Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson shouts instructions in the second 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

Paul Johnson: ‘Pull yourself up by the bootstraps’

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has a saying he often invokes both when his team is riding high and also when it’s stumbling, as is the case now: It’s never as good or bad as it seems.

“Well, that’s the case now,” Johnson said Sunday on his teleconference, a day after the Yellow Jackets lost 24-19 to Pittsburgh in both teams’ ACC opener. “We’ve played three games, and we would like to have been 3-0, and I think we had a chance to be 3-0 had we played better, but we aren’t.

“So you can either sit back and feel sorry for yourself and listen to all the bitchers and moaners, or you can try to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and go on.”

Johnson’s tone was more measured than the one he communicated Saturday after the loss at Heinz Field, when his body language and words expressed his frustration with his players for their failure to execute plays. The loss, its seventh in a row away from Bobby Dodd Stadium, dropped Tech to 1-2.

“It’s frustrating because the way we played the first half,” Johnson said Sunday. “The second half, for what it’s worth, we won 19-3. We had the ball five times in the second half, we scored three. We needed to score four out of five. Maybe we could have won the game.”

Tech faces perhaps the biggest challenge of the season this coming Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium – No. 2 Clemson. In the past three meetings, the Tigers have won by a combined 93-41 and limited Tech to an average of 195 yards of total offense per game.

“I get a kick (out of) people (who say), well, we haven’t beaten Clemson in three years or however how long it’s been,” Johnson said. “Well, who has? They act like we’re the only ones losing to them. They’re good. We’re going to get a plan and go out there at home and try our best to win the game.”

Johnson said that he thought his players played hard against Pitt, especially the defense. A day after saying of quarterback TaQuon Marshall, “you’ve got to be able to throw a damn eight-yard stop route,” Johnson said he was confident in Marshall’s passing ability.

“I’ve seen him in throw in practice,” he said.

The problems that the offense had blocking Pitt defenders, as the Jackets failed to score until their eighth possession of the game, were self-inflicted.

“So that stuff is fixable,” he said. “It’s easy to fix.”

It wasn’t all smiley faces. He said that Marshall didn’t execute option plays particularly well. The offense’s play on third down was lacking. He acknowledged confusion on the team’s failed attempt at a two-point conversion late in the game.

Tech will have more of its roster available to play Clemson. Johnson said that offensive lineman Will Bryan, who missed the Pitt game with a lower-body injury, should be ready to play. Offensive tackle Andrew Marshall, who left the Pitt game with a lower-body injury, should also be available, as should nose tackle Chris Martin (upper-body injury). Also, offensive lineman Kenny Cooper, who played briefly against Pitt in his first game back since suffering a foot injury in spring practice, should be able to play more against Clemson, Johnson said.

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