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Gridders Return Home to Face Clemson

Sept. 14, 2003

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech looks to build on the positives of its last two games as the Yellow Jackets (1-2, 0-1 ACC) return home to host Atlantic Coast Conference rival Clemson (2-1, 0-0 ACC) Saturday in a non-televised game at 7 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field.

“We looked the 17th-ranked team in the nation square in the eye and the 10th-ranked team in the nation square in the eye and came out 1-1,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey after the Yellow Jackets’ 14-13 loss at 10th-ranked Florida State, in which the Seminoles two scored touchdowns in the final seven minutes.

“We feel like we can play at that level. We have to have that same kind of intensity this week against Clemson, and every week we walk out there.

“You have to talk about the positives of that kind of effort,” continued Gailey of his team’s performance against FSU. “You have to. But at the same time, you have to watch the film and see where, had we done this a little bit better and executed that a little bit better, we would have won the game. Six weeks from now, what matters is the win or the loss, not the effort, but if you don’t have the effort, you don’t have anything to build on.

“We played less than perfect, and almost won the game, which is a positive. Now we’ve got to find a way to eliminate those mistakes and not play perfect, but play closer to perfect.”

The story of Tech’s season thus far has been the play of the defense, which has turned in back-to-back outstanding efforts against nationally-ranked opponents, allowing a total of just 17 points and 481 yards of offense to No. 10 Florida State and No. 17 Auburn.

“First of all, you have to a lot of credit to [defensive coordinator] Jon Tenuta and our defensive staff, for the gameplans that they have come up with, and then you have to give a great deal of to our defensive players, who are executing the plans,” said Gailey.

“I think we’re doing a great job of keeping people off balance. We’re blitzing them, and then we’re not blitzing them. We’re playing zone, then we’re playing man. We’re coming off the edge, then we’re coming up the middle. People have to prepare for a multitude of looks when they play us.

Tech leads the ACC and ranks 16th nationally in rushing defense, allowing 72.3 yards per game on the ground. The Jackets also lead the ACC with 11 sacks while ranking second in total defense (281.0 ypg/22nd NCAA) and scoring defense (13.7 ppg/19th NCAA).

Individually, linebacker Keyaron Fox is the ACC leader in tackles (43, 14.3 per game), defensive end Eric Henderson leads in sacks (1.2 per game) and cornerback Reuben Houston is tied atop the ACC in interceptions (0.67 per game). Linebacker Daryl Smith is Tech’s second-leading tackler with 33 hits and four tackles for loss.

Offensively, true freshman quarterback Reggie Ball has put up fairly modest numbers (35-for-69, 412 yards, 1 TD, 2 Int), but he has shown poise and play-making ability well beyond his years.

Sophomore tailback P.J. Daniels enjoyed his most productive game as a Yellow Jacket with a career-high 113 yards rushing against the Seminoles, highlighted by a 47-yard touchdown run. He now ranks third in the ACC in rushing, averaging 70.0 yards per game.

Senior Jonathan Smith is Tech’s top receiver with 13 catches for a 14.2-yard average.

Senior placekicker Dan Burnett has been very reliable, making all five of his field goal tries as well as all four of his extra points, while senior punter Hal Higgins averages 39.8 yards per kick.

The Tigers are coming off back-to-back victories over Furman and Middle Tennessee State.

“There have been some pretty good games between these two teams the last few years,” said Gailey of the Tech-Clemson matchup. “There have some great comebacks, some great catches, some great plays. I’ve only been in it one year, but it seems to be a good rivalry.”

THE SERIES VERSUS CLEMSON

Georgia Tech holds a 43-22-2 advantage in the series with Clemson, which began in 1898. Tech has won four of the last six meetings, including two of the last three games at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field, but the Tigers won last year’s game, 24-19, at Clemson and also captured the last meeting in Atlanta with a 47-44 overtime win in 2001.

Last year’s five-point win by Clemson broke an amazing streak of six consecutive meetings that were decided by exactly three points, including four straight three-point Tech victories from 1997-2000. Eleven of the 13 meetings since 1990 have been decided by five points or fewer.

Even though the Tigers won on their last trip to Atlanta, Tech holds a 39-12-2 lead on its home field.

CLOSE SHAVES WITH THE TIGERS

Clemson 24, Tech 19 (2002, Clemson): Tech trailed 24-6 but rallied with a seven-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Suggs to John Paul Foschi and then a one-yard TD by Tony Hollings with 3:43 to play. A fumbled snap gave Tech one last chance, and the Jackets had a first down at the Clemson 29, but Suggs was intercepted by Eric Sampson. Hollings rushed for 144 yards on 23 carries for Tech, including a 72-yard touchdown, but Clemson’s Derrick Hamilton had a 77-yard TD run and a 79-yard punt return to set up a score.

Clemson 47, Tech 44, OT (2001, Atlanta): Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler passed for 254 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 164 yards, including the game-winning score in overtime. In a game that featured 10 lead changes, Tech took a 38-34 lead with 3:51 to play on Sidney Ford’s 10-yard TD, but Clemson answered by converting on 4th-and-13 for a 63-yard TD catch by J.J. McKelvey with 1:58 left. Luke Manget’s 20-yard field goal tied the game with six seconds left in regulation. Tech had the ball first in overtime but had to settle for another field goal, and then Dantzler scored from 11 yards out for the win.

