Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson really liked what he saw from his defense in last week's win.
He hopes his defense sees things as well against Mississippi State in today's 7:30 pm. game in Starkville.
"Playing with your eyes" is a phrase heard often from Jackets players and coaches. Johnson said it means to a player "don't get caught looking in the backfield." He should instead watch his keys. Tech's players did a good job of that in limiting the Tar Heels to 154 yards last Saturday. But Johnson said they could have been burned on a couple of plays because they weren't watching what they had been coached to watch.
"The worst thing you can do on defense is having a bunch of guys staring in the backfield," Johnson said. "They have keys that they have to look at. The ball is going to take you where it is going."
Reading keys is going to be especially important against the Bulldogs, who run their version of the option. Johnson said the offense is similar to what No. 1 Florida uses, which isn't a coincidence considering Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was the offensive coordinator in Gainesville for the past four seasons before leaving for his first head coaching job.
And Mullen's offense has some ingredients borrowed from the offense Johnson has been coaching, but there have been some tweaks. Notably, the Bulldogs use wide receivers instead of A-backs.
"The similarities are we both try to make defenses defend sideline to sideline the entire field, defend all 11 people," Mullen said. "I would say how we go about it is different. They obviously go about it with a very heavy running game. We may be a little more balanced run and pass 50-50."
The Bulldogs certainly have been less than 50-50 this season. They've rushed 185 times this season, and passed 104, but their mix is working. MSU is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, 11.2 yards per catch and 355.5 yards of offense per game. In comparison, Tech averages 5.1 per carry, 20.9 per catch and 387.2 in total offense.
"What they're doing is not that different from what we're doing," Johnson said. They've got all the receivers, and they've got all this and that, and they are in the gun. If you look at the stats, they are throwing the ball for 20 yards more than we are. They are a running football team."
Tech defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said the challenge with the Bulldogs is they run multiple fronts and make a lot of adjustments.
The Jackets' defenders do have a slight advantage, however. For the first two weeks in August they practiced against Tech's option offense. Wommack said it doesn't give the defense as a whole a great advantage, but it will help certain positions as they read their keys. Wommack declined to say what those positions were, but did say:
"If you don’t put your eyes in the right place with this one, you'll be in trouble."