Jan. 3, 2004
By DOUG ALDEN
AP Sports Writer
BOISE, Idaho – P.J. Daniels just about made sure Georgia Tech had a seventh straight winning season all by himself.
Daniels ran for 307 yards, the second-highest total in school history, and four touchdowns to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 52-10 rout of Tulsa on a frigid Saturday afternoon in the Humanitarian Bowl.
“I feed off of negative energy, man, because I’m a positive person,” said Daniels, who had never scored more than one touchdown in a game. “A couple of fans gave me some encouraging, negative words. I feed off of that.”
The Yellow Jackets (7-6) haven’t had a losing season since going 5-6 in 1996. Tech faced suggestions that perhaps it didn’t deserve to be in a bowl, even the distant outpost of the Humanitarian Bowl.
Not many could say that after Saturday.
“A lot of people doubted us. They didn’t think we were going to make it to a bowl game. We proved a lot of people wrong, so I feel good and I know my teammates do, too,” Daniels said.
Tulsa (8-5) closed the regular season on a five-game winning streak for the school’s first bowl berth since 1991, but Saturday’s appearance was hardly memorable. The Golden Hurricane didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter and finished with 144 total yards – less than half of Daniels’ yardage. They were sacked seven times and held to minus-56 yards rushing.
“We had a great season. We didn’t have a great day,” first-year Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe said.
A few inches of overnight snow remained beneath the aluminum seats in Bronco Stadium and small drifts and piles had been swept from the blue artificial turf to the sidelines. The temperature at kickoff was 20 degrees and it didn’t get much warmer, even after the sun broke through the clouds at halftime.
But the weather did nothing to cool off Daniels, a sophomore who just earned a scholarship after last season.
“I had never played in the snow, but I enjoy it. I believe I’m ready for all kinds of weather,” he said.
Tech’s previous rushing high in a bowl game was 199 yards by Eddie Prokop in the 1944 Sugar Bowl, a 20-18 win over Tulsa. Daniels had 104 yards at halftime, broke Prokop’s record early in the third quarter and kept going. He scored on runs of 9, 1, 33 and 38 yards.
Chan Gailey is doused with ice water in the final minutes of the fourth quarter against Tulsa.
Daniels already was second on Tech’s rushing list for a game with 240 yards against North Carolina on Nov. 15. Only Eddie Lee Ivery’s 356 yards against Air Force in 1978 is higher in the Yellow Jackets’ record book.
“The players came to me and said, ‘Let’s try to get P.J. 300,”‘ Tech coach Chan Gailey said. “I didn’t realize it to be honest with you. I had no clue. When they said that we were within about 10 or 12 yards of it, so I said, ‘Sure, we’ll try to do that.”‘
Tech recovered six Tulsa fumbles, scored six touchdowns in the second half and broke the school bowl record for points set in a 45-21 win over Nebraska in the 1991 Florida Citrus Bowl.
With the win, Atlantic Coast Conference teams went 5-1 in bowl games this season. League champion Florida State, which lost 16-14 to Miami on Thursday, was the only ACC team to lose.
Even without the draw of hometown favorite Boise State, which went to the Fort Worth Bowl instead of staying in town for the second straight year, the stadium was about two-thirds full with 23,118 fans.
Most of the crowd was cheering for Tulsa, which finished tied for second behind Boise State in the Western Athletic Conference, but there wasn’t much to celebrate about the Golden Hurricane.
“The players came to me and said, ‘Let’s try to get P.J. 300.'” Tech coach Chan Gailey
“When we were down 10-3 at halftime, we thought it was manageable,” Kragthorpe said. “But in the second half, we made errors and allowed them a shorter field.”
Tulsa had just 20 yards of offense in the first half, thanks much to minus-29 yards rushing. The Golden Hurricane lost nearly half that on one play when quarterback James Kilian tripped over his own feet while backing up on a pass play for a loss of 12, and they lost another 18 yards on an intentional grounding call.
Tech led only 10-3 at halftime, then took over in the second half after both teams had struggled to move the ball.
Daniels also set several records in the seventh Humanitarian Bowl. His yardage total more than doubled Brock Forsey’s 152 yards for Boise State against Louisville in 1999, and he broke Forsey’s mark of three touchdowns scored last season in a win over Iowa State.
Daniels left not long after topping the 300-yard mark as Gailey substituted freely and tried to get everyone who made the long trip into the game.
“I don’t know if we did or not, but I tried to. I hope we did,” Gailey said.