Oct. 25, 2004
After two straight wins, Georgia Tech (4-2, 3-2 ACC) hosts its second ranked opponent in Bobby Dodd Stadium as No. 22 Virginia Tech (5-2, 2-1 ACC) travels to Atlanta on Thursday night. The nationally televised Atlantic Coast Conference game is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.
“I think anytime you know you are the national game you rally to that,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “The other team rallies to it for the same reason because it’s the national game. I agree that there is some added enthusiasm and excitement around this ballgame.”
After a 17-16 loss to NC State on Sept. 25, the Hokies have won three straight games, including an upset of then No. 6 West Virginia, 19-13, on Oct. 2. Virginia Tech has only allowed 10 touchdowns in its first seven games and its defense and special teams have scored a combined four touchdowns this season.
“Their schemes are good and their attitude is good,” said Gailey on Virginia Tech’s special teams unit. “They have an attitude that they want to be good on special teams, and that is evident by the way they play.”
Virginia Tech’s defense ranks fifth in the nation in scoring defense (11.6 points per game), seventh in total defense (265.4 yards allowed per game) and eighth in passing defense (151.7 yards allowed per game).
“No weaknesses,” said Gailey. “Seriously, no weaknesses on their defense. They are all very good football players. They make you earn it. They have good athletes and they have a good scheme. We will have to work on offense in order to be successful.”
Senior quarterback Bryan Randall leads the offense for the Hokies and set a new school record with his 32nd-straight start on Oct. 16. Randall is currently fifth in the ACC in total offense (194.6 yards per game) and has passed for over 5,000 yards and rushed for over a 1,000 in his career.
“First of all he is a very savvy quarterback,” said Gailey. “He is smart and doesn’t make mistakes. When he pulls it down and runs, you have to tackle him. This guy is an excellent runner.
“I think you have to worry about both of them,” said Gailey on Randall’s ability to run or throw. “You certainly don’t say, `well, if we cover them, then there is a quarterback that is not a threat.’ You still have to worry about your lanes and who has outside containment is in the right place, and if you have a spy, that he is on top of things.”
After missing the first three games due to a suspension, Virginia Tech’s Mike Imoh returns to the backfield for the Hokies. Imoh has 331 rushing yards and two touchdowns in three games, including a season-high 115 versus the sixth-ranked Mountaineers.
“I think they have settled on him a little bit more,” said Gailey. “Any time you start to settle on somebody, then you can figure out what he does best and work some schemes into the offense to let him do what he does best.”
The Hokies’ special teams have been one of the best in the country for several years now. Head coach Frank Beamer’s `Beamerball’ struck West Virginia as Vincent Fuller returned a blocked field goal for a 74-yard touchdown and punt returner Eddie Royal is third in the ACC in punt return yardage (13.8 yards per return).
The Rambling Wreck defense has only allowed one touchdown in their last two games and ranks third in the league in pass defense (104.1 yards allowed per game) and fourth in total defense (288.0 yards allowed per game). The Jackets are 14th in the nation in passing defense, 16th in total defense and 17th in pass efficiency defense.
“I think our guys have a great deal of confidence right now,” said Gailey. “We are not to the point where we have any kind of cockiness about us, but I think we have a lot of confidence about ourselves. It’s not too hard to reach back to North Carolina and remember how we didn’t play well. I think our guys understand that if we do our job and everybody plays to their ability and does what they are suppose to, we have a chance to be a very good defense.”
Linebackers Gerris Wilkinson and Chris Reis continue to lead the Jackets on defense. Wilkinson ranks third in the ACC in tackles per game (10), while Reis leads the conference with seven sacks and two forced fumbles.
After posting his third 100-yard rushing game of the season against Duke, junior running back P.J. Daniels took over the league’s lead in rushing, averaging 105.8 yards per game. Daniels has four rushing touchdowns this season and passed for one against the Blue Devils.
Freshman wide out Calvin Johnson continues to climb the ACC charts for the Jackets. Johnson ranks third in the league in receiving yards per game (65.8) and third in receptions per game (3.83). The Tyrone, Ga., native leads Tech with 23 catches for 395 yards. The two-time ACC Rookie of the Week caught two touchdown passes in Tech’s 24-7 win over Duke.