Nov. 15, 2005
Georgia Tech (6-3, 4-3 ACC) will play its final Atlantic Coast Conference game this Saturday against third-ranked Miami (8-1, 5-1 ACC) in the Orange Bowl at 7:45 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN and will air on the radio at 790 The Zone (790 AM).
“If you are a competitor and you are not excited about playing the No. 3 team in the nation, something is wrong with you,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “If you are an offensive player and you get a chance to play against the No. 1 defense in the country, if you are any kind of competitor that gets your juices flowing. If you have the right kind of players, they do get excited about playing in this ball game.”
The Hurricanes are riding an eight-game winning streak after dropping their season opener to archrival Florida State, 10-7, in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sept. 5. Miami controls its own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division, needing two more wins to reach the league’s inaugural ACC Championship Game in Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 3, after the `Canes 27-7 victory over then-No. 3 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., on Nov. 5.
The Hurricanes boast the nation’s top-ranked defense, allowing just 231.89 yards of offense per game, and only 101.33 yards per game through the air. UM’s defense has created 12 turnovers in its last two games and has allowed just 11.11 points per game this season (No. 2 in the nation).
“They are not the number one defense in the nation for nothing,” said Gailey. “These guys are good. They have played very, very well. Consistently well throughout the whole season. They have good depth, good players at every position, and returning starters at a lot of positions.”
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Kyle Wright has progressively turned the Miami offense into one of the top attacks in the conference. Wright tied a UM school record last week versus Wake Forest with five touchdown passes, matching Bernie Kosar, Steve Walsh, Ken Dorsey and Brock Berlin.
“He [Kyle Wright] is another one of the pieces of the puzzle that has continually improved as the season has gone on,” said Gailey. “He has become a good quarterback, a typical Miami quarterback. They got beat the first game, and to me, have really improved from game one to where they are right now.”
After backing up the ACC’s leading rusher Tyrone Moss in the first seven games, sophomore tailback Charlie Jones got his shot against the Hokies when Moss went down with a torn knee ligament. Jones has gained 186 yards and scored three touchdowns in less than six quarters of action.
Tech and Miami were supposed to meet on Oct. 15, but it was postponed due to Hurricane Wilma.
“We’ve got some guys being beat up going into this week,” said Gailey. “[Tight end] Michael Matthews is a little beat up. Two guys that have surfaced in the last couple days that we have to take a closer look at to see how much they will be able to practice and play in the ball game are [tackle] Brad Honeycutt and [running back] P.J. Daniels. I still think that we are healthier than we would have been had we played them the last time, especially on defense.”
The Jackets’ defense continues to rank among the nation’s elite. Tech stands fifth in the nation with 17 interceptions, eighth in turnover margin (+1.22) and 16th in rushing defense (108.9 yards allowed per game). The Rambling Wreck has only allowed one 100-yard rusher this season and will try and stop Miami’s rushing attack, which ranks fourth in the conference at 157.4 yards per game.
Tech ranks third in the ACC in rushing offense, averaging 158.4 yards per game courtesy of tailback duo of senior P.J. Daniels and sophomore Tashard Choice. Daniels ranks third in the ACC in rushing with 87.6 yards per game, while Choice averages 44.1 yards per game.
“To me, he has been running well for the last three or four games,” said Gailey about Choice. “When he has had his opportunities, he has run very well. He’s a lot more comfortable, a lot more knowledgeable, and he understands exactly what we are trying to do with more confidence. I think he understood before, but the more you do it the more confidence that you gain.”
Sophomore Calvin Johnson remains one of the ACC’s top wide receivers, leading the league with 85.1 receiving yards per game. The All-American candidate is second in the ACC with 4.89 receptions per game and leads the conference with three 100-yard games this year.
Junior quarterback Reggie Ball now has 33 starts under his belt and is third in the ACC in total offense with 235.0 yards per game. The Stone Mountain, Ga., native threw for 207 yards, one touchdown and interception against Virginia last Saturday.
“Tremendous, in my opinion,” said Gailey about Ball’s decision making this year. “He’s improved knowing his role, understanding what we’re trying to do offensively, understanding what the defense is doing and trying to take what they will give us.” -30-