough to get the snap, and the guy’s got to care enough to snap it,” he said. “That’s not hard. Junior-high teams can do that.”

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