Tech will fix special teams, Johnson says

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said Sunday his team will fix its special-teams problems before hosting Wake Forest on Saturday.

The Jackets (8-1, 5-1 ) gave up an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Vanderbilt in Saturday's 56-31 victory in Nashville.

"We're going to take a good, long, hard look and fix it," Johnson said. "We can't wholesale change 11 guys every week."

Johnson said there were two busted coverages on the touchdown return by Chamblee native Warren Norman.

It was the second return for a touchdown Tech has allowed this season. For the season, the Yellow Jackets' opponents are averaging 23.6 yards per return, putting the team at 94th out of 120 Division I-A teams.

Improving every area of special teams was a point of emphasis before the season. While punt returns have improved, with two touchdowns by Jerrard Tarrant this season, kickoff coverage and field goals remain an issue. Johnson has said in the past that failing to improve in those areas will cost his team a game.

"We've got to fix it, and we will," Johnson said.

Changes to ‘d'

Johnson said there will also be changes in the defense, though he won't know what they will be until the team starts practicing again and he can evaluate the players.

After Vanderbilt scored 28 points on 257 yards in the first half, Johnson said Tech "really, really" simplified the defense in the second half. The Jackets also subbed out two players who were feeling the effects of injuries but trying to play: safety Dominique Reese (shoulder) and cornerback Jerrard Tarrant (back).

The combination of those changes, plus two turnovers and Tech's dominance on offense, limited the Commodores to 140 yards in the second half.

Johnson said he's not sure why in some games it takes the defense until halftime to find a rhythm. Part of it has to do with maintaining intensity in all of the players, which Johnson described as a constant struggle.

Perhaps the defense gets tired of getting "lit up," he said, and comes out with more fire in the second half. Whatever the reason, the Jackets have allowed the fewest points in the third quarter (43) this season. They've given up the most points (75) in the second quarter.

"There's a great desire to win out of some of our guys," Johnson said. "Maybe that's what's going on in the second half. Maybe it's pride."

Facing Skinner

Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner sustained a mild concussion with 6:22 remaining in Saturday's 28-27 loss to Miami. At the time, the Deacons were winning 27-21. Skinner, who holds several Wake records, completed 29 of 43 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns against the Hurricanes. He has passed for 2,298 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.

Skinner underwent a CT scan and will be cleared for practice, according to Wake's sports information department.

"We have to get ready for their offense and for whomever plays," Johnson said. "We're counting on him playing."

The Demon Deacons (4-5, 2-3) need two wins in their next three games to become bowl-eligible. They have Tech, FSU and Duke remaining.