Aug. 28, 2001
ATLANTA — Georgia Tech, ranked 11th in the nation by the Associated Press, opens the 2001 home schedule on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field against Southern Conference foe The Citadel.
The game will not be televised, but live radio coverage will be available on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network (Flagship WQXI 790 AM in Atlanta).
Tech enters the game with a 1-0 record after a 13-7 win over Syracuse last Sunday in the Kickoff Classic, while The Citadel will be making its season debut under new head coach Ellis Johnson, the defensive coordinator at Alabama for the last five years.
“I don’t know anything about The Citadel except for their depth chart,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary, commenting on the new coahcing staff and the fact that the Bulldogs have announced true freshman Mazzie Drummond will start at quarterback. “I know Ellis Johnson, the former Alabama assistant, got the job, so we’ve been watching Alabama film. That’s the unknown, coming in you’ve got no film. They could run anything. It’s going to be a lot of base offense and base defense, and let’s see what we can execute.
“Obviously we have a lot of improving to do and we need to play better in a lot of facets of the game. But when you can walk away with a win in a tight ball game in the first game of the year, that says a lot for your football team. I think we’ll build on that and get better next week.”
Tech defensive ends coach and recruiting coordinator Lance Thompson has ties to the Citadel program. Thompson is a 1987 graduate of the school, and he spent the last two years on the staff at Alabama with Johnson.
Tech leads the series with The Citadel, 9-0, although the two schools are meeting for first time since 1987 when the Yellow Jackets took a 51-12 victory. That game was the debut for Bobby Ross as Tech’s head coach, while O’Leary coached his first game at Tech as the Ramblin’ Wreck’s defensive coordinator.
The Bulldogs return 16 starters from last year’s squad that went 2-9. Tailback Maurice Murphy, who led The Citadel with 854 yards on the ground and averaged 5.3 yards per carry, and wide out Matt Healy, who paced the team with 31 catches for 331 yards, both return. Defensively, linebacker Travis Stephens, who lad the team with 144 tackles and earned third-team All-America honors last fall, also returns.
The story of Tech’s first game of the season was the Yellow Jacket defense, which held Syracuse to seven points and 242 yards of total offense. The unit recorded four sacks and eight tackles for loss. Of the 58 plays that Syracuse ran, the Yellow Jacket defense held the Orangemen to a loss or no gain 23 times.
Offensively, quarterback George Godsey had a good afternoon in his first game since undergoing knee surgery in the offseason. The senior completed 15 of 26 passes for 224 yards.
“I was happy to see him hold up with the knee,” said O’Leary. “He took some hits and got up and came to the sidelines with a smile on his face. I think he was anxious to see how he was going to hold up, and I think it worked out well for him.”
Godsey’s favorite target was Kelly Campbell, who caught a Kickoff Classic record 10 passes for 193 yards while becoming Tech’s all-time leader in career receiving yardage in the process.
“I think Kelly is a legitimate talent,” said O’Leary. “He gets things done because he can get off of coverage, which I think is essential, and he can make most of the tough catches.
“I really like Jonathan Smith, too” said O’Leary. “I think he’s a heck of a receiver. We’ve got to see him more and take what people are giving us. It reminds me a lot of when Dez White and Campbell were playing together [in 1999]. That same thing is going to occur, and I see that happening this season.”
Tailback Joe Burns led the Tech ground attack with a blue collar effort, gaining 113 yards on a career-high 34 carries. After being stymied by the Syracuse defense for most of the day, Burns broke out for 71 yards on seven carries in the final 3:10 as the Yellow Jackets sealed the six point victory.
“Joe Burns is a winner,” said O’Leary. “Joe Burns is a tough guy. Those are the kinds of guys you want with the ball in their hands at the end of a game, and he wanted the ball. I was pleased to see that.”