Sept. 23, 2001
ATLANTA – “Clemson is a team that is very explosive on offense and has a lot of speed on defense,” said Georgia Tech head coach George O’Leary as his 10th-ranked Yellow Jackets (3-0) finally return to action by hosting 25th-ranked Clemson (2-1, 0-1 ACC) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
The game will be regionally televised by ABC-TV (WSB Channel 2 in Atlanta) and can be heard on the Georgia Tech ISP radio network, including Atlanta flagship WQXI-AM 790 The Zone, featuring the call of Wes Durham and Kim King.
“I’m concerned about our layoff, but I think the kids have pushed themselves through practice and done a good job of getting things done,” continued O’Leary.
Georgia Tech, ranked 10th by AP and 11th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, is off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1990 but has not played since a 70-7 victory over Navy on Sept. 8. The Jackets have won 10 of their last 11 games and 16 of their last 18 home contests.
Clemson is No. 25 in the coaches’ poll after last Saturday’s last-second, 26-24 loss to Virginia.
“We are going to have our hands full,” said O’Leary. “Clemson is coming off a tough loss, and we’re going to have to play very well in all facets of the game.”
If the last five years are any indication, both teams can expect a very close game, the last five meetings have been decided by exactly three points, including four straight wins by the Yellow Jackets.
“You’ve got two teams that are fairly close, geographically, so it’s a good rivalry game,” said O’Leary. “The last few years have been great games for spectators and stress games for coaches. But I’d rather see games like that because those are great wins. I’ve been on the other side of those, too.
“These have always been great effort games by both teams, and I anticipate the same thing.”
Senior quarterback George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.) has played less than one half in each of the last two games, but he has been almost perfect, hitting 22 of 25 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns.
For the season, Godsey leads the nation in pass efficiency with a 197.9 rating. He is 37-for-51 (72.5 percent) for 604 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Godsey is surrounded by a talented cast of skill players, including the one-two punch of all-ACC receiver Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.) in the passing game and junior tailback Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) in the running game.
Campbell has 14 receptions for 230 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore Jonathan Smith (Argyle, Ga.) is developing into another go-to receiver and has 11 catches for 157 yards and one score.
Burns is the backfield workhorse with 210 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 50 attempts.
Tech’s defense has performed well in the first three games, surrendering just a single touchdown in each contest. The Jackets rank fifth in the nation in scoring defense and total defense, allowing 220.3 yards per game. They must try to contain Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler, who is averaging 260.0 yards of total offense per game, including 204 yards through the air and 56 yards on the ground.
The Tech defense is led by the all-star defensive end tandem of junior Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.) and senior Nick Rogers (East Point, Ga.). Despite very limited playing time the last two games, Gathers has three sacks and five tackles for loss, and Rogers has one sack and two tackles for loss.
Linebacker Daryl Smith (Albany, Ga.) is the Jackets’ top tackler with 20 hits and three tackles for loss.
Placekicker Luke Manget, a junior from Conyers, Ga., is one of the nation’s best. He is perfect on extra points (16-for-16) and has hit two of three field goals.
GEORGIA TECH VS. CLEMSON
Georgia Tech holds a 43-20-2 lead in the series with Clemson, which began in 1898. Tech has won four in a row over the Tigers for the first time since 1970-73. The Yellow Jackets captured last year’s game at Clemson, 31-28, and won 45-42 the previous year in Atlanta. The Tigers’ last win was a 28-25 decision at Clemson in 1995.
Nine of the last 11 games between Tech and Clemson have been decided by four points or fewer. Amazingly, each of the last five meetings has been decided by exactly three points.
Fifty two of the 65 games in the series have been played in Atlanta, with Tech leading 39-11-2 on its home field. Clemson’s last win at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field was a 24-3 victory in 1996.
Either Tech or Clemson has been nationally ranked in each of the last five meetings, but this year’s game marks the first since 1991 in which both teams are ranked.
FOUR STRAIGHT NAIL-BITING VICTORIES
2001: George Godsey passed for a school-record 454 yards, including the game-winning touchdown to Kerry Watkins with just seven seconds left, to lift Georgia Tech to a 31-28 victory at fourth-ranked Clemson, the highest ranked team that Tech has beaten since knocking off top-ranked Virginia in 1990. Clemson took a 24-21 lead on Brian Mance’s 88-yard punt return, but Godsey guided the Yellow Jackets on two 80-yard scoring drives in the final 10 minutes. First he hit Kelly Campbell for a 48-yard touchdown with 6:35 to play. After Clemson went ahead 28-24 on a Willie Simmons-to-Rod Gardner touchdown pass with 1:52 left, Godsey took over at his own 20 and completed seven of 11 passes for 72 yards, capped by a 16-yard touchdown to Watkins with just seven seconds left. Watkins caught four passes for 51 yards on the final drive, while Campbell finished the game with 209 yards receiving on a school record-tying 14 catches.
