Sept. 21, 2003
Georgia Tech travels to Nashville, Tenn., for the first time in more than 30 years to face Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at Vanderbilt Stadium.
Live television coverage of the game is available in Georgia on a pay-per-view basis through Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS).
Both teams enter the game with identical records of 1-3 overall and 0-2 in conference play. Vanderbilt, coming off a 30-14 loss at 19th-ranked TCU, is one of three SEC teams on Tech’s 2003 slate, along with Auburn and Georgia.
After a disappointing 39-3 loss to Clemson, the Yellow Jackets look to return to the form they displayed in consecutive games in their victory over 17th-ranked Auburn and one-point loss to 10th-ranked Florida State.
“Focus, and a sense of urgency, those are the two things I’m going to stress with our football team this week,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey.
“We’re going to find out something about our team this week. How we react to this setback will show us a great deal about what kind of football team we have.”
Tech’s defense still ranks the ACC and 20th nationally against the run, allowing 88.8 yards per game on the ground. The Jackets also lead the ACC with six interceptions and are third in sacks with 13.
Individually, linebacker Keyaron Fox is the ACC’s second-leading in tackler (50, 12.5 per game), defensive end Eric Henderson leads in sacks (1.2 per game) and cornerbacks Reuben Houston and Dennis Davis have two interceptions apiece. Linebacker Daryl Smith is Tech’s second-leading tackler with 40 hits and five tackles for loss.
Offensively, true freshman quarterback Reggie Ball struggled against Clemson, but overall, he has shown poise and play-making ability well beyond his years. He has completed 54 of 111 passes for 660 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
His 248 yards passing against Clemson are the second most ever by a Rambling Wreck true freshman. The high for a Tech true freshman quarterback is 295 yards by Mike Kelley against Notre Dame in 1978.
Wideout Jonathan Smith has been Tech’s offensive weapon. The senior from Argyle, Ga., is the Jackets’ leading receiver with 22 catches for 355 yards, 10 catches more than number two receiver Nate Curry (12 receptions, 160 yards). He also returns punts for an average of 109.8 all-purpose yards per game.
Sophomore tailback P.J. Daniels has rushed for 244 yards and two touchdowns on 65 attempts. He ranks fifth in the ACC with 61.0 yards per game.
Senior placekicker Dan Burnett has been very reliable, making all six of his seven field goal tries as well as all four of his extra points, while senior punter Hal Higgins averages 40.6 yards per kick.
THE SERIES VERSUS VANDERBILT
Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt, former Southeastern Conference rivals, are meeting for the second straight year. Tech won last year’s game, 45-3, in Atlanta in the first game between the two schools since 1967.
Tech has won three in a row and nine of the last 10 games against Vanderbilt to lead the series, 17-15-3. The Jackets have a 10-game unbeaten streak against the Commodores that dates back to 1948 and includes a 10-10 tie in 1965. Vanderbilt has not defeated Tech since a 14-7 victory in Nashville in 1941.
LAST MEETING WITH VANDERBILT
Last fall in Atlanta, Tony Hollings rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns in his first game as a tailback in Georgia Tech’s 45-3 victory, giving Chan Gailey a win in his first game as the Tech head coach. Quarterback A.J. Suggs also made his Tech debut and completed 10 of 13 passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns. Highlighted by a 31-point second quarter, Tech piled up 461 yards of offense, including 279 yards on the ground, while holding the Commodores to 225 total yards and nine first downs.
Tech’s last trip to Nashville was in 1967, when the Jackets won 17-10 behind running back Lenny Snow, who rushed for 88 yards and one touchdown, and quarterback Kim King, who completed 10 of 14 passes for 102 yards, including a six-yard touchdown pass to Steve Almond. The game was the debut for Tech head coach Bud Carson, who took over following the retirement of the legendary Bobby Dodd.
Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, serving on the staff of George MacIntyre in 1984-85.
SMITH ON THE RECEIVING END
Georgia Tech’s most experienced and versatile skill player on offense is senior wide receiver Jonathan Smith, a preseason all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection by several publications.
Smith had a career day against Clemson with nine receptions for 170 yards, his second 100-yard game of the season and the third of his career. That effort vaulted him into the top five on the Yellow Jackets’ career receiving list with 118 catches. He ranks 10th in Tech history with 1,455 career receiving yards.
Smith also returns punts for the Yellow Jackets, and he averages 108.9 all-purpose yards per game.
TECH CAREER RECEPTIONS Years Rec1. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 1952. Kerry Watkins 1999-02 1713. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 1654. Will Glover 1999-02 1215. Jonathan Smith 2000- 118
TECH CAREER RECEIVING YARDS Years Yds 1. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 2,907 2. Kerry Watkins 1999-02 2,680 3. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 2,291 4. Dez White 1997-99 1,833 5. John Sias 1966-68 1,727 6. Bobby Rodriguez 1989-92 1,681 7. Derrick Steagall 1993-97 1,639 8. Jimmy Robinson 1972-74 1,633 9. Greg Lester 1987-91 1,633 10. Jonathan Smith 2000- 1,455
SMITH & FOX KEY TECH “D”
Between them, Smith and Fox boast 61 career starts, 565 tackles and 63 tackles for loss. Smith has led Tech in tackles two of the last three seasons, while Fox was third last year and second as a sophomore, and he leads this year.
This season, Fox and Smith rank one-two on the team in tackles. Fox leads Tech and is second in the ACC with 50 tackles (12.5 per game), along with four tackles for loss, while Smith adds 40 hits and five TFL.
Fox was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week for his play in Tech’s win over Auburn after recording a career-best 16 tackles with two tackles for loss, including one sack.
TECH CAREER TACKLES FOR LOSS Years TFL Yds1. Greg Gathers 1999-02 57 2902. Coleman Rudolph 1989-92 52 2853. Marco Coleman 1989-91 50 2154. Pat Swilling 1982-85 37 224 Felipe Claybrooks 1997-00 37 201 Daryl Smith 2000- 37 1057. Marlon Williams 1990-93 33.5 1828. Recardo Wimbush 1990-92 32 909. Nick Rogers 1998-01 31 16010. Willie Burks 1986-89 29 109 Keyaron Fox 2000- 26 85