Focus lacking in Georgia Tech’s slide

Georgia Tech offensive line coach Mike Sewak was not in a mood to let anyone off the hook.

One of his players missed a class Monday and was explaining to Sewak that he was marked absent because he was five minutes late. Knowing the fate that awaited him, he pleaded to be let off. No, Sewak said, adding that that was precisely the sort of mindset that coach Paul Johnson had been trying to address.

They would meet early the next morning at Bobby Dodd Stadium to run the stadium steps.

“Attention to detail” is a phrase that Johnson has used more than once in the past two weeks. It is not because he’s bragging about the Yellow Jackets’ capacity for it.

“There’s just a lot of things we can do better,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to dial in, focus and pay attention to detail, pay attention to the little things. We can play better, we can coach better. We’ve got to do both.”

Against Virginia Tech, nine penalties — as many as Tech has committed in a game under Johnson — helped sink the Jackets, along with three turnovers. Against Miami, Tech committed only three penalties, but lost the ball three times again. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said that the defense had more missed tackles against the Hurricanes than it had in the three previous games.

There were a variety of unforced errors against Miami, Johnson said. Two offensive players assigned to block two different defenders instead went for the same player. At the line of scrimmage, a play’s direction was supposed to be reversed, but the call wasn’t made. A player turned the wrong way on pass protection. On defense, players were taking the wrong gap in the line. Defensive backs covered the wrong area of the field.

“It all has to do with focus, attention to detail,” Johnson said, “and doing the little things.”

Both were winnable games, but the Jackets ate up their margin for error with mistakes. On his weekly radio appearance on 680 the Fan on Wednesday, athletic director Mike Bobinski said that he can deal with playing one’s best and losing to a better team.

“But when you don’t deliver your all-out best effort and you make some mistakes and you do some things that put you at a disadvantage during the course of a game, that leads to frustration,” he said. “And that’s what we all feel right now.”

He added that “it’s on us” as a team and an athletic department to find a way to eliminate the mistakes. Defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu has his solution.

“When it comes down to it, you have a talented team that makes bad mistakes at critical times,” he said.“We have to be more professional about everything we do, take everything seriously and make sure we’re overprepared before games, knowing our assignments and things like that.”

BYU, Tech’s opponent Saturday, has been a little generous with the ball — it has a minus-5 turnover margin compared with Tech’s plus-1. The Cougars are also tied for 89th in FBS in penalties (6.8 per game), while Tech is tied for 39th at 5.2 per game.

That said, the BYU defense is not apt to surrender many freebies. The Cougars are tied for 18th in the country in scoring defense at 16.8 points per game. Tech is tied for 24th at 19.2 points per game.

In a game where both defenses appear to have the upper hand over the opposing offense, points may be scarce. Any mistake could be game-deciding.

After Wednesday’s practice, Johnson was asked if the team was demonstrating better attention to detail thus far.

“At times,” he said.

A team trying to avoid a three-game losing streak hopes that one of those times is Saturday.