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Jackets Host No. 2 Notre Dame in Season Opener

Aug. 27, 2006

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ATLANTA–Georgia Tech opens the 2006 football season by hosting second-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field.

The Yellow Jackets also welcome the national stage to town as the game will be nationally televised on ABC (WSB-TV Channel 2 in Atlanta) as the debut of the new ESPN on ABC primetime series. ESPN College Gameday will originate from the Tech campus throughout the day.

Tech is no stranger to strong non-conference schedules after opening last season with a 23-14 victory at 15th-ranked Auburn.

Georgia Tech enters the 2006 season unranked but receiving votes in both polls. Tech is coming off a 7-5 record in 2005, including a 5-3 mark in the ACC, as the Yellow Jackets posted their ninth straight winning season and earned their ninth consecutive bowl bid despite playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules. The season was highlighted by victories at 15th-ranked Auburn and at third-ranked Miami.

In head coach Chan Gailey’s fifth season on the Flats, Tech returns eight starters on offense, led by all-America wide receiver Calvin Johnson and three-year starting quarterback Reggie Ball. On defense, the Jackets welcome back five starters, led by defensive tackle Joe Anoai and linebackers KaMichael Hall and Philip Wheeler. Former all-ACC placekicker Travis Bell also returns.

Notre Dame, ranked second by the Associated Press and tied for third in the coaches’ poll is regarded as a national championship contender.

“If you don’t get excited to play a game like this, then something’s wrong,” said Gailey. “This is why you come to college, to play in big ballgames like this.

“It is isn’t just another game, but at the same time, it’s one of 12 on the schedule.”

The Fighting Irish’s high-powered offense is led by quarterback Brady Quinn, wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, and running back Darius Walker.

“He a great football player,” Gailey said of Quinn. “Not a good football player, but a great one. I’m very impressed with his accuracy and his decision-making, and those are the two most important attributes for a quarterback.

THE SERIES VS. NOTRE DAME

Notre Dame leads the series, 26-5-1, but Georgia Tech captured the last meeting with a 35-28 victory in the 1999 Gator Bowl that capped a 10-win season for the Yellow Jackets. One year earlier, Tech travelled to Notre Dame to open the 1997 campaign, but the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish won, 17-13.

Notre Dame is making its first visit to Tech since 1980, when the Jackets stunned the nation’s No. 1-ranked team with a 3-3 tie. The Tech quarterback that day was a freshman walk-on, Ken Whisenhunt, who is now the offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jackets also defeated Notre Dame in Atlanta in 1976, knocking off the 11th-ranked Irish, 23-14, without throwing a single pass.

At No. 2 in the Associated Press poll, Notre Dame will be the highest ranked team that Tech has faced since a 2000 matchup with Florida State at Bobby Dodd Stadium when the Seminoles were ranked second (FSU won 26-21). The last time Tech met a higher ranked foe was also against Florida State as the Jackets fell at top-ranked FSU, 41-35, in 1999.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY RETURNS TO GEORGIA TECH

ESPN College Gameday makes its second appearance at Georgia Tech. The popular program, featuring Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Chris Fowler, first visited Georgia Tech on Oct. 24, 1998 as the Yellow Jackets hosted Florida State. The Gameday crew was also in the house for Tech’s trip to Virginia Tech last fall.

TECH IN SEASON OPENERS

Georgia Tech has a record of 78-31-4 in season openers. The Jackets won at 15th-ranked Auburn, 23-14, in last year’s opener and have won six of their last seven season openers, with the lone loss coming at Brigham Young, 24-13, in the 2003 opener.

Tech is opening its season against Notre Dame for the fourth time. The Jackets opened at Notre Dame in 1939 (lost 17-14) and 1997 (lost 14-13) and hosted the Irish for the 1974 opener. That year, Tech fell, 31-7, to a second-ranked Notre Dame team in a game that was played on Monday night on ABC.

TECH SEASON OPENERS VS. TOP 10 TEAMS

1994 Arizona (7/8) hL 14-19 1991 Penn State (7/8) nL 22-34 1982 Alabama (4) hL 7-45 1981 Alabama (4) aW 24-21 1980 Alabama (2) aL 3-26 1979 Alabama (2) hL 6-30 1974 Notre Dame (2) hL 7-31 1961 Southern Cal (9) aW 27-7

SIX WINS OVER RANKED TEAMS UNDER GAILEY

Georgia Tech defeated two nationally-ranked teams last fall, both on the road. The Jackets opened the season with a 23-14 victory at No. 15 Auburn, then knocked off third-ranked Miami, 14-10, at the Orange Bowl.

Tech’s wins over Miami and Auburn give the Jackets six wins over ranked teams in four seasons under head coach Chan Gailey. Five of the six victories have been on the road.

In 2004, Gailey’s Jackets won at 18th-ranked Clemson, 28-24, and at 23rd-ranked Maryland, 20-7.

In 2002 in Gailey’s first season on the Flats, the Jackets won at eighth-ranked NC State, 24-17. In 2003, Tech knocked off No. 17 Auburn, 17-3, at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.

