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Johnson: Georgia Tech still has plenty to play for

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, center, was visibly upset with players -- both on offense and defense --- following Saturday's mammoth second-half collapse against the Miami Hurricanes, who came back from 17 points down to win, 42-36, in overtime.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, center, was visibly upset with players -- both on offense and defense --- following Saturday's mammoth second-half collapse against the Miami Hurricanes, who came back from 17 points down to win, 42-36, in overtime.

Looking Ahead

WHO: Middle Tennessee State (1-2) at Georgia Tech (2-2).

WHAT: Georgia Tech’s fifth game of the season.

WHEN: Noon Saturday.

WHERE: Atlanta.

TV: ACC Network.

RADIO: WALG 1590-AM

LINE: Jackets by 27 1/2.

ATLANTA — Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson says that the Yellow Jackets still have several goals in mind despite starting 1-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Johnson insists the Jackets are upbeat even though they have won just four of their last 11 games.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Johnson bristled at a question about his perceived level of support from the school’s administration and fans, saying he “wasn’t going to answer that.”

A home defeat last week to Miami left Georgia Tech two losses back in the Coastal Division, but Johnson believes the Jackets (2-2) will respond well to adversity when Middle Tennessee State (2-1) visits on Saturday.

“We had a pretty good crowd (against Miami),” he said. “I know they left disappointed. So did we, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the program as much as you guys want to make. That’s your opinions. Write what you want.”

Johnson sees no reason why the Yellow Jackets can’t reverse their story line from 2011. Last year’s team started 6-0 and was ranked No. 12 by The Associated Press before losing four of its last six games.

Going back to November 2010, Georgia Tech has won just 11 of 21, but Johnson sees no reason why the Jackets can’t turn their fortunes around quickly.

“We’ve still got a ton to play for,” he said. “We’ve played one-third of our season, so it’s like you get a roll. Last year is a great example. We got off to a great start and didn’t finish well, OK? This year we got off to a mediocre start. Maybe we have a great finish, so I think you can’t get too far ahead of yourself. You’ve just got to kind of keep going.”

One area of concern is late-game struggles. ACC losses at Virginia Tech and to Miami ended in overtime, dropping Georgia Tech to 1-5 in its last six games decided by 10 or less points.

The final minutes were crushing. Miami forced overtime with an eight-play, 91-yard drive that took just 1 minute, 33 seconds. In the extra period, Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington was stuffed on fourth-and-inches at the Miami 1-yard line before Hurricanes running back Mike James ran untouched for a 25-yard score.

Georgia Tech failed to hold a 36-19 lead as Miami quarterback Stephen Morris passed for a career-high 436 yards to help the unranked Hurricanes score the last 23 points of the game.

As of Tuesday morning, Johnson said he wasn’t planning to change starters at any position based on their performance. His goal is to keep the team’s collective spirit up and to not dwell too long on recent problems.

“I mean, there’s a lot of positives,” he said. “The last three games, we’ve scored a lot of points. We beat a conference divisional team (Virginia) at home pretty soundly. I’d be more concerned if we were trotting out there every week and we were getting pummeled 50-6 and there wasn’t much hope.

“Call me an optimist — I don’t think anybody’s ever considered me a real optimist about things, but I guess I see it a little differently.”