Tech 31, Clemson 28 (2000, Clemson): George Godsey passed for a then-school record 454 yards, including the winning touchdown to Kerry Watkins with just seven seconds left to lift Tech over No. 4 Clemson. The Tigers took a 21-17 lead on Brian Mance’s 88-yard punt return, but Godsey hit Kelly Campbell for a 48-yard TD pass with 6:35 to play. After Clemson went ahead 28-24 on a Willie Simmons-to-Rod Gardner TD pass with 1:52 left, Godsey drove Tech 80 yards, capped by the 16-yard TD pass to Watkins, who made a spectacular, one-handed catch.

Tech 45, Clemson 42 (1999, Atlanta): Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton passed for 322 yards and five touchdowns. Tech led 28-7 in the second quarter and 45-28 in the fourth, but the Tigers pulled within three with seven minutes left. Clemson had 4th-and-seven at the Tech 43 with three minutes to play, but Tech safety Chris Young batted down Woody Dantzler’s pass inside the 10-yard line.

Tech 24, Clemson 21 (1998, Clemson): Joe Burns scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard run with 1:00 left in a Thursday night game.

Tech 23, Clemson 20 (1997, Atlanta): Tech’s Harvey Middleton returned a punt 21 yards and then caught a 39-yard pass from Joe Hamilton at the Clemson five-yard line to set up Brad Chambers’ 20-yard field goal with 1:54 left.

Clemson 28, Tech 25 (1996, Clemson): Quarterback Nealon Greene scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard run with four minutes left, and Tech’s Dave Frakes missed a 51-yard field goal with 1:43 to play.

NO ROOM TO RUN

Georgia Tech leads the ACC and ranks 16th nationally in rushing defense, allowing just 72.3 yards per game on the ground. The Yellow Jackets held Auburn to just 40 yards rushing, the lowest total by a Tech opponent since Georgia managed just 26 yards in 2000.

Tech has held all three of its opponents this season to fewer than 100 yards rushing. In eight of 16 games under defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta the last two years, the Jackets have allowed fewer than 100 yards rushing

COACHING CONNECTION

Georgia Tech linebackers coach Brick Haley spent one season at Clemson, coaching the Tigers’ linebackers in 1998 under Tommy West.

PALMETTO STATE

Georgia Tech has just one player from the state of South Carolina in junior wide receiver Mark Logan, who hails from Greenwood. As a prep quarterback, he led Greenwood High to the AAAA, Division II state title in 1999 and was selected Mr. Football by the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association.

BIG PLAYS FOR SPECIAL TEAMS

Georgia Tech’s special teams have turned in a big play in each game of the season with a blocked punt and a pair of fake punts.

BYU: True freshman Kenny Scott blocked a punt deep in BYU territory, and junior safety Nathan Burton recovered the ball and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown. That was Tech’s first blocked punt since the 2000 season, when Chris Young blocked a North Carolina punt that Tony Hollings recovered for a touchdown.

Auburn: Tech converted on fourth-and-one at the Tigers’ 41-yard line with a fake punt. Up-back Chris Reis received the snap and gained four yards for the first down, keeping alive a drive that led to Tech’s first touchdown.

Florida State: Tech converted another fake punt. On fourth-and-nine from the FSU 38, punter Hal Higgins completed a 12-yard pass to Dawan Landry, helping set up a Tech field goal.

SMITH & FOX KEY TECH “D”

The Georgia Tech defense features the outstanding linebacker tandem of Daryl Smith and Keyaron Fox.

Between them, Smith and Fox boast 59 career starts, 551 tackles and 62 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 the ACC with 43 tackles (14.3 per game), along with four tackles for loss, while Smith adds 33 hits and four TFL.

Fox He 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.

FORMER QBS CONTRIBUTE ELSEWHERE

Two former Georgia Tech quarterbacks are now making contributions elsewhere for the Yellow Jackets.

Starting strong safety Dawan Landry was recruited as a left-handed quarterback and spent the 2001 season running the scout team while redshirting. He moved to safety in 2002, and after one season as a backup, he is now one of Tech’s leading tacklers with 18 hits and three tackles for loss.

Against Florida State, Landry had a fumble recovery, an interception and a pass breakup. He also converted a fourth down by catching a 12-yard pass from punter Hal Higgins on a fake.

Junior wide receiver Mark Logan is also a former quarterback. The backup receiver has just one catch this season, but it was a 26-yard touchdown catch in Tech’s win over Auburn.

Another former quarterback, sophomore Damarius Bilbo, has moved to wide receiver and looks to make contributions in the coming weeks as he becomes more comfortable at the position. Bilbo played in eight games at quarterback last fall, including the entire second half of the Silicon Valley Classic against Fresno State. For the season, he completed 29 of 67 passes for 487 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 43 times for a net of 118 yards with two scores. Bilbo is an excellent athlete who was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2001 Major League Baseball draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.

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