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Jackets Face Tough Challenge at No. 10 FSU

Sept. 9, 2003

The Georgia Tech football team entered the 2003 season knowing that the schedule resembled a gauntlet of tough challenges. Just two games into the campaign, Tech stands at 1-1 after a thrilling 14-point victory over Auburn to open the home season. Now the Yellow Jackets head to Atlantic Coast Conference favorite Florida State this Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium at 8 p.m. (ABC, WSB Channel 2 in Atlanta). Head coach Chan Gailey knows that FSU could be the toughest challenge of them all.

“This is our biggest challenge so far, and I think that’s an understatement probably,” said Gailey. “I have not looked at the rest of the teams on our schedule, but I can’t imagine there being a lot of overall teams better than this football team that we are going to play Saturday.”

Florida State has been explosive on offense early this year and can hurt teams with the run and the pass. The Seminoles return starting quarterback Chris Rix and preseason All-American running back Greg Jones. Jones is a 6-1, 255-pound tailback who is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and is the focus point of the Seminole offense. Gailey knows that his defense is in for another real test Saturday night.

“It looks like he’s fully recovered from all of the injuries that he had last year,” Gailey said of Jones. ” He is what everybody thought that he would be. Size, speed, he’s got it all. He’s got some wiggle to him, and lot of times those big backs don’t have that. This will be the stiffest challenge by far that we have had. Like I said earlier, this could possibly be the stiffest challenge of them all.”

In the 17-3 win over Auburn last Saturday afternoon, true freshman quarterback Reggie Ball had another solid performance. Ball ended the game nine-for-21 for 149 yards and a touchdown. The two-way threat also rushed for 26 yards. Coach Gailey is pleased with what his freshman has been able to accomplish thus far, but knows that he has a long way to go.

“There are some things that he’s improved upon and some things he hasn’t,” said Gailey. “So there is that line that we are always walking about expanding, but not giving too much and forgetting the basics that we had to start with. He doesn’t have that much experience to draw upon to call back, ‘okay I’ve got this firmly in place in my mind and in my mechanics.’ You have to add some without adding too much, but he his making improvement. It’s going to be back-and-forth work all year long.

“He’s trying to win football games, and he’s excited about winning.”

Tech’s defense really shined in its last ballgame and it became the best performance against a ranked team since 1995. The Jackets held the Tigers to three points, 230 total yards of offense and 40 yards rushing. The Yellow Jackets had seven sacks in the ballgame with defensive end Eric Henderson leading the way with three.

“I tell you, I knew how good Auburn’s line and backs were, that they could block and they could run,” said Gailey. “I didn’t know that we could shut them down like that. I thought that we would play well, but I didn’t know that we would hold them to 40 yards rushing.”

Coach Gailey took some chances on Saturday afternoon against the Auburn Tigers going for a couple of fourth downs and throwing deep on the first play of the game. He felt that if Tech was going to win, he had to open up and go for it. The Jackets rewarded coach Gailey with a 54-yard reception on the opening play and two successful fourth-down conversions. The one time the Jackets were stopped on fourth down, the defense stepped up and held Auburn with a sack on fourth down to regain possession.

“You do what you have to do to win the game,” said Gailey. “We went out one day last week and had a less-than stellar practice and I talked to the players about the fact that you have to go out and sell-out to what you’re doing, you can’t do it halfway. You have to take risks, throw your heart out there. Commit it all to being a good player. I can’t go out there and talk about it to them and then not be willing to take some, what I determined to be, calculated risks.

“We didn’t go for every fourth down, but when we thought that the situation presented itself, we took the chance. I told the team, and the offense yesterday, that we we’re going to do it again. I’ve got to trust the players. It’s fourth-and six inches, I’ve got to trust that they’re going to make that for us.”

-GT-

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