ATLANTA (Dec. 17) – “It’s a great pleasure to play in another New Year’s Day bowl game,” said Georgia Tech head coach George O’Leary as his Yellow Jackets begin preparations Saturday for the 2000 Toyota Gator Bowl.
Tech, ranked 15th with an 8-3 record, meets 23rd-ranked Miami (8-4) on Jan. 1, 2000 at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. The 12:30 p.m. contest will be nationally televised by NBC.
“The Gator Bowl is an outstanding bowl, and this is a great matchup with Miami,” continued O’Leary. “They’re playing as well as anybody in the country with their last three games and with their second quarterback, Ken Dorsey. They’ve scored 55, 45 and 55 points in three games and only given up 13. We’ll have our work cut out for us in the game.
“I agree with some of the press people-and I don’t often do that-that it’s probably the second-best matchup of all the bowl games.”
The Yellow Jackets completed final exams Friday and will begin Hurricane preparations on Saturday.
“We start practice tomorrow, and we will practice Saturday and Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” said O’Leary. “Then we rejoin for practice on the 26th down in Jacksonville.”
Tech leads the series with Miami, 6-2, but the two teams have not met since 1978, when the Yellow Jackets claimed a 24-19 victory in Atlanta.
“I think it’s a great matchup because you have two teams with great tradition, two teams that haven’t played each other (since 1978),” continued O’Leary. “That intrigues me. I like playing teams we haven’t played before. You don’t have any background on them, so you have to start from scratch as a coach. When you play someone you’ve played in the past, you have something to fall back on, scouting reports or whatever.
“Miami is playing very well, and our players are looking forward to playing them. Our offense will have their work cut out for it, and our defense will definitely have their work cut out for it because of the amount of points Miami puts on the board. Hopefully, with 11 practice sessions to get ready, it doesn’t become an NBA score by halftime.
“I have great respect for Butch Davis. He’s done a tremendous job down there. When he took over, he had a lot of problems, but he cleaned it up and brought in a lot of great athletes who play hard. They’re very anxious to play in this Jan. 1 bowl, as are we. It should be a great game from an intensity standpoint, and both teams can be exciting.”
Miami is riding a three-game winning streak, beating Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple by a combined 155-13 margin.
“I think it’s a great game for both teams,” said Hurricane head coach Butch Davis. “It’s been a season of ups and downs for us and an awful lot of challenges, but it seems like one of the biggest challenges is going to come at the end of the year. We only have five seniors that start, so we had some growing pains early in the season but we’ve played fairly well lately.
“George’s team is very well coached. Offensively, obviously they’re outstanding. Joe Hamilton is one of the most exciting players in college football and he presents a tremendous amount of problems.”
Miami played its final three games-all victories-with true freshman quarterback Ken Dorsey filling in for injured starter Kenny Kelly. Kelly’s status for the game is uncertain.
“He’s been out for almost five weeks, battling two injuries suffered in the Virginia Tech game (partial tear of medial collateral ligament and second degree separation of his throwing shoulder),” said Davis. “He’s nowhere near 100 percent today, but we’re trying to ease him back. He wants very much to get an opportunity to play, and time will tell on that.”
Dorsey completed 74 of 120 passes for 807 yards and 10 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
“He got a baptism under fire in the fourth quarter against Virginia Tech,” said Davis. “The next three weeks he showed a lot of poise and confidence, and our supporting cast made him feel comfortable. Every game has been a learning experience. He has done an excellent job, probably better than we anticipated.”