Aug. 29, 2006
ATLANTA – The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will open their 2006 season in front of a nationally-televised audience against second-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday, Sept. 2, at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field. The game is set to begin at 8 p.m. ET and will be televised on ABC (WSB-TV Channel 2 in Atlanta) as the debut of the new ESPN on ABC primetime series.
Tech is coming off a school-record ninth consecutive bowl game and its ninth straight winning season, including wins over No. 15 Auburn and No. 3 Miami. Head Coach Chan Gailey’s Yellow Jackets return 15 starters, including three-year starting quarterback Reggie Ball and all-America wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
The Fighting Irish finished ’05 with a 9-3 record and a berth in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Head Coach Charlie Weis begins his second year in South Bend, leading a potent offense featuring quarterback Brady Quinn, all-America wide receiver Jeff Samardzija and running back Darius Walker.
Walker rushed for 1,196 yards and scored nine touchdowns with seven 100-yard games for the Irish in `05.
“He is a big part of what is going on there,” said Gailey about Walker. “We all know that he is a good ball carrier, but you don’t realize how many passes he catches until you start looking at the statistics. When you start looking at the tape you realize how many times he catches the ball and makes something happen that way. He belongs in the same sentence with all those other great names on their offense.”
Under defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta, the Jackets defense ended last season ranked No. 13 in the nation against the run and in the Top 25 nationally in total defense. Returning seniors linebacker KaMichael Hall, cornerback Kenny Scott and defensive tackle Joe Anoai headline the `06 version.
“I think Jon Tenuta likes to beat everybody,” said Gailey. “I think he likes to go out there against everyone and compete. I don’t think that he picks and chooses.”
Tenuta did not pick this match-up but he is sure to have his defense ready to go up against one of the nation’s leading offenses.
“Knowing coach (Tenuta) he loves it,” said KaMichael Hall. “In his head, just like in ours, he knows he’s the best. It’s his great defense against another great offense and being able to see what it does against the offense. It’s a good feeling if you handle business.”
The offensive-line of the Jackets, a concern in ’05, combines an experienced unit that includes redshirt sophomore Andrew Gardner (LT), and redshirt juniors Matt Rhodes (LG) and Kevin Tuminello (C). The line will try and create room for first-year starting running back Tashard Choice.
“He’s our starter and a great back,” said Gailey about Choice. “We’ll try to keep him as fresh as possible, but we’re not afraid to let him be the main guy.”
Choice finished ’05 as the Tech’s second-leading rusher with 513 yards and a team-high six touchdowns.
“It’s a different feeling because now I understand I have more responsibility for me, my coaches and my teammates,” said Choice. “I was a leader when I came in, on and off the field, but this year I have to set more of an example, get out there and make plays and this is a dream for me. I’m ready to accept this, and you have to go out and practice that way and understand that you are going to be counted on for 12 games.”