BOISE, Idaho Finally, Jon Tenuta is going to be heard.
After spending most of his coaching career cramped into a press box, talking through headsets, Tenuta will be the man in charge of Georgia Tech on Monday, when it faces Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl.
"I've been making those calls for 27 years, I just haven't been the head coach," said Tenuta, the Yellow Jackets defensive coordinator and interim head coach. "When you're up in the press box you can say a lot of things but they don't hear you."
For now, it's the one and only shot for the fiery Tenuta to be a head coach. The interim tag will be replaced by a "help available" sign once Monday's game is done.
Former Navy coach Paul Johnson will fully take over Tech's program on Wednesday and there isn't a place on Johnson's new staff for Tenuta.
Unemployment, however, isn't likely to last long for Tenuta, the architect of an aggressive, attacking defense that led the country in sacks and was second in tackles-for-loss, and there are some high-profile coordinator jobs still available around the country.
Tenuta was named interim head coach after Chan Gailey was fired on Nov. 26, despite going 44-32 in his six seasons with the Yellow Jackets. His biggest transgression was an 0-6 record against Georgia. Tenuta was a candidate to get the job permanently, but instead gets a one-time deal. After Monday, as a head coach, Tenuta will either be perfect or winless.
"We really want to get this win," Tech linebacker Philip Wheeler said. "This will be like his first win as a head coach."
Johnson has lingered around his new program since being hired on Dec. 7, but has made sure not to interfere with Tenuta's bowl preparations. Johnson stayed away from Boise for most of the week, but was expected to arrive in snowy Idaho on Sunday night and watch his new team from somewhere in Bronco Stadium on Monday.
It'll be an opportunity for Johnson to scout and evaluate how Tech's current roster will fit with his coaching system, including his triple-option offense that was highly successful at Navy.
He could only wish Tashard Choice still had some eligibility left after Monday. Choice led the ACC in rushing, becoming the first conference back to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Thomas Jones at Virginia in 1998-99.
Choice finished with 1,310 yards despite missing all or part of three games with injuries.
"This will be a very demanding game on our defensive front," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "We don't see a lot of this type of offensive style."
Added Tenuta: "I'm not going to do anything dumb. I'm going to let (Choice) carry the ball."
Despite an extremely young team with just seven senior starters, this season was a return to norm for Fresno State (8-4). After seven straight bowl appearances, 2006 was a disaster for the Bulldogs who lost seven straight at one point and finished 4-8.
Hill felt the gritty, take-on-all-comers attitude that had built Fresno State into a team very few big-conference schools wanted to face, had slipped and spent the offseason trying to fix that.
"Starting in January we made a promise to ourselves, the coaches, the city of Fresno that we were going to get back to where it should be," senior defensive end Tyler Clutts said.
The success of that rekindling was seen after Fresno State started this season 1-2 following a triple-overtime loss at Texas A&M and a 31-point drubbing at Oregon. Instead of following the path of a year earlier, the Bulldogs turned their season around, winning four straight and seven of their final nine games. Fresno's only two conference losses were to Boise State and at Hawaii.
"Three of our four losses were very, very tough losses, but we never really talked about it," Hill said. "Our biggest emphasis in 2007 was to re-establish our style of play, our personality and that was the main theme of this football team."