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Georgia Tech Will Try and Stop Explosive Wolfpack Offense

Sept. 30, 2003

The Tech football team will try and stop one of the nation’s top rated offenses Saturday afternoon as Georgia Tech and NC State will face off at Noon on Homecoming weekend in Bobby Dodd Stadium. The game will be regionally televised by JP Sports-ACC network/FSNS in Georgia.

The Jackets are coming off an overtime win at Vanderbilt, 24-17, last Saturday night and know that stopping NC State and it’s quarterback Philip Rivers is going to be a difficult task.

“Well they are very good,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “They might be, if not the best, certainly one of the best offenses in the country right now. Nobody has proven that there is an exact way to stop them. Ohio State had the answer for a few quarters and Wake Forest had the answer for a few quarters, but we’ve got to put together a whole game against this group and keep them off balance. It’s almost like you have to have something new every quarter to throw at them.

“He (Philip Rivers) reminds me of (Dan) Marino standing back there in the pocket. He’s got that wide stance, and always has that ball cocked, or semi-cocked, ready to throw the football. He can just whip it out there to anybody and everybody on the field it seems like. He does an excellent job. Even though he’s not as mobile, you have to hit him just right to knock him down because he’s so big and strong. If you just get an arm or shoulder on him, he’ll just shrug that off and still make a play.”

The Wolfpack rank third in the country in scoring offense averaging 43.4 points per game and passing offense averaging 366.2 yards per game. NC State ranks fifth in the nation in total offense with 486 yards per contest and lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in most offensive categories. The Yellow Jackets will try and use ball control to keep the Wolfpack’s offense on the sidelines.

“I don’t think it favors us to go get in a shoot-out in this type of game,” said Gailey. “But we’re not going to go out there and just run the ball, we’re still going to run our game plan. This game will favor the team that allows the fewest big plays. Don’t give up something dumb, make sure you protect the punter, and make sure you cover kicks, all of those things you have to do well. Prevent the big play and make some when you’re on offense, and you have a good shot at winning the ballgame.”

In last week’s Vanderbilt game, freshman quarterback Reggie Ball rallied the Georgia Tech offense in the final 2:14 of the game for a comeback victory. With the Jackets trailing 17-10 late in the fourth quarter, Ball scrambled for 45 yards on a third-and-three to the Vandy 37. Five plays later, the Yellow Jackets scored as Ball connected with tight end John Paul Foshi to tie the game at 17-17. On the first play of overtime, Ball faked right and bootlegged left for 25 yards and a touchdown for the win. Ball was named ACC Rookie of the Week for his efforts against the Commodores this past Monday for the second time this season (Sept. 15).

“I think there are two things that he’s struggling with,” said Gailey. “One is consistency in his technique. He’s better when he just goes back and plays, doesn’t think about accuracy, technique and steps. The second is seeing everything. He’s struggling to see the whole field because everything happens so fast in college football. If he went back and played the high school game right now, it would seem like slow motion. Everything is coming at him at 900 miles per hour, so he’s got to adjust to that. Slowly but surely, he’s doing that.”

Along with Ball’s good performance, tailback P.J. Daniels rushed for over 100 yards last week for the second time this season. Daniels, a former walk-on, ranks third in the conference in rushing yards per game. The 5-10 red-shirt sophomore also provides Tech with sound pass protection and has been one of the leaders on offense for the Jackets.

“He’s done a great job, and probably as much on the intangible side of the ledger as the tangible side,” said Gailey. “He’s had two 100-yard games, which is great, but his blocking, leadership and hustle are other things he brings to our football team. He’s been very special for us thus far and it’s great to see guys like that have success.”

NC State ranks 116th in the country in pass defense and 101st in total defense; however, Gailey does not take those statistics at face value.

“Yeah, they are way ahead, so people are throwing it on every snap, and that normally hurts your pass defense statistics,” said Gailey. “North Carolina can throw it anyway, but the biggest thing, and I’ve seen a couple of articles where Chuck has alluded to it, they are giving up big plays. What they are doing to other people is happening to them. With Ohio State, they gave up a big long play early in the ballgame, a guy caught a three-yard pass and ran 55 yards for the touchdown.”

The Georgia Tech defense ranks in the top half of the ACC in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense. The Jackets are led by linebackers Keyaron Fox, Daryl Smith and defensive end Eric Henderson. Fox ranks fourth in the conference averaging 12 tackles per game. Smith’s 10.2 tackles per contest ranks eighth in the conference, while teammate Henderson ranks second in the league with five sacks. Tech will try and simulate what Ohio State and Wake Forest were able to do in NC State’s two losses this season.

“The biggest thing is that they weren’t giving up big plays,” said Gailey. “You need to keep them from making big plays, chunks of 25 or 30 yards at a time. That’s the thing that you have to do. If you make them earn it all the way down the field, that’s your best chance for them to make a mistake or get a sack or get behind in the yardage, things like that.”

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