Yellow Jackets work to fix bad snap exchanges, other silly mistakes

Georgia Tech quarterback Synjyn Days (10) carries the ball against Western Carolina in lastweek's 63-21 win, but the Yellow Jackets made a ton of mistakes.

Georgia Tech quarterback Synjyn Days (10) carries the ball against Western Carolina in lastweek's 63-21 win, but the Yellow Jackets made a ton of mistakes.

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wants quarterback Tevin Washington and center Jay Finch to master the snap exchange.

Now would be good.

"We'll continue to work on it, make it a big deal and hope those go away," Johnson said Tuesday. "It's all fundamentals, really. Of course, there's always a story. The ball's always slipping or something happens, but it's unacceptable. You can't allow it."

When the Yellow Jackets (1-0) visit Middle Tennessee (0-1) this weekend, Johnson hopes Washington and Finch can help the offense eliminate a problem that led to 20 lost fumbles last year -- tied for most in the nation.

But it all starts with the snap.

"You just keep practicing," Johnson said. "We fumbled just one straight handoff. The other fumbles were quarterback-center exchanges, I think."

Washington, Finch and the second-team tandem of quarterback Synjyn Days and center Nick McRae weren't the only ones at fault in the season-opening 63-21 win over Western Carolina.

Though four of the six fumbles were recovered, one of turnovers was the fault of reserve defensive end Euclid Cummings deep in Georgia Tech territory.

"It wasn't the special teams," Johnson said. "The defense was on the field. We didn't have a punt returner in. We were just going to take the ball wherever they kicked it, and we just had a poor judgment call to go down and fall on the ball."

Another source of embarrassment was kicker Justin Moore's blocked field-goal attempt on the final scrimmage play in the first half. Western Carolina recovered the ball and ran for a 69-yard touchdown.

"The biggest snafu on special teams was getting the kick blocked," Johnson said. "We've addressed that. I thought we had it addressed it before, but we addressed it again and hopefully that won't happen again."

Moore needs to elevate the ball faster from the tee.

"We've got to kick the ball higher," Johnson said. "We had one blocked in practice yesterday. The same way. He kicks it into the line. I don't care how good you block, if you kick that thing head-high and somebody sticks their hand up, they're going to hit it."

Despite the mistakes, Johnson isn't planning to change starting personnel on offense or special teams.

Washington is the No. 1 QB and Finch his starting center. Days might get some snaps at Middle Tennessee, but Johnson doesn't doubt that Washington, who started the last four games of 2010, is the starter.

"We just evaluate it as it goes," Johnson said of Days. "If I feel like he can come in a give us a spark or give us something to help with the game, yeah. If not, then no. He's clearly the backup."

Johnson believes Finch, who has replaced two-time Atlantic Coast Conference selection Sean Bedford, has the tools necessary to succeed.

"He did some positive things," Johnson said. "We've got to get our pad level down and we've got to do job No. 1 first. We've got to get the snaps, but as I've said before, I think Jay's got ability. He's just scratched the surface of it, in my mind. He can be, like everybody, a lot better."

Defensively, Johnson was encouraged by four sacks, but he'd like to see the Jackets rush the passer without relying so much on blitz packages.

"I'd like to get more pressure without bringing pressure," he said. "I think most of sacks last week with the exception of maybe one, we had pressure coming. So you'd like to do better without bringing extra guys."

The Associated Press

09/06/11 17:15