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Johnson looks for ways out of Georgia Tech's 5-game skid

ATLANTA (AP) It's no coincidence that Georgia Tech is suffering from a lack of confidence.

That's what happens during a five-game losing streak.

Even so, coach Paul Johnson is convinced the Yellow Jackets (2-5, 0-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) have a chance to beat No. 9 Florida State (6-0, 4-0 ACC).

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Georgia Tech returned to practice Monday hoping to focus on correcting mistakes that are magnified each week.

Saturday's three-point loss to Pittsburgh had it all - 31 points allowed, poor pass protection, missed assignments, a critical late penalty, a blocked field goal and terrible field position.

This week's task could be the Jackets' toughest of the year.

Florida State has won 28 straight conference games. Georgia Tech has lost five in a row to opponents who are combined 27-4 this season.

''We knew it was going to be a tough schedule and we haven't won any of the close games,'' Johnson said. ''I would venture to say every game but Clemson we've been right in the game in the fourth quarter.

''We just have to find a way to a game, make plays when we have to.''

Making plays has been a season-long struggle.

Against Pittsburgh, the Jackets' defense faced 66 snaps and didn't have a minus-yardage play. On Pitt's winning drive, it gave up two fourth-down conversions and allowed the Panthers to hold the ball for 7 of the game's last 8 minutes before Chris Blewitt's stunning 56-yard field goal.

On the opening drive of the second half, the offense advanced to Pitt's 47 before losing 23 yards on three straight plays. And midway through the fourth quarter, running Clinton Lynch had an inexplicable pass interference call that led to a punt two snaps later.

Georgia Tech didn't make so many blunders last year, advancing to the ACC title game and winning the Orange Bowl to finish 11-3.

Now, suffering the longest losing streak since the 1994 team went 1-10, the Jackets will find it difficult to reach a bowl for the 19th consecutive year.

They'd need to go 4-1 against Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia to have a chance.

''You've got to put it behind you,'' Johnson said. ''You have to move on because the challenge is getting bigger. I mean it ain't getting any easier this Saturday. So you've got to dial in and focus, look at the tape, how can we fix it, you put in a plan and you go play.''

There were some bright spots last week. Freshman Marcus Marshall, despite some difficulties blocking, averaged 15.9 yards rushing on 10 carries and scored two touchdowns in his first career start.

Quarterback Justin Thomas broke off runs of 51 and 45 yards and led a spread option attack that set a school single-game record of 9.4 yards per carry.

But the offense still isn't playing well enough to overshadow the inadequacies of a defense that's allowing over 27 points per game and ranks second-worst against the run in the ACC.

''Last year we were really good on offense - really good, probably as good as you've ever been here, ever,'' Johnson said. ''They could carry more of the load. This year's team is playing five freshmen. They're not that good right now.

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AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org