Back in 2006, while coaching at Navy, Johnson took his team into a game at Stanford’s rebuilt facility.
The Midshipmen ruined the celebration with a 37-9 victory.
On Saturday, Johnson’s Yellow Jackets (1-0) will be in a similar situation when they head to New Orleans to face Tulane, which will be unveiling Yulman Stadium. The intimate, 30,000-seat facility allows the Green Wave to play on campus for the first time since the 1970s.
“I don’t know if it’s a plus or minus,” Johnson said Tuesday. “You’ve just got to go play. Through the years, I’ve always tried to worry about my team and not the other team. You get yourself ready to play with intensity and focus.”
There will be plenty of excitement surrounding the new stadium, which is sold out for the opening game — no small feat for a school that averaged less than 20,000 a game last season at the much-larger Louisiana Superdome.
Tulane (0-1) is expecting its largest home crowd since 2011.
“Now that they’re opening up a new stadium, you can only imagine how the atmosphere is going to be, how wild and crazy it’s going to be,” linebacker Quayshawn Neely said. “It definitely plays a role. But at the same time, we’ve just got to work on ourselves out there, try to get better.”
Johnson wants his team to ignore all the hoopla in the Big Easy.
“The guys who are historically the best players, in my opinion, are the guys who couldn’t tell you if there were 30,000 in the stands or 100,000 up there,” the coach said. “When they’re ready to go, they get dialed into the zone. All that other stuff gets blocked out. Even from a coaching standing, when you’re into the game, all that other stuff never occurs to you. You just focus on what you’ve got to do, play the way you’ve got to play.”
While Yulman Stadium figures to provide a more raucous environment than the cavernous Superdome, Johnson doesn’t think the noise will be much of a problem given the relatively small size of the new facility. There may be some loud music played at Georgia Tech’s practices this week, just in case, but it’s not a priority.
“We’ve got hand signals. We’ve got stuff we can do,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be that kind of deal. I’m actually hoping there will be a lot of Tech fans there.”
There were doubts about the game even being played after Tulane tried to back out of the contract early in the year, saying they weren’t sure the stadium would be completed on time. But the schools worked out their differences, construction stayed on schedule, and Yulman will be ready to go Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets want to spoil the party.
“We’re going to go in there with a lot of energy, because we know they’re going to have a lot of energy,” defensive end KeShun Freeman said. “We’re planning on taking it to the house and winning it.”
This will be the Green Wave’s first game on campus since they lost to Mississippi 26-10 at old Tulane Stadium on Nov. 30, 1974. The following year, they moved downtown to the Superdome, which had been there home ever since (with the exception of the 2005 season, when Tulane played all its games on the road after their stadium was damaged by Hurricane Katrina).
Georgia Tech opened the season with a 38-19 victory over FCS school Wofford. Tulane began with a 38-31 loss to Tulsa in an American Athletic Conference game.
While this will be the first meeting between the schools since 1982, they do share some history as founding members of the Southeastern Conference. The Yellow Jackets dropped out of the SEC after the 1963 season. Tulane followed suit two years later.
“Maybe that would be something interesting to look up,” said Georgia Tech defensive lineman Shawn Green. “I didn’t know anything about that.”