Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson likened his players’ efforts in Saturday’s 37-17 win against Jacksonville State to “punching a clock.”
He liked the effort he saw on the first play when the Jackets knocked four players straight to the ground and paved the way for Jonathan Dwyer's 74-yard touchdown run. Demaryius Thomas knocked one defender off his feet, Anthony Allen did the same to another, offensive lineman Joseph Gilbert cut one linebacker and Embry Peeples cut the backside safety.
“And all of a sudden, right through the first quarter it kind of disintegrated a little bit,” Johnson said. “Like I said in our team meeting, if they can’t get excited to play a conference game at home on Thursday night on national TV, then they probably don’t have a pulse.
“We’ve got to find a way to be motivated,” he said. “We have a -- for whatever reason -- a problem with that at times. ... There’s games where it’s just like punching a clock. We’re not a good enough team to punch a clock against anybody. Well, that’s not true, we were Saturday, but nobody in our league.”
And Clemson is up next.
Johnson will be expecting more effort in what will be the most intriguing matchup the ACC has to offer this week. The good news for Georgia Tech is that the starting lineup will get a spark from the return of A-back Roddy Jones, who has finally been cleared from a dislocated wrist. He had been wearing a noncontact jersey and going through the drills without hitting until a few weeks ago. Jones was the team's second-leading rusher with 690 yards on just 81 carries last year, and he was the third leading receiver with 155 yards on eight receptions.
Jones' 311 rushing yards over the last two games of the regular season got Georgia Tech fans excited about his potential, and he said he's ready to get back on the field.
“For the past couple weeks I’ve been out there throwing blocks and cutting and catching balls,” he said. “I’ve worked my way back into pretty good game shape and I feel good, feel good about playing on Thursday.”
Jones spent last Saturday watching from the sideline, and said he saw the same thing Johnson did.
“We came out on Saturday real hot, we scored on the first play, and it was just like it was drawn up,” Jones said. “ ... After that we went into a little lull, we were kind of flat. Guys kind of slacked off a little bit. We really didn’t play as well overall as we thought we should’ve. We’re going to come out and play the first down like we did every snap last week.”
Clemson’s defense has been the strength of its team, and could be one of the best in the league, but the Tigers will obviously have to give Georgia Tech’s run-based offense a different look than the six defensive backs and one linebacker it used against Middle Tennessee’s spread offense. Georgia Tech’s backfield is loaded, especially with the return of Jones.
“With this offense, the sky’s the limit,” Jones said. “If we’ve got everybody on the same page -- Josh is making good reads, Jon gets going running the ball well and we get blocks on the perimeter -- anyone is capable of having a big game. I think it’s more about how far we’ve come as an offense. We want to play better than we did last week.”
Linebacker Sedric Griffin, a South Carolina native who had his sights set on playing for the Tigers, said he’s very familiar with Clemson’s offense having grown up watching it.
“You can’t come out lackadaisical and going through the motions,” he said. “Clemson is a very talented team, and if you do things like that, you’re going to get beat. We have to come out with 100 percent intensity and play full speed ahead. “