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Paul Johnson news conference

I'll have more in the next two days of specifics about Saturday's matchup against Georgia Tech. For now, here are Paul Johnson's comments from his weekly news conference:

Opening Statement: I was proud of our football team Saturday. I thought they competed hard and found a way to win. We came out in the second half and did what we had to do to win the game. I thought our defense played well in the first half especially, and gave us enough of a chance to get our feet under us and win the game. Having said that, winning that game makes this game the biggest of the year. I told the team in the locker room, we have to go to Charlottesville and play a team that is on top of our division right now. It's an elimination game for us, if we go up and don't win the game our chances of winning the Coastal Division are not very good. We stayed alive for another week and we have the same opportunity we had a week ago to play one more time and see if we can stay alive in the conference race.

On keeping players focused after a big win: I don't think we'll have a problem staying focused. We did enough things poorly in that game Saturday night that was pointed out to them on film. We can play better and we need to. We strive to get better every week and if we have to ground them the week we're getting ready to play, then they're not very smart. A year ago, we were 6-1 and a two-touchdown favorite against the same team [Virginia] and they came in here and smacked us in the mouth. It shouldn't be a surprise that Virginia will come to play; they sit atop the division standings. We know where we're at; our backs are against the wall.

On an improving Virginia team: They [Virginia] have reverted back to what they used to do. They scrapped the new offense; they're back to running the same offense they ran forever under Al [Groh] and they stopped turning the ball over. They were a turnover a minute earlier in the year. They weren't giving themselves a chance to play, but the last three games they have created turnovers. They've taken care of the ball and that's the difference between winning and losing. When you look statistically, they've been pretty good defensively the whole time, but they couldn't survive the turnovers. If you look at last week's game against Maryland, they forced five turnovers. One went for a touchdown; one was on the one-yard line. So, the offense took advantage, kicked some field goals and won the game. They had an offensive explosion against Indiana, other than that; it's been defense and turnovers.

On struggles of the kick coverage unit: We just have to keep working on it. We worked on it yesterday. It's just like with offense or defensive, if you have three or four knuckleheads run the wrong way, you're not going to be successful. It's not because of a lack of effort, it's just paying attention to detail and being accountable and responsible. It would also help if we kicked the ball better.

On last year's Virginia game: I don't remember much about the week leading up. I remember that in the game we had a zillion chances to win. We had a lot of turnovers, we turned the ball over on the four yard line going in and we dropped a snap in the second half. We tied the game up at 17 all and they drove down and scored and we couldn't answer. I remember their quarterback [Marc Verica] was pretty effective throwing the ball against us. He had a high percentage and hit a lot of short passes. The running back [Cedric Peerman] had over a 100 yards and ran the ball right down our throat. They have some good players. We have to play as well as we can play and see if we're good enough. I tell our guys that all the time, go play your game and see if you're good enough. The best way to win the game is not to lose it, don't give them away and make them beat you.

On simplifying the defense against Virginia Tech: Simplifying could mean a lot of things. When I say simplify, all I mean is, line up and run to the ball. You might not be the very best you can be against everything, but you should be sound against it all and you get to play fast. Now, if they find a little niche that is hurting you, you need to find an answer for it. There's going to be weaknesses in whatever you do. We played well in the first half on defense and ok in the second. We have to play better; they scored three or four times in the second half. Are we better, yeah, but are we there yet, no. You can't pat yourself on the back when you win; you still have to get better.

On Sean Bedford’s transition from defense to offense: He was on the scout team and beating up the offensive line. I said why don't you come over to the other side and beat them out, instead of beating them up. So, he moved over and has worked his tail off. He's worked as hard as any member of our football team. He's a great kid, a guy that is a self-motivator and achiever. All you have to do is look at everything he does. He has a 3.8 GPA in Aeronautical Engineering, so he does great in school. He's solid off the field. He's a great kid.

On what the defense did right against Virginia Tech: I thought in the first half we limited their running game pretty well. We also forced a lot of punts; they only had a field goal in the first half, so that was a positive. We didn't change anything in the second half. When they broke things open, it was on breakdowns. But, we did a lot of positive things throughout the game. Where we really got hurt was when their quarterback [Tyrod Taylor] was scrambling.

On the play of the linebacking corps against Virginia Tech: We changed things up a little bit to turn them lose and let them play and I thought they did very well against the run. We still have some work to do in the passing game, but they played pretty well against the run. Sedric Griffin was our player-of-the-game, he made some great plays. Brad Jefferson made some great tackles and was very active and did some good things throughout the course of the game. Steven Sylvester played a lot better. They were productive.

By Zach Berman  |  October 21, 2009; 4:03 PM ET
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