ATLANTA (Oct. 26) – After a much-needed week off, seventh-ranked Georgia Tech returns to action this week as the Yellow Jackets host Atlantic Coast Conference rival NC State Saturday before a sellout crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. The regionally televised contest (ABC-TV) kicks off at 3:30 p.m.
Tech, which has won four in a row over the Wolfpack, enters the game with a record of 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the ACC, while NC State is 5-3, 2-3 in the ACC. The game is Tech’s second consecutive advance sell-out following the 31-24 overtime victory over North Carolina for the Oct. 9 Homecoming contest.
“We worked on a lot of the areas we needed improvement on, and I don’t think there’s any question the bye week came at a good time for us,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary, whose team’s last game was a 38-31 win at Duke on Oct. 16.
“We’ve gotten a bunch of players back that we had out. Some injuries that were nagging are much better. We’ve improved on some areas like run consistency, and our passing timing has gotten better. We worked hard on pass rush and things we need to get better at if we’re going to be successful the rest of the season.”
While Tech continues to lead the nation in total offense with 516.5 yards per game, NC State’s offense started slowly this season but has improved significantly the last few games. In last Saturday’s overtime victory over Duke, Wolfpack quarterback Jamie Barnette passed for a season-high 280 yards and two touchdowns as State gained 443 yards. Tailback Rahshon Spikes had 233 all-purpose yards against the Blue Devils with 141 yards on the ground and 92 yards receiving.
“We’re facing a quarterback who is a fifth-year senior with a lot of experience and is a play-maker, and they run the ball and throw the ball consistently, so our defense has its work cut out for it,” said O’Leary. “They have outstanding running backs in Spikes and [Ray] Robinson. They do an outstanding job of running to daylight. They keep you honest with the fullback inside. Their offensive line does a good job of putting hats on people. Koren Robinson, the receiver, has come up with some big plays in the passing game. They have a quarterback who knows what to do with the ball. They’re very dangerous offensively.
“Defensively, they’ve changed somewhat from last year in that they mix it up a little more with three down lineman and four down linemen. Recognition is key in making sure we understand what’s on the field.”
Tech’s defense welcomes back senior Travares Tillman (Lyons, Ga.) after a two-game absence due to a back injury, but O’Leary announced that starting middle linebacker Matt Uremovich will miss the remainder of the season with a contusion on his spinal cord. The sophomore from New Lenox, Ill, is Tech’s leading tackler with 51 hits. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Ross Mitchell (Grayson, Ga.), who will make his first career start this week.
“Matt Uremovich is out for the year,” said O’Leary. “He’ll be out for the season and then will be re-evaluated in January as far as what he can do in the future. We’re just not going to play him the rest of the year and re-evaluate his situation in January after he’s had time to rehab it. At that time, we’ll make a decision with him and his family.”
“Ross Mitchell will play a lot more now. With the move of Nick Rogers back to linebacker, it adds more to the depth there. They need to step up and get things done.”
Uremovich is the second starter that Tech has lost for the season since its last game 10 days ago, along with starting tailback Phillip Rogers (East Point, Ga.), who had surgery on his leg. In the season’s second game, Tech lost sophomore tailback Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) to a broken ankle.
“Right now, Ed Wilder is back practicing and will play, but, really, we’ve lost the entire starting backfield from the opening game except for Joe Hamilton,” said O’Leary. “It’s been the most permanent losses for the year than I’ve been involved in. Again, more and more people are getting involved with playing time, and I’m thankful we have other people we can put in there and get the job done. But when you lose players who have played, you lose something.”
With the loss of Burns and then Rogers, sophomore Sean Gregory takes over the starting position at tailback. He has rushed for 353 yards (6.4-yard average) and five touchdowns. As backups, Tech will turn to true freshmen Mike Kitchen (Lebanon, Pa.), who has carried 11 times for 67 yards in limited action, and Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.), who is expected to see his first action this week.
“We have moved Sidney Ford up to the varsity,” said O’Leary. “He’s finally healthy after having that groin pull earlier. With him and Sean Gregory, Gordon Clinkscale, Mike Kitchen and Ed Wilder there, we have enough backs to get the job done. It’s just a matter of them learning in a short span of time. I’ve been pleased so far with the progress of the young players. The open week gave us a chance to spend time with them and get them acquainted with the speed of the game. They’re pretty talented athletes who just need to know what’s in store for them.”