Nov. 1, 2005
Georgia Tech (5-2, 3-2 ACC) host interdivisional Atlantic Coast Conference foe Wake Forest (4-5, 3-3 ACC) on Saturday, Nov. 5 at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. The game is set to kick off at 1:30 p.m. and will not be televised. The contest will air on the radio at 790 The Zone (790 AM).
The Yellow Jackets and Demon Deacons are both riding a two-game winning streak heading into the match-up and are trying to become bowl eligible. The Jackets need one more win to become eligible for the ninth consecutive season, while Wake Forest needs to win its final two games to become bowl eligible for the first time since the 2001 season.
“You have to give a great deal of credit to their staff and their whole organization,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “They’ve got a certain mindset, adhering to it, and doing a good job of it.”
The Demon Deacons and Yellow Jackets rank first and second in the ACC in time of possession heading into this week’s game. Wake Forest averages 32:31 time of possession each game, while Tech averages 32:11.
Wake Forest rumbles into Atlanta with the No. 1 rushing attack in the ACC, gaining 215.5 yards per game, 18th in the nation. In contrast, the Rambling Wreck defense is 11th in the country in stopping the run.
“They will keep coming after you throughout the whole game, and that’s because of how they’re built,” said Gailey about Wake Forest’s rushing attack. “They have big, strong guys on their offensive line and they’re going to keep pounding it at you. They realize that that’s what they do well and they’re going to continue to do it. You seldom are able to get them out of their game plan.”
Wake Forest’s Chris Barclay leads the ACC in rushing, tallying 124.8 yards per game (7th in the nation). The senior tailback rushed for 204 yards on 18 carries against the Blue Devils last Saturday to become the school’s all-time leading rusher. He needs just three yards to become the sixth player in ACC history to rush for over 1,000 yards in three straight seasons and is 97 yards and one touchdown shy of becoming just the third back in ACC history to reach career marks of 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns.
“It’s probably a combination of things,” said Gailey about what makes Barclay such a talented tailback. “I think that he has excellent vision and outstanding balance. It’s extremely hard to knock him off his feet because he tends to twist, turn, and spin as he’s running. He also has the speed to go 71 yards like he did against Duke last week.”
At the quarterback position, the Demon Deacons have two solid performers in Cory Randolph and Benjamin Mauk. Randolph, who is troubled by an ankle injury and did not play last week, is probable this week and leads the ACC in third down completion percentage (.862). Mauk is 24-for-39 for 278 yards and one interception in Wake Forest’s last two games.
“You can think they’re going to run, run, run, and then all of a sudden, they throw in a post pattern or a move-go,” said Gailey. “You have to keep your head in the game at all times and know your responsibilities. We’re not going to sit there and give them the same coverage every time so you have know where your responsibilities and not get fooled.”
On defense, the Demon Deacons are causing more turnovers than recent years thanks to safety Josh Gattis. Gattis has intercepted a pass in each of the last three weeks, including two for touchdowns, and leads the nation with five picks this season.
“The key to their play this year is the fact that they’ve been getting a lot more turnovers on defense and their offense has been even more productive when they have a short field to work with,” said Gailey.
Wake Forest’s place kicker Sam Swank has made nine straight field goals entering this weeks’ game, dating back to the first half of the Florida State game on Oct. 8th. Swank is 17-of-21 on the season (81 percent), fourth best in the ACC.
To combat Wake Forest’s exceptional rushing attack, the Jackets will continue to do what they do best, stopping the run. The Yellow Jackets are fourth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (102.7) and 19th in the country in total defense (304.4).
“Sometimes, you think players don’t know or pay attention to those things, but they do take pride in it,” said Gailey about his defensive players knowing that they allowed the first 100-yard rusher against them last Saturday. “I think it’s always good when you have other goals out there.”
Tech continues to lead the conference and is second nationally with 15 interceptions this season. Sophomore Philip Wheeler ranks second in the ACC with four interceptions and has Tech fifth in the nation in turnover margin (+1.29).
Junior cornerback Kenny Scott played one of his best games of the season last Saturday against the Tigers, posting three critical pass breakups over the course of the game. Scott knows that the corner back position is going to be important against the Demon Deacons’ rushing attack.
“We need to keep our head up and stay in the game,” said Scott. “That can lull you to sleep running the ball, then they might go over the top and beat you deep.”
Senior defensive end Eric Henderson returned to the lineup for the first time in four games, making three tackles for a loss, forcing two fumbles and recording two sacks. Henderson, a two-time All-ACC selection (2003, ’04), ranks second in Tech history with 55 career tackles for a loss and needs just three to break Greg Gathers’ school record of 57.
“It would be fun to get him close to 100 percent,” said Gailey about Henderson. “It was good to get him back on the field, and it really helped us. It’s nice to have a seasoned veteran and a leader on the field.”
Despite being held to four catches for 46 yards last Saturday against Clemson, sophomore wide receiver Calvin Johnson still leads the ACC in receiving yards per game (89.6) and is second in receptions per game (5.14).
Junior quarterback Reggie Ball is fifth in the ACC in total offense, averaging 231.3 yards per game. Ball is third in league games only in total offense (239.2) and fifth in passing yards per game (202.4).
Senior running back P.J. Daniels continues to rank third in the ACC with 84.9 yards per game. Daniels rushed for an even 100 yards and one touchdown against the Tigers on 21 carries.
“We use a lot more schemes and to me, that’s one of the most impressive things that he’s done,” said Gailey about Daniels making adjustments to the run game this year. “We’ve gone from a zone scheme to a scheme system and he’s made the adjustment really well. In years past, I think we’ve run to set up the pass but now, we’re passing more to set up the run. Sometimes, the presence of Calvin [Johnson] softens the run for us, because they’re trying to roll coverage that way and it leaves a little bit of a void in some run areas.”