As Georgia Tech prepares for No. 1 Clemson, ‘it’s got to be about us’

Georgia Tech defensive back Tobias Oliver (8) and linebacker Quez Jackson (44) react after defensive lineman Jordan Domineck (not pictured) recovered a fumble at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Friday, October 9, 2020. Georgia Tech's won 46-27 over the Louisville. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech coaches and players don’t need a scouting report to know the strength of their opponent Saturday. By virtue of No. 1 Clemson reaching the College Football Playoff each of the past five years, winning the national championship twice in that span and carrying a 25-game winning streak against ACC opponents, the Yellow Jackets know they have a mammoth assignment at Bobby Dodd Stadium awaiting them.

But if they somehow needed more data, after having beaten Louisville on Friday, Tech players were free Saturday to watch the Tigers throttle No. 7 Miami 42-17 and outgain the Hurricanes 550-210.

Tech coaches aren’t belaboring the matter, however.

“Don’t worry about who you’re playing,” offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said Tuesday. “Let’s make them come into Bobby Dodd on Saturday and defend us. Give it your best shot and try to knock 'em down and play hard and play aggressive.”

After the Jackets' win over Louisville, quarterback Jeff Sims and running back Jahmyr Gibbs sounded eager to test themselves against the Tigers, calling it a “big statement game” (Sims) and “a great opportunity for us to show what we can really do.” (Gibbs)

Patenaude said that he is trying to keep players from making Clemson into a bigger opponent, or the game more significant, than either already is. To Patenaude, the Tigers are simply the next opponent.

“It’s kind of cool they’re ranked first in the country and that they’re really good and we’re playing on ABC and all that kind of thing, but at the end of the day, we want to be 1-0 every week, and it’s got to be about us,” Patenaude said.

Coach Geoff Collins spoke the same message – to keep the focus internal. He shared how at the Tuesday morning practice, he noticed that when linebacker David Curry wasn’t on the field, he was watching the defense work against the scout-team offense from a distance, taking in defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker’s signals, watching the offensive alignments and then thinking his way through what he would do if he were playing – a “mental rep.”

In doing all that he could to get ready for Saturday – “he did not waste a minute the entire time he was out here,” Collins said – Curry exemplified the approach that he wants his team to take.

Said Collins, “We’ve got to take care of ourselves.”

That’s not to say they’re discounting Clemson. Collins said that the roster is filled with great players and that quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne are elite. But he wasn’t dwelling on them.

“We’ve got to get better, learn from the things we did well last Friday night, the things we did poorly – make sure we clean those things up,” he said. “Because the margin of error against such great players and coaches is very thin, so we understand we’ve got a really good opportunity and we’ve got to prepare at a high level to compete on Saturday.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

No. 1 Clemons at Georgia Tech, noon, Channel 2, 680, 1230, 106.3

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