Georgia Tech needs strong finish to bolster bowl prospects

Georgia Tech's Ta'Quon Marshall (16) scores a two-point conversion past Virginia's Jordan Mack (37) and Chris Peace (13) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/Zack Wajsgras)

ATLANTA (AP) A frustrating season is starting to wear on Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson.

Johnson was clearly miffed Tuesday as he kept going over all the close losses that have left the Yellow Jackets (4-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) scrambling for bowl eligibility.

With Saturday’s game against No. 17 Virginia Tech, the regular-season finale against No. 2 Georgia and a road trip to Duke in between, it’s still uncertain whether the Yellow Jackets will qualify for the postseason – even if they get a waiver from the NCAA with a losing record.

”I think we’ll be eligible. We’ve got a high APR,” Johnson said, referring to the Academic Progress Rate that is used to determine which five-win teams fill out the bowl field if there aren’t enough with at least a .500 record. ”But let’s try not to have the scenario if we can help it.”

Georgia Tech really shouldn’t be in this predicament.

Three of its losses have been by a total of six points.

”We’re to the point where we need to be accountable,” Johnson said, his voice growing increasingly irritated. ”I’m ultimately accountable, but it flows downfield with responsibility, with assignments, with schemes, whatever. We’re all accountable. … It all comes back to me. I’ve got that. But everybody has to do their part.”

In the season opener, the Yellow Jackets squandered a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter to Tennessee, missing an easy field goal on the final play of regulation and losing 42-41 in double overtime when the Volunteers stuffed a two-point conversion on the final play.

There was another excruciating loss at Miami , which drove 85 yards in the closing minutes – converting on fourth-and-long by hauling in a tipped pass – to kick a short field goal with 4 seconds remaining for a 25-24 victory.

Last Saturday, there was yet another heartbreaker . Georgia Tech surrendered a 27-yard touchdown pass to Virginia with 1:22 remaining and was stopped at the Cavaliers 37 on the final possession for a 40-36 setback.

”We had a lot of opportunities to win the game,” Johnson said. ”They made plays when they needed to make plays. But it’s disappointing. I think we can play better than that. It’s our job as coaches to make sure we do.”

Georgia Tech only has 11 games on its schedule after a Sept. 16 contest at Central Florida was canceled while that state dealt with the wrath of Hurricane Irma.

Johnson said the Yellow Jackets are still looking into the possibility of adding a 12th game – presumably on Dec. 2, the same day as the ACC championship – to give their postseason hopes a boost.

”We’ve talked about it some,” the coach said. ”I don’t know where that would be.”

He’s more concerned about finding ways to make crucial plays at the end of the game. In particular, the defense needs to do a better job of creating negative yardage – sacks and tackles behind the line – and coming up with more turnovers.

Georgia Tech is minus-2 on turnover ratio.

”It’s hard in this day and age to play defense if you don’t get some negative plays,” Johnson said.

Last season, after a three-game losing streak, Georgia Tech won six of its last seven games – including road victories over Virginia Tech and Georgia .

”That would just be motivation to keep your head up and try to get to the next win,” defensive lineman Anree Saint-Amour said.

Johnson isn’t interested in looking back.

”No one cares,” he said. ”You could make a case that we should be sitting here 7-1 and ranked, too. But we didn’t make enough plays. No one’s going to feel sorry for you.”

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