ATLANTA (AP) — One of Paul Johnson's primary messages to his team this week is simple: all is not lost because of two losses.
Back-to-back conference losses to Virginia Tech and Miami have severely threatened the Yellow Jackets' prospects of returning to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, yet their head coach seemed in no mood to brood Tuesday.
Johnson was surprisingly chipper, saying Georgia Tech (3-2, 0-2) has been undone by a "myriad" of mistakes the past two weeks.
Georgia Tech jumped to a 17-7 lead at Miami, and then seemed powerless to slow the Hurricanes as the defense of new coordinator Ted Roof was gashed for the first time this season to the tune of 551 yards.
"I told our football team, 'We've still got more than half the season,'" Johnson said. "We're disappointed that we lost two games in the league, but also the two teams that beat us are a combined 9-1 with the one loss coming to the No. 1 team in the country. We can still have a pretty good season if we can get the corner turned."
The Yellow Jackets want to avoid a three-game losing streak for a third time in four seasons.
Saturday's game at Brigham Young may offer special incentive. The Cougars manhandled Georgia Tech last year, 41-17 in Atlanta. Johnson likened that to a trip, "to the woodshed."
"It's definitely a motivation for us to go up there and whip them," said linebacker Quayshawn Nealy. "What they did to us, in our home . . . they made us look real, real bad."
There is no single solution to what's ailing the Yellow Jackets.
They've lost their three top safeties to injuries or discipline, and Roof is auditioning down-the-depth chart defensive linemen as Georgia Tech will need more bodies in anticipation of the Cougars running as many as 100 plays.
On offense, Georgia Tech's running game is again potent but not explosive quite like in recent seasons, and the passing game has flopped.
Three quarterbacks played at Miami, and although sophomore Vad Lee remains the starter, freshman Justin Thomas is likely to play some at BYU. Whether Tim Byerly makes another appearance is less clear.
Lee completed just 5-of-13 passes at Miami while Thomas was 0-for-3 and Byerly 1-for-3. Lee and Thomas threw interceptions, and Lee lost a fumble to trigger a swing in momentum in the second quarter.