1999: Tech’s Joe Hamilton passed for 322 yards and five touchdowns, including two to Kelly Campbell and one to Kerry Watkins, as the Yellow Jackets won 45-42 in Atlanta. Tech led 28-7 in the second quarter and 45-28 in the fourth, but the Tigers pulled within three with seven minutes left. Clemson had fourth-and-seven at the Tech 43 with three minutes to play, but Chris Young batted down Woody Dantzler’s pass inside the 10-yard line.
1998: Joe Burns scored on a one-yard run with 1:00 left to give Tech a 24-21 victory over Clemson in a Thursday night game at Death Valley. Trailing 21-17, the Jackets, led by QB Joe Hamilton, took over at their own 43 with 2:30 remaining. Hamilton completed three passes for 53 yards to set up the winning score.
1997: Brad Chambers’ 20-yard field goal with 1:54 left gave Tech a 23-20 win over 17th-ranked Clemson at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. Chambers’ winning kick was set up by Harvey Middleton, who returned a punt 21 yards to the Clemson 44 and then caught a 39-yard pass from Joe Hamilton at the five-yard line.
A CASE FOR THE DEFENSE
The Georgia Tech defense has been stout in the Yellow Jackets’ first three games, allowing just a single touchdown in each contest. Against Citadel and Navy, the scores came late in the game against the Rambling Wreck’s second and third-teamers.
Tech is allowing 220.3 yards of total offense, giving up 242 yards to Syracuse, 202 to Citadel and 217 to Navy.
The Jackets held Citadel to the second lowest total offense figure of the George O’Leary era and the lowest since allowing 194 yards to Furman in O’Leary’s first game as head coach in 1995.
Tech ranks fifth in the nation in both scoring defense (7.0) and total defense (220.3) as well as 17th in rushing defense and 18th in passing defense. The Jackets are allowing 78.3 yards rushing and 142.0 yards passing per game.
FIRST HALF SUCCESS
The Georgia Tech defense has not allowed a first half touchdown in seven straight games. The last opponent to reach the end zone in the first half was Clemson in the eighth game of 2000.
In the first three games of 2001, Tech has outscored its opponents 80-0 in the first half.
A MODEL OF EFFICIENCY
Quarterback George Godsey currently leads the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 197.9.
Godsey’s ultra-efficient performance in Tech’s first three games has boosted his career pass efficiency rating to 151.44-the highest mark in Atlantic Coast Conference history. He is currently just ahead of 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke.
Last season, Godsey finished sixth in the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 151.9 as he posted the second-best season statistics ever accumulated by a Yellow Jacket signal caller. The Tampa, Fla., native completed 64 percent of his passes and threw for 2,906 yards and 23 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
CAREER PASS EFFICIENCY Years Rating1. George Godsey, Georgia Tech 1998- 151.442. Chris Weinke, Florida State 1997-00 151.153. Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech 1996-99 148.194. Thad Busby, Florida State 1994-97 144.89
GATHERS GATHERS SACKS
Defensive end Greg Gathers is making his mark as one of the most prolific pass rushers in school history. With three sacks in the first three games, the junior all-America candidate has equalled Pat Swilling for third place in Tech history with 23 career sacks. Only all-Americas Coleman Rudolph and Marco Coleman had more. Gathers also ranks third, behind Rudolph and Coleman, with 42 tackles for loss.
Gathers, ranked third in the nation last season with 13 sacks, was named to the preseason Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List for the nation’s top lineman/linebacker. He is also a preseason second-team all-America and first-team all-ACC selection by Athlon Sports and Lindy’s.
CAREER LEADERS: QB SACKS1. Coleman Rudolph 1989-92 28.52. Marco Coleman 1989-91 27.53. Pat Swilling 1982-85 23 Greg Gathers 1999- 23
CAREER LEADERS: TACKLES FOR LOSS 1. Coleman Rudolph 1989-92 52 2. Marco Coleman 1989-91 50 3. Greg Gathers 1999- 42
CAMPBELL, BURNS FIND THE END ZONE
Already Tech’s career leader in receiving touchdowns by a wide margin with 22, Campbell ranks fourth overall with 25 touchdowns scored, trailing only Robert Lavette, Jerry Mays and Eddie Lee Ivery. Burns is right behind with 23 touchdowns scored. Burns’ 21 rushing touchdowns is tied for fourth place.