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Gator Bowl Press Conference

Dec. 31, 2006

One day before the 2007 Toyota Gator Bowl, the Georgia Tech and West Virginia football teams participated in the Gator Bowl press conference Sunday.

Tech head coach Chan Gailey and team standouts Calvin Johnson, Joe Anoai and Tashard Choice met with the media.

HEAD COACH Chan Gailey:

[on Jamal Lewis] “I had breakfast with Jamal this morning, and physically, he seems to be OK. He’s got to go back for some more tests this morning.

“Our hearts go out to the family of the officer who lost his life. This is a terrible, terrible tragedy. We’re incredibly thankful that Jamal is OK.

“I told him, See how you feel (tomorrow). Don’t think about if we want you to play or don’t want you to play. You just see how you feel and we’ll go from there.

[Emergence of Choice of second half of season] “We changed offenses somewhat and early in the season we were searching for the direction we were going to go. The longer the season went, the more Reggie Ball, our quarterback, got banged up, so we went to more of a tailback oriented running game. That’s when things started to turn around for Tashard and the statistics that he was able to put up. But he’ll be the first to tell you that it takes a lot of folks to get that done – the line and the tight ends and the fullback.

[Playing in front of so many West Virginia fans] “We’re fortunate that we deal with intelligent football players. We don’t have to do the Hoosiers deal where you measure the court and the basket and all that. Our guys realize that the field is the same and the winning edge is execution, it’s not the noise in the stadium. That’s why our guys have been able to into hostile environments and win. They understand to just go execute and get the job done.

[West Virginia’s pass defense] “The one thing I say about pass defense statistics is that if you’re ahead in the fourth quarter as many times as West Virginia has been, the only thing people can do is try to throw to get back in the ballgame, so pass statistics get thrown out of whack sometimes. We don’t feel a comfort level because of what they have done; if we have a comfort level, it’s because we believe in the exection of Taylor and Calvin and James and the other receivers, tight ends and backs involved in the passing game. You can’t bank on the opponent not playing good, you have to bank on yourself executing and playing well.

Joe Anoai, SENIOR DEFENSIVE TACKLE

“It’s more than a defense – we’re a family. Any time something as tragic as that happens, you just try to give him as much as support as you can. I know myself and the rest of the defense will be out there playing for him.

[How does Slaton’s status affect defensive gameplan] “Really not at all. Even with a bruised thigh or whatever is going on with his leg, he’s still very dangerous. He’s got world-class speed. I think even with a small injury, he can still break away, so we’ve prepared the same way. And the backup could be just as good.”

[Simulating speed of WVU quarterback Pat White] “You can try as hard as you can. You can ask your scout team players to give the effort and give you a good luck, and those guys have done a fabulous job the past few weeks. But when you get into the game, it’s going to be a lot different. He’s the X factor to their offense. In order to stop that machine, you have to stop him.

Tashard Choice, JUNIOR TAILBACK

“It starts with the offensive line and the fullback and tight ends. We wanted to make the running game was working so that would free up Calvin and the other receivers and make us efficient on offense.

“One of the first things I picked up is that they emphasize stopping the run. They’re a really good defense as far as getting to the ball. They’re fast and they’re physical. They get to the ball and try to make turnovers. If you get an opportunity to hit holes and make big runs, you have to make them.

Calvin Johnson, JUNIOR WIDE RECEIVER

[Playing in hostile environment] “We know that we what have to do is go out there and execute. If we do that the crowd doesn’t matter.

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