Tech has defeated at least one nationally-ranked team each of the last 11 seasons.

BELIEVE THE HYPE

Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech’s sensational wide receiver, enters his junior season as one of the nation’s top players. A two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, he earned first-team all-America honors last fall. He is the preseason choice as the ACC Player of the Year as well as a preseason all-America.

Johnson already ranks among Tech’s all-time leaders with career totals of 102 receptions, 1,725 yards and 13 touchdowns after just 24 games. Over the last two seasons, he has accounted for 38 percent of Tech’s passing yards and caught 13 of the team’s 29 touchdown passes, despite facing constant double and even triple teams. In addition to his 102 catches, he has drawn 16 pass interference or defensive holding penalties.

Career Receiving Yards  Years   Yds

1. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 2,907 2. Kerry Watkins 1999-02 2,680 3. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 2,291 4. Jonathan Smith 2000-03 2,238 5. Dez White 1997-99 1,833 6. John Sias 1966-68 1,727 7. Calvin Johnson 2004- 1,725

Career Receptions Years Rec 1. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 195 2. Jonathan Smith 2000-03 174 3. Kerry Watkins 1999-02 171 4. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 165 5. Will Glover 1999-02 122 6. Bobby Rodriguez 1989-92 115 Jerry Mays 1985-89 115 8. Robert Lavette 1981-84 114 9. John Sias 1966-68 110 10.Calvin Johnson 2004- 102

Career TD Receptions Years TD 1. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 24 2. Kerry Watkins 1999-02 22 3. Dez White 1997-99 14 3. Buck Martin 1950-52 14 3. Gary Lee 1983-86 14 6. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 13 6. Jimmy Robinson 1972-74 13 6. Greg Lester 1987-91 13 Calvin Johnson 2004- 13

WROTTO, CLARK ON THE MOVE

Mansfield Wrotto is a three-year starter for the Yellow Jackets, but the senior moves for his final campaign from defensive tackle to offensive tackle.

The 6-3, 310-pounder started 32 games over the last three years at defensive tackle. Last fall he had 4.5 tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks.

Wrotto had originally moved to offense in the spring of 2005 but he returned to defensive tackle over the summer. This time, the move is for good and he will be Tech’s starting right tackle. He is both the veteran and the rookie of the offensive line – he is the only senior on the line, but the Jackets return starters at the other four positions.

Conversely, moving from offense to defense is junior Pat Clark, a backup at wide receiver the last two years who is now at cornerback, where he could earn the starting berth.

TOUGH SLATE

For the second year in a row, Georgia Tech likely will begin and end the season with non-conference games against nationally-ranked teams.

The Yellow Jackets open the 2006 season by hosting second-ranked Notre Dame at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field and conclude the fall at Georgia, currently ranked 14th. Last fall, Tech opened at Auburn, which the Jackets defeated 23-14, and ended by falling to Georgia, 14-7.

NEW FACES IN THE LINEUP

New faces will be most prominent in the secondary, where Georgia Tech must replace three starters. Junior safeties Djay Jones and Jamal Lewis will be making their first career starts. The Jackets will also have a new starter at cornerback in Pat Clark or Jahi Word-Daniels, although Clark started one game last year at wide receiver.

Elsewhere on defense, linebacker Gary Guyton, defensive end Darrell Robertson and defensive tackle Darryl Richard are first-year starters, but each has made at least one career start before this season.

On offense, the only first-time starter is sophomore wide receiver James Johnson. On special teams, Tech has new faces in punter and holder Durant Brooks and long-snapper Bret White.

A CASE FOR THE DEFENSE

Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta has built one of the nation’s top defenses over the last two seasons. Tenuta’s unit has ranked in the Top 25 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense each of the last two seasons, including 13th against the run both years.

Over the last two seasons, the Jackets have held 10 teams below 275 total yards, including Miami (237 in 2005), Georgia (226 in 2004; 266 in 2005) and Maryland (82 in 2004)

NO ROOM TO RUN

Twenty-five times in 50 games under defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta, Georgia Tech has held its opponent under 100 yards rushing, and the Jackets are 18-7 in those games.

Since the start of the 2003 season, Tech has allowed an average of 102.9 rushing yards per game and held 20 of 37 teams below 100 yards. The Jackets ranked 12th nationally in 2003, allowing 100.5 yards per game, then 13th in 2004 at 104.6 yards per game, and 13th again in 2005 at 103.9.

CONSISTENT SUCCESS

With a 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference record in 2005, Georgia Tech finished with an ACC record of .500 or better for the 11th straight year. The only other ACC school that can make that claim is Florida State, which has posted a winning ACC record each of its 14 years in the league. Clemson has the next longest current streak with seven straight years of .500 or better in the ACC.

Georgia Tech is one of just seven schools in NCAA Division I-A to post a conference record of .500 or better each of the last 11 years. The others are Florida State, Florida, Michigan, Southern Mississippi, Toledo and Miami (Ohio).

Since 1997, Tech has won more ACC games (44) than any school except Florida State (62).

LEWIS RETURNS TO TECH

Notre Dame’s visit to Georgia Tech marks the return of former Yellow Jacket head coach Bill Lewis, now the assistant head coach (defense)/defensive backs coach for the Fighting Irish.

