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Georgia Tech Tops NC State, 29-21

Oct 4, 2003

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By KEITH PARSONS
AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA Reggie Ball threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns and Georgia Tech held Philip Rivers and North Carolina State to its lowest point total of the season in a 29-21 victory Saturday.

The Wolfpack (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) came in averaging 43.4 points a game – third-best in Division I-A – and 366 yards passing. But the Yellow Jackets (3-3, 1-2) executed their gameplan to perfection, blitzing from all angles and quickly tackling the receivers after they caught the ball.

Rivers was 31-of-46 for 344 yards and two touchdowns, including a meaningless score with 6 seconds left. Leading receiver Jerricho Cotchery had only five catches, and the Wolfpack managed only minus-8 yards rushing, with tailback T.A. McLendon out for the second straight game with a pulled hamstring.

Even worse, they didn’t match the 24 points they scored against Wake Forest, the previous low.

Rivers did set an ACC record with the 14th 300-yard game of his career.

But Ball was more effective than that. The freshman set a career high in yards passing, bettering the 248 he totaled in a 39-3 loss to Clemson, and never came close to throwing an interception.

He gave Georgia Tech the lead for good with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Smith in the first quarter to make it 7-3, and added a 4-yard scoring run early in the fourth.

Smith was Ball’s favorite target. He tied a career high with nine catches and was at his best at the end of the first half, when the Yellow Jackets drove 55 yards to take a 22-10 lead.

He caught three passes for 47 yards, including an 13-yarder on third-and-7 from N.C. State’s 18. That set up a 5-yard TD pass from Ball to Nate Curry, with Curry diving for the ball in the corner of the end zone for his first touchdown catch this year.

The Wolfpack got within 22-13 with a 21-yard field goal by Adam Kiker on their opening drive of the second half. They had a chance to get closer after holding Georgia Tech to a three-and-out, but Kiker hooked a 29-yard attempt to the left.

N.C. State again drove near the end zone later, but on third-and-1 from the 29, Andy Bertrand was stopped for a 2-yard loss after catching a swing pass from Rivers. On the next play, which was the first of the fourth quarter, Cotchery fell down just as Rivers’ pass came to him, and it fell incomplete.

The Yellow Jackets then drove 69 yards for the clinching score, thanks to 45 yards in penalties by the Wolfpack, including a roughing the punter that kept the possession alive.

Ball used a good block from Daniels to dive into the end zone, giving Georgia Tech a 29-13 lead.

The Yellow Jackets overcame their own problems, most on special teams.

Dan Burnett missed an extra point, the first time that’s happened to Georgia Tech since 1998. Punter Hal Higgins struggled, too, averaging only 26 yards on four kicks.

There also was two fumbles on punts, one recovered by N.C. State.

But Burnett made three field goals in the second quarter, including a career-long 48-yarder.

Kiker gave the Wolfpack a 3-0 lead with a 41-yard field goal on the opening drive of the game, and Rivers threw a 15-yard TD to Cotchery in the second quarter to get them within 13-10.

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