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Jackets Face No. 7 Georgia in Rivalry Game

Nov. 21, 2004

ATLANTA–Already bowl eligible, Georgia Tech concludes the regular season with its annual rivalry game against seventh-ranked Georgia Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.. The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be nationally televised on CBS-TV.

The Yellow Jackets (6-4, 4-4 ACC) are bowl eligible for the eighth straight year but conclude the season with a pair of nationally-ranked foes. Tech fell to 18th-ranked Virginia, 30-10, last Saturday and now take on the Bulldogs (8-2, 6-2 SEC), ranked seventh in the coaches’ poll and eighth by the Associated Press.

Tech ranks 18th in the nation in total defense, allowing 306.8 yards per game. The Jackets are 22nd in scoring defense (19.4 ppg) 23rd in rushing defense (117.0) and 23rd in pass efficiency defense (108.3).

All-star free safety James Butler is Tech’s only senior starter on defense and the unquestioned leader of the unit. He is Tech’s second-leading tackler with 78, along with two interceptions, 2.5 tackles for loss, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Junior middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson is Tech’s top tackler. Wilkinson, who recorded a career-high 18 tackles against Virginia, has 107 hits on the season to rank second in the ACC, and he is third in the league with 14.5 tackles for loss (1.45 pg). Outside linebacker Chris Reis boasts 61 tackles, and he is fourth in the ACC in sacks (0.70 per game) and sixth in tackles for loss (1.30 per game).

On the defensive line, the Jackets are led by all-ACC defensive ends Eric Henderson (34 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks) and Travis Parker (29 tackles, five tackles for loss).

Sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball is second in the ACC in total offense, averaging 209.7 yards per game, including 179.9 yards passing and 29.8 yards rushing per contest. He has thrown 14 touchdown passes but has been plagued by 17 interceptions.

Sensational freshman Calvin Johnson, the leading candidate for the ACC Rookie of the Year award, is the Jackets’ leading receiver with 41 catches for 732 yards and six touchdowns, including five catches for 108 yards against Virginia.

The trio of Johnson and seniors Levon Thomas (27-402-3) and Nate Curry (24-308-2) have accounted for better than two-thirds of Tech’s completions and 80 percent of the Jackets’ passing yards.

Leading rusher P.J. Daniels averages 97.0 yards per game but has missed four games due to injury, including the last three. He is questionable this week.

Redshirt freshman Rashaun Grant has stepped in with 260 yards rushing in the last three games. He has 400 yards on 88 attempts on the season.

The Tech offensive line is led by the senior trio of center Andy Tidwell-Neal and tackles Kyle Wallace and Leon Robinson.

Tech faces a Georgia defense that ranks 16th in the nation in total defense and 15th in scoring defense. The Bulldogs’ offense features quarterback David Greene, who has passed for 2,164 yards and 17 touchdowns with just two interceptions, and the freshman tailback tandem of Thomas Brown (77.0 yards rushing per game) and Danny Ware (77.9 yards pg).

BOWL ELIGIBLE FOR EIGHTH STRAIGHT YEAR

With its 30-10 victory over Connecticut, Georgia Tech earned its sixth victory of the season to become eligible for an eighth consecutive bowl berth.

On their current streak, the Yellow Jackets have played in the 1997 Carquest Bowl, the 1999 and 2000 Toyota Gator Bowls, the 2000 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the 2001 Seattle Bowl, the 2002 Silicon Valley Classic and the 2004 Humanitarian Bowl. Tech’s longest previous streak was six straight bowl games from 1951-56 under legendary head coach Bobby Dodd.

Georgia Tech is one of just 11 schools in the nation to play in a bowl game each of the last seven years. Florida State and Virginia Tech are the only other Atlantic Coast Conference schools in this elite group, which also includes Florida, Georgia, Kansas State, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Purdue, and Tennessee. The list will be trimmed to no more than nine because Kansas State and Oregon have been eliminated. Nebraska must win one more game to become bowl eligible.

GEORGIA TECH VS. GEORGIA

Georgia leads the series with Georgia Tech, 55-38-5. The teams have split the last six meetings, with Georgia winning the last three, following a three-game streak by the Jackets from 1998-00. The Bulldogs won last year’s game, 34-17, in Atlanta.

