ATLANTA - George O'Leary walked out of Edge Athletic Center on Monday night and couldn't help but notice the line of students who were waiting to purchase tickets for the Florida State-Georgia Tech game that went on sale Tuesday morning.
While the two teams don't play until Sept. 15, Georgia Tech players and coaches are finding themselves answering more questions about the Florida State game that is still 10 days away rather than about Saturday's noon kickoff at the Naval Academy.
"I think (the team) has kept focused where it needs be," O'Leary, Georgia Tech's coach, said Tuesday. "I don't think anybody is good enough not to keep your intensity to where it should be on a Saturday.
"(When you start looking ahead) I think you're going to find yourself getting beat when you shouldn't have and not playing with the focus you should. I continually talk about the game at hand ... I never mention the next game and I never will."
Senior tight end Russell Matvay said the Jackets are focused on Navy but admits it's hard not to think about Florida State.
"We have to talk about it sometimes and it's in the back of our mind," Matvay said. "We want to win (that game), but we focus on the team ahead. Florida State is a great team and (we) look forward to playing them."
The Midshipmen (0-1) opened their season with a 45-26 loss to Temple last Thursday night and have a 30-game losing streak to ranked opponents, but Navy's flexbone offensive formation has O'Leary concerned. The Midshipmen run their traditional option attack in a more up-tempo, no-huddle style formation that O'Leary said is similar to what Clemson does on offense.
"Right now, they put a lot more pressure on you in that fast passing game," he said. "You know the quick game and the gadget plays and stuff where you have to be responsible and play the definition of the coverage and they do a good job of picking up the coverage.
"Any time you run the option, it's a great equalizer and the quick passing game is another. If you just miss a tackle, a five-yard gain becomes a 20-yard gain."
Georgia Tech's offense showed signs of returning to its high-powered attack in last week's 35-7 victory over The Citadel. However, the team didn't unveil its option attack for the second straight game, something the Jackets often ran under former offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen.
"The option has been in the package and coach (Bill O'Brien) called it four or five times (last week) and for whatever reasons, whether there were too many men in box or it wasn't the right look we wanted so we checked out," O'Leary said. "So there's different things that can be said as far as the option. I think there's other ways for us attacking the full field. We're continually trying to stretch the field in all areas."
Junior defensive end Greg Gathers knows playing at the Naval Academy will be a tough assignment and if the Jackets aren't focused, next week's showdown in Tallahassee against Florida State will lose some of its luster.
"First things first, we have to worry about Navy because if Navy comes out and shocks us that means Florida State won't mean nothing," Gathers said. "So we have to take it one game at a time and worry about Navy."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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