Lewis spent three seasons as the Tech head coach, compiling a record of 11-19 from 1992-94. He had previously spent two years (1971-72) as a Tech assistant coach under Bud Carson and Bill Fulcher.

Lewis and Tech head coach Chan Gailey served two years together on the Miami Dolphins staff when Gailey was the offensive coordinator (2000-01).

NFL LEGACIES

Two current Yellow Jackets are the sons of former NFL players.

Redshirt freshman safety Jake Blackwood is the son of long-time Miami Dolphin defensive back Glenn Blackwood (1979-87). Jake’s uncle, Lyle Blackwood, also played for the Dolphins (1981-86), as well as Cincinnati, Seattle and Baltimore.

Freshman quarterback Byron Ingram, a likely redshirt, is the son of Brian Ingram, an NFL linebacker with the New England Patriots (1982-86) and San Diego Chargers (1987).

COACHING CHANGES

Georgia Tech welcomes two new assistant coaches to its staff this season. Special teams coordinator Charles Kelly comes to Tech from Nicholls State, where he served as defensive coordinator. New tight ends coach Jeep Hunter joins the Yellow Jackets staff after coaching the running backs at Memphis, where he worked with all-America D’Angelo Williams.

Another change for the Tech staff this year is that head coach Chan Gailey has turned over the offensive play-calling duties to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Patrick Nix.

BALL’S “FEETS”

Quarterback Reggie Ball has moved into second place in career rushing yards by a Georgia Tech signal caller, trailing only Joe Hamilton. Among all players, he ranks 28th on the Yellow Jackets’ career rushing list.

Ball, who was sacked only eight times last season, is one of just 11 quarterbacks in ACC history to rush for 1,000 yards. He currently stands ninth in league annals in rushing yards by a QB.

Career Rushing Yards by Tech QB Years   Yards

1. Joe Hamilton 1996-99 1,758 2. Reggie Ball 2003- 1,097 3. Danny Myers 1973-75 921 4. Shawn Jones 1989-92 855

CHOICE CUTS

The Georgia Tech backfield graduated three-year starter P.J. Daniels, the fourth leading rusher in school history, but the Yellow Jackets have a more than capable replacement in junior Tashard Choice.

Choice transferred to Tech from Oklahoma in 2005 and backed up Daniels last fall. He actually started in place of an injured Daniels in Tech’s win at third-ranked Miami, when Choice rushed for rushed for 84 yards on 29 carries and scored the Jackets’ first touchdown in the 14-10 victory.

For the season, Choice was Tech’s second-leading rusher with 513 yards and a team-high six touchdowns.

Choice rushed for a career-best 107 yards on just 15 carries and scored two touchdowns in Tech’s win at Duke. Earlier against Connecticut, he had 89 yards rushing and two touchdowns. In 2004 at Oklahoma, Choice totalled 100 yards on 22 carries while playing behind Heisman Trophy finalist Adrian Peterson.

BALL ENTERS RARE AIR

Quarterback Reggie Ball has entered “rare air” on Georgia Tech’s career passing charts. With 6,308 career passing yards and 46 touchdown passes, Ball is in the company of all-ACC honorees Joe Hamilton, Shawn Jones and George Godsey. He ranks third in Tech history in passing yards and total offense and fourth in touchdown passes and touchdown responsibility.

With 7,405 yards of total offense, Ball trails only Hamilton and Jones, both of whom finished their respective careers as the ACC’s all-time leader in total offense.

In ACC annals, Ball currently stands 16th in total offense and 19th in passing yards.

Career Passing Yards    Years   Cmp-Att TD      Yards

1. Joe Hamilton 1996-99 629-1020 65 8,882 2. Shawn Jones 1989-92 652-1217 51 8,441 3. Reggie Ball 2003- 491-986 35 6,308 4. George Godsey 1998-01 484-765 41 6,137

Career TD Passes Years TD 1. Joe Hamilton 1996-99 65 2. Shawn Jones 1989-92 51 3. George Godsey 1998-01 41 4. Reggie Ball 2003- 37

Career Total Offense Years Yards TDR 1. Joe Hamilton 1996-99 10,640 83 2. Shawn Jones 1989-92 9,296 70 3. Reggie Ball 2003- 7,405 46 4. George Godsey 1998-01 6,137 47

BELL LOOKS TO RING TRUE AGAIN

Junior placekicker Travis Bell looks to return to the all-conference form of his freshman season after enduring an up-and-down sophomore campaign.

Bell was remarkably consistent as a freshman, when he was an all-ACC selection and a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award. He hit 15-of-17 field goals, including a school-record 15 straight in 2004. The former walk-on made his first five of 2005, giving him 20 of his first 22 field goals, but then his struggles began. He missed his next six field goals, then made five in a row before missing four of his last five.

Still, Bell is 26-for-38 in his career for a field goal percentage of .684, third best in school history. He also ranks eighth in Tech annals in career points by kicking and 17th in career scoring with 136 points. He is a perfect 58-for-58 on extra points for his career.

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