The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets hit the practice field for the second time this week to get ready for their game against archrival Georgia on Saturday night in Bobby Dodd Stadium. Head Coach Paul Johnson admitted during his weekly press conference Tuesday that he is not consumed with the rivalry like many Tech and UGA fans are because he has bigger goals in mind.
"I think our guys will be excited to play,â€ he said. â€œIt is going to be a great crowd; it is a rivalry game and a big game, so they will be really fired up. I do not know if they are going to have a celebration in the streets if we win Saturday night. We still have other fish to fry."
Johnson talked about how he has larger goals for the program than simply beating Georgia and that the Jackets are trying to raise the level of expectations in Atlanta.
"I know that they were excited that we won the game,â€ Johnson said of the 2008 win in Athens. â€œIt probably wasn't as big of a deal to me because I hadn't been here through the losing. If I had lost to someone seven years in a row, it probably would have been a bigger deal. I do not want to leave the wrong impression because I do realize that the game is important and I know for many of our fans that this is the game they want to win. We want to get to the point where our program is bigger than one game. That does not mean that we are going to dismiss that game and say, "oh, we don't care if we win". We want to win the game, but we want to do some other things that just beating Georgia will not do for you. You have to have some consistency.â€
"When you get into a rivalry game, it's like anything. Georgia has more to gain beating us then we do beating them. We are ranked, there not. It is the complete opposite of last year and it will probably go back-and-forth. In an ideal situation, both teams would be really good. I think that Georgia is a really good team. Do not underestimate the talent they have because of their record. Mark [Richt] has built a really strong program in Athens. They have good football players and a good team. They have not had the type of year anybody expected or wanted, but that does not mean they do not have good football players and a good program. When you win so many games consistently like they have done, it is hard to meet those expectations every year. You build a monster and you have to feed it. They still have a good team."
Defensive line coach Giff Smith who was a graduate assistant at Georgia and suffered through some of the losing seasons knows the Bulldogs will be amped up as they try to play spoiler to the Jacketsâ€™ outstanding season.
â€œI think anytime you talk about a rivalry game and us winning there last year, we know we are going to get their best shot,â€ Smith said. â€œI got a tremendous respect for all their assistant coaches and their head coach. I know they will have them prepared to win. We have to meet their emotion and fire and get out there and compete. It should be a great game for the fans.â€
Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt addressed both the importance of the game to the struggling Georgia program and the difficulties stopping the triple option.
â€It is Georgia-Georgia Tech week,â€ Richt said. â€œIt is a big week for everybody in the state. We are playing a team that has just been outstanding, 10-1, won their division and playing for the ACC title, running up and down the field, just really playing fantastic right now. It is the in-state rival. It is the next ballgame. It is Georgia Tech, so it is a game we are all going to be excited about coaching and playing in, and I am sure our fans will be excited about watching it too. I thought it was a rivalry. I always thought it was. Even some of the games we were winning, there were a couple of games where we separated point-wise but a lot of them were very close games. They are all very hard-fought battles. I understand the emotion of young men playing the game because they know so many guys on the other team, it is your home state, so the players care very much too. Sometimes I think the coaches and fans think that we understand the rivalry better. We probably do, but it is very meaningful to our players.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know if anybody has just stoned that thing,â€ Richt said. â€œLSU might have come the closest to that, but I donâ€™t even know if Iâ€™d say that was true that entire ballgame. Teams that will grind it out on you and have the long possessions, when you run that offense I would guess they may be No. 1 in the country going for it on fourth down. I do not know if that is true, but I think it is true of that system. I think that when you know you have four downs to get 10 yards itâ€™s going to happen more times that not if you just methodically keep grinding away at it. When you do that, you get those long, time-consuming drives and you usually end up with points on the back end of it. When we played Georgia Southern (in 2004) when they were running it, I think it was their first drive of the game that might have been a 10 or 12-minute drive. They might have gone for it on fourth down two of three times. I think they ended up scoring a touchdown on the end of it too, so it is not like just all of a sudden that is the deal. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s been happening for years in that thing.â€