The Jackets have a 13-26-1 record on Georgia’s home field. The Bulldogs won the last meeting in Athens, 51-7, in 2002, but Tech won the two previous games at Sanford Stadium, 27-15 in 2000 and 21-19 in 1998.

The Tech-Georgia rivalry began in 1893, when the Rambling Wreck travelled to Athens and won 28-6 for the first football win in school history. The two teams have played every year since 1925 (79 consecutive years).

THE GAUNTLET

Georgia Tech concludes the 2004 season with a pair of nationally-ranked opponents. After falling last week to 18th-ranked Virginia, the Yellow Jackets finish on the road at No. 7 Georgia in Athens, Ga.

Georgia will be Tech’s sixth nationally-ranked opponent of the season. The Jackets have defeated Clemson and Maryland while falling to Miami (currently ranked 9th), Virginia Tech (now No. 11) and Virginia (now No. 16).

Georgia is Tech’s fourth opponent this season to have a week off before facing the Jackets. Connecticut, Maryland and Duke also had an open date the Saturday before playing Tech.

ON THE DEFENSIVE

The Georgia Tech defense has held four of its last six opponents to just one offensive touchdown. In those four games, wins over Maryland, Duke, NC State and Connecticut, the Jackets allowed an average of 195.3 yards of total offense. Tech held all four teams below 100 yards rushing, allowing just 42 yards per game on the ground.

Tech ranks 18th in the nation in total defense, allowing 306.8 yards per game. The Jackets are 23rd in rushing defense (117.0), 25th in passing yards allowed (189.8), 23rd in pass efficiency defense (107.2) and 22nd in scoring defense (19.4 ppg).

JOHNSON SETS FRESHMAN MARKS

True freshman and ACC Rookie of the Year candidate Calvin Johnson is Tech’s leading receiver with 41 catches for 732 yards and six touchdowns. He recorded his third 100-yard game of the season with five catches for 108 yards against Virginia.

Johnson’s six scoring receptions are second in the ACC, and he ranks second in the league in receiving yards (73.2 pg) and third in receptions per game (4.1 pg). He also ranks second in nation among freshmen in receiving yards per game.

The Tyrone, Ga., native has already set a Tech freshman record for receiving yards, and he needs five catches to eclipse the school mark for catches by a freshman. His 732 yards receiving are the second most ever by any ACC freshman, trailing only to Koren Robinson of NC State (853 in 1999).

Johnson caught his sixth touchdown pass against Virginia Tech to tie the Rambling Wreck record for touchdown catches by a freshman, equalling Kerry Watkins in 1999. The Tech record for touchdowns scored by a freshman is seven by tailback Robert Lavette in 1981.

TOP SEASONS BY TECH FRESHMEN

RECEPTIONS Robert Lavette (rb), 1981 45 Calvin Johnson (wr), 2004 41

RECEIVING YARDS Calvin Johnson (wr), 2004 732 Greg Lester (wr), 1987 593

TOUCHDOWN RECEPTIONS Kerry Watkins, 1999 (Fr.-R) 6 Calvin Johnson, 2004 6

TOUCHDOWNS SCORED Robert Lavette (rb), 1981 7 Kerry Watkins, 1999 (Fr.-R) 6 Calvin Johnson, 2004 6

ANSWERING THE BELL

Entering the season, placekicking was a question mark for Georgia Tech, but redshirt freshmen Travis Bell has more than stepped forward.

After missing his first field goal attempt from 46 yards in the season opener, he has made a school-record 13 straight three-pointers, including a season-best 47-yard field goal against Duke. He has been perfect on extra points (23-23) and is Tech’s leading scorer with 62 points.

Bell is one of 20 semifinalists for the 2004 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award. The three finalists will be announced Nov. 22.

NATIONAL LEADERS – FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE

Todd Pegram, Texas A&M 1.000 12-12 Darren McCaleb, Southern Miss 1.000 12-12 Alexis Serna, Oregon State .941 16-17 Reagan Schneider, UTEP .938 15-16 Travis Bell, Georgia Tech .929 13-14 Andrew Wellock, Eastern Michigan .913 21-23

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