Nov. 18, 2003
ATLANTA – A week after becoming bowl eligible, the Georgia Tech football team (6-4, 4-3 ACC) will travel to Charlottesville, Va., for its Atlantic Coast Conference finale against Virginia (5-5, 3-4 ACC) at 12 noon in Scott Stadium. The game will be regionally televised on Jefferson-Pilot Sports Network, including Fox Sports Network in Georgia.
Senior quarterback Matt Schaub, who is the reigning ACC Player of the Year, leads the Cavaliers. Schaub ranks third in the country in completion percentage (.698) and owns at least 20 UVa game, season and career records. In his last 22 appearances, the 6-5 quarterback has thrown a TD pass 21 times.
Virginia is 3-1 at home this season with its only loss coming to ACC champion Florida State, 19-14. UVa is averaging 26 points per game in its last three ballgames and 450.7 total yards on offense. The Cavaliers rank second in the conference in pass efficiency and allow the fewest amount sacks in the league so far this season.
“They don’t make many mistakes,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “I think they have the fewest penalties and fewest sacks in the conference. They don’t turn it over a lot.
“There are a lot of things that they do very well, that make you go, ‘if you beat them, you’ve earned it’. You have to go fight, scratch and claw for 60-minutes to have a chance to win the game.”
Doing most of the scratching and crawling has been starting tailback P.J. Daniels. Daniels rushed for a career-best 240 yards in Tech’s last game, the second-best performance in school history. The Houston, Texas, native leads the league in rushing (103.4) and ranks fourth in all-purpose yardage (111.5). Daniels is the seventh Yellow Jacket to surpass 1,000-yards rushing in a season and stands at 1,034 with two games remaining.
“I think it has been a process of this season,” said coach Gailey on finding how much he could ask of Daniels. “I don’t know if there was ever a time, but the think I always had the question in my mind, ‘who could make a big play for us?’. When he finally made a big play at Florida State, then I think we said, not only is he durable and tough, and can make tough yards, he can also make the big play. Since that moment, P.J. seems to make that 25-30 yard play every game, and a couple of them have been in the 50-60 yard range.”
Coach Gailey and Al Groh have crossed paths on numerous occasions. At the Air Force Academy, Groh was the defensive coordinator for the Falcons and Gailey was a defensive assistant in 1979, before taking over the coordinator position after Groh left. Both coaches are two of only eight current Division-1A head coaches who are former head coaches in the National Football League. Gailey served as head coach for the Dallas Cowboys for two seasons (1998-99), while Groh spent one year (2000) as head coach of the New York Jets.
“There is nothing that I remember from all that,” said Gailey. “We’re in totally different situations with our teams and with our offenses and our defenses. He has changed over the years. He used to be a staunched 4-3 guy, and now he’s a staunched 3-4 guy.”
Senior wideout Jonathan “Freddie” Smith continues to produce impressive numbers for the Jackets. Smith became the first Tech player to have a touchdown pass, touchdown reception and a punt return for a touchdown. Smith is currently second in the ACC in all-purpose yards per game (124.8) and 19th in the country in receiving yards per game (92.5).
Also coming off a great week for Tech is cornerback Reuben Houston. Houston is one of the main reasons the Yellow Jackets are second in the ACC in pass defense (217.3 yards allowed per game) and third in total defense (341.9 yards allowed per game). The Peachtree City, Ga., native has three interceptions on the year, which is third best in the conference. Houston tallied an interception, fumble recovery and a sack against the Tar Heels last Saturday and was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week.
“The thing about it is he has been close to several others during the course of the season, and just hasn’t been able to get his hands on the ball,” said Gailey. “I think, he is a guy playing the position he plays in that nickel spot inside, where he is going to be around the ball more and more as time goes on. I think he will continue to make big plays for us on defense.”