ATLANTA (Nov. 16) — With a chance to clinch second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference and solidify its bowl position, 12th-ranked Georgia Tech (7-2, 5-2 ACC) travels to Wake Forest to face a Demon Deacon squad (5-5, 2-5 ACC) that is fighting to become bowl eligible.
Tech and the Deacons kick off a 3:30 p.m. in a non-televised game at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“Wake Forest has 17 seniors out of 22 starters, so they’re probably the most experienced team we’re going to face all year,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary at his weekly press conference.
“They have 23 seniors on the team, and they’re 5-5, so they’re fighting for a bowl opportunity while we’re fighting to continue ours. There is a lot riding on the game from both teams’ standpoints. I would expect a very hard-fought football game with so much riding on the outcome.
“I think that win over Clemson did wonders for the psyche of our players. Hopefully we can ride that a little bit and get some more plays made on the defensive side.”
Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton (Alvin, S.C.), who leads the nation in passing efficiency (182.8) while ranking third in total offense (338.0 yards per game), is approaching several milestones.
Already the ACC’s all-time leader in total offense (9,888), touchdown passes (60), and passing efficiency (148.1), Hamilton needs just 122 yards of total offense to become the first ACC player and the 16th in NCAA Division I-A to reach 10,000 yards.
In doing so, Hamilton would be the first player in I-A history to have 10,000 yards of total offense with 1,500 yards rushing. In addition to his 8,260 yards passing, Hamilton ranks 11th on Tech’s career rushing list with 1,628 yards.
Hamilton is also within reach of the NCAA single-season record for passing efficiency. With two games to play, his mark of 182.8 is just behind the 183.3 recorded by Tulane’s Shaun King last season.
Finally, Hamilton needs 182 yards passing to surpass Shawn Jones’ Tech record of 8,441 yards.
O’Leary reiterated the strong comments he made in support of his quarterback for the Heisman Trophy after Hamilton’s superb performance in Tech’s win over Clemson.
“I felt like I had to make a statement because I don’t know what Joe has not done,” said O’Leary. “I think he’s being overlooked by a lot of the media, not in Atlanta, but around the country. I don’t know what else Joe has to do as far as what he’s accomplished this season against everyone, including some very good football teams.
“I just felt that I had to do that for Joe Hamilton. That’s not like me, but he’s been too good for this program for the head coach not to speak out on his behalf. I don’t usually do things like that, but I thought it was needed.”
If Kelly Campbell is on the receiving end of Hamilton’s passes, the sophomore flanker has a chance to break several Tech season records. Tech’s leading receiver with 58 receptions for 964 yards and nine touchdowns, he needs seven catches, 13 yards and one touchdown to break the Rambling Wreck records in all three categories.
“He’s a good athlete with some wiggle to him as well as the straight-ahead speed,” says O’Leary. “I think he has the ability to make people miss. Where he’s really improved is his catching ability. I think the receiver corps in general is playing very well.
“I think there may be better individual receivers in the country, but when you look at the group collectively and the numbers they can put on the field, they have to be one of the best, if not the best. There are a number of them who have catches. They have some depth there, and they are being utilized very well.”
Campbell’s numbers have undoubtedly been boosted by the presence of Dez White (Orange Park, Fla.), whose totals are down from a year ago as he attracts double coverage. Still White has been extremely productive in catching, running and returning the football, averaging an ACC leading 19.5 yards per play. He has caught 34 passes for 690 yards and four touchdowns.
“Really, I think the problem is Joe,” O’Leary said with a laugh. “He’s throwing the ball where he’s supposed to. Last year, he knew he had Dez and he could rely on him all the time. This year, Joe’s reading the coverage very well, and he’s throwing the ball where they’re [the defense] not. People are shading coverage to Dez, and that’s the difference.”