Dec. 17, 2002
The perception may be that Fresno State features a pass-happy offense, but Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey knows better as he is preparing his team to face a very balanced attack in the Dec. 31 Silicon Valley Football Classic, which pits the Yellow Jackets (7-5, 4-4 ACC) against the Bulldogs (8-5, 6-2 WAC) at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, Calif. The 3:30 p.m. ET tilt will be nationally televised by ESPN2.
“The perception is that they spread it around and throw it all over the park,” said Gailey. “When they are on national television they tend to have some gimmick plays that everyone remembers. Everybody remembers David Carr and Trent Dilfer and all the quarterbacks that have been through there. But they’re a physically tough team. Their offensive line is big and strong.”
Running behind that line is junior tailback Rodney Davis, who has rushed for 1,433 yards (110.2 per game) and seven scores on the season.
“They like to establish the run offensively,” said Gailey. “They have a big back (Rodney Davis) that really is a good runner and ran for over 1,400 yards this year. He’s done an excellent job for them. I would call them balanced. They like to run the football first and then beat you with the big play in the passing game.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Paul Pinegar, the WAC Freshman of the Year, leads the Fresno State passing attack. He has thrown for 2,741 yards and 20 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. Pinegar owns an efficiency rating of 131.79.
Pinegar’s favorite target is junior wide receiver Marque Davis, who has 64 catches for 956 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Redshirt freshmen Jermaine Jamison and Adam Jennings have 34 and 33 grabs, respectively, giving the Bulldogs a trio of solid wide outs.
Senior kicker Asen Asparuhov, a two-time all-WAC selection, anchors a strong special teams unit. He has made 20-of-26 field goals this season, including a long of 52 yards.
Leading the Fresno State defense is senior end Nick Burley, another two-time all-WAC choice. He leads the team with 10 sacks and ranks fourth with 71 total tackles. Fresno State has shown the ability to pressure the quarterback, as three other defenders have recorded at least four sacks. Anchoring the secondary, is senior safety Cameron Worrell, a former walk-on turned all-conference performer, leads the Bulldogs with 104 tackles on the season. As a team, Fresno State allows 27.5 points and 409.1 yards per game.
The Bulldogs, who are playing their first-ever game against an ACC opponent, are winners of four consecutive games and seven of their last nine. In its final regular-season game Fresno State defeated Louisiana Tech, 45-13, on Dec. 5. The Bulldogs have the advantage of a recent trip to San Jose, posting a 19-16 win over SJSU at Spartan Stadium on Nov. 23.
With the loss of senior running back Gordon Clinkscale against Georgia, Tech enters the game without its top two rushers, Clinkscale and Tony Hollings, who was lost in the fourth game of the season. Filling the void will be the trio of redshirt freshman P.J. Daniels and true freshmen Ajenavi Eziemefe and Michael Sampson. Daniels has gained 284 yards, while Eziemefe has added 267. Both have scored a pair of touchdowns.
With such a young backfield, Tech will likely turn to its veteran wide receiving group of Kerry Watkins (66 receptions), Will Glover (47 receptions) and Jonathan Smith (35 receptions). Watkins earned second-team all-ACC honors, catching 66 balls for 968 yards on the season. Glover has 434 receiving yards, and Smith adds 388.
On defense, senior all-ACC safety Jeremy Muyres leads the way with five interceptions and ranks fourth on the team with 66 tackles. Linebackers Daryl Smith, Recardo Wimbush and Keyaron Fox are the backbone of a defense that has allowed 19.8 points per game, which ranks 27th nationally.