Oct. 30, 2005
ATLANTA–After knocking off Clemson for its second straight win, Georgia Tech hosts Wake Forest, which has also won two in a row, in an Atlantic Coast Conference contest Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
There is no live television, Tech’s first game this season not to be televised.
Tech is 5-2 overall, 3-2 in the ACC after last Saturday’s 10-9 thriller against Clemson. Wake Forest, coming off wins over NC State and Duke, is 4-5, 3-3 in the ACC.
Georgia Tech’s defense was the story in the win over Clemson. Tech forced four turnovers, grabbing three fumble recoveries against a Clemson offense that had not lost a fumble all season. The Tigers gained 145 yards rushing and 325 total yards, but six trips inside the Tech 35 netted just three field goals. Clemson did manage 145 yards rushing, the most allowed by Tech this season, and Tiger tailback Reggie Merriweather (128 yards) became the first back to top 100 yards against the Tech defense since Miami’s Frank Gore in the fourth game of 2004.
For the season, the Jackets rank in the top 30 nationally in all defensive categories, including 11th in rushing defense (102.7 yards per game), 12th in pass efficiency defense (102.8) and 19th in total defense (304.4 ypg).
Perhaps more importantly, Tech is second in the nation in interceptions with 15 and fifth in turnover margin at +1.29 per game. The Jackets’ 21 turnovers forced ranks 11th in the nation.
The primary thieves have been sophomore linebacker Philip Wheeler, who leads the ACC and ranks fifth in the nation with four interceptions, and senior safety Dawan Landry, who has three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
All-ACC middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson is Tech’s top tackler with 55, including six tackles for loss and one interception, while junior linebacker KaMichael Hall has a team-leading seven tackles for loss.
Tech will face a Wake Forest offense that leads the ACC in rushing at 215.6 yards per game, led by senior Chris Barclay, who averages a league-leading 124.8 yards per game, good for seventh in the nation.
In Barclay (3,903 career yards) and Tech’s P.J. Daniels (3,010), the game will feature two of the top nine active rushers in the nation.
Daniels, the senior from Houston, Texas, had 100 yards rushing and scored the game’s only touchdown against Clemson. He ranks third in the ACC at 84.9 yards rushing per game.
But Daniels has company in the Tech backfield in the person of sophomore Tashard Choice, who combines with Daniels to form an effective one-two punch. Choice has rushed for 306 yards with a 5.1-yard average and four touchdowns.
Perhaps the best example of Tech’s “pony express” backfield was the game-winning touchdown drive against Clemson as Choice and Daniels combined for 64 yards on the 85-yard march. First, Choice ripped off a 32-yard run and then a three-yard gain to the Clemson 29. Then Daniels had runs of 16 and four yards to the nine. On third-and-6 from the nine, Choice caught a short pass in the flat and dove for the first-down marker at the three, and two plays later, Daniels scored to put the Jackets ahead 10-6 with 8:35 in the game.
For the season, the pair of Daniels and Choice have combined for 900 yards rushing (128.6 yards per game) and seven touchdowns.
Tech quarterback Reggie Ball is averaging 231.3 yards of total offense per game, including 197.7 yards through the air with six touchdown passes as well as two rushing touchdowns.
His favorite target is sensational sophomore Calvin Johnson, who leads the ACC in receiving yards per game (89.6) while ranking second in receptions (5.14 pg). Johnson has four touchdown catches.
THE SERIES WITH WAKE FOREST
Georgia Tech holds a 19-7 lead in the series with Wake Forest. The Yellow Jackets have won two of the last three and seven of the last nine encounters.
Tech and Wake did not play in 2004, and the Yellow Jackets won the last meeting in 2003 with a 24-7 decision in Winston-Salem.
The Demon Deacons captured the last game in Atlanta, 24-21 in 2002. Tech leads 8-3 in games at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field, with Wake’s only victories coming in 2002, 1994 (20-13) and 1987 (33-6).
The series dates all the way back to 1917, when the John Heisman-coached Yellow Jackets defeated Wake Forest, 33-0. After Tech downed the Deacons by a cumulative score of 133-0 in four games from 1917-1921, the two schools did not play again until Tech joined the ACC. The Jackets then won four more in a row from 1982-86 by a 159-57 combined score, giving Tech a 292-57 advantage before Wake broke through with a 24-21 victory in 1986.
P.J. Daniels rushed for 175 yards and one touchdown and Jonathan Smith caught seven passes for a career-high 194 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown, to lead Georgia Tech to its third straight victory, a 24-7 win at Wake Forest on Oct. 11, 2003. Tech piled up 216 yards rushing and 225 yards passing. Quarterback Reggie Ball, then a freshman, completed 12 of 24 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Free safety James Butler, now with the New York Giants, led a strong defensive effort with nine tackles, an interception, two forced fumbles and a blocked field goal.
Georgia Tech cornerback Kenny Scott played perhaps his best game in a Yellow Jacket uniform in an outstanding defensive effort in Tech’s 10-9 win over Clemson.
The junior from Daytona Beach, Fla., made the play of the game in the fourth quarter. After Tech took its first lead at 10-6 with eight minutes left, Clemson’s Aaron Kelly returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to the Tech 19. On third-and-goal from the four, Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst had Chansi Stuckey open in the corner of the end zone, but Scott knocked the ball away at the last second, forcing the Tigers to settle for a field goal and preserving Tech’s lead. On Clemson’s next possession, Scott’s fourth-down stop at the Tech 38 with two minutes left ended the Tigers’ threat.
Scott, who has two interceptions on the season, finished with six tackles and two pass breakups.
HENDERSON MAKES HIS PRESENCE FELT
Returning to the lineup after missing four games with an ankle injury, defensive end Eric Henderson made an immediate impact in Georgia Tech’s 10-9 win over Clemson.
Henderson had two sacks, both times causing fumbles by Tiger quarterback Charlie Whitehurst that Tech recovered. The second fumble was recovered by Yellow Jacket linebacker Philip Wheeler at the Tigers’ 34-yard line to set up a Tech field goal on the final play of the first half.
Henderson, the senior from New Orleans, also had another tackle for loss, giving him three for the game and raising his career total to 55, just two shy of Greg Gathers’ school record.
HENDERSON CLIMBS CAREER LISTS
Eric Henderson, Tech’s all-ACC defensive end, is nearing the Georgia Tech record for career tackles for loss, which includes sacks and other tackles for minus yardage.
The senior from New Orleans, La., has 55 career tackles for loss to rank second in Yellow Jacket annals, needing just three to break Greg Gathers’ Tech record of 57. He set a Tech season record with 24 tackles for loss in 2003.
Henderson has climbed into fifth place in Georgia Tech history with 22 career sacks. As a sophomore in 2003, he led the ACC with 11 sacks.
Punter Ben Arndt has developed into a reliable weapon for the Yellow Jackets. The senior from Young Harris, Ga., is averaging 41.7 yards per kick with 16 punts downed inside the 20 and just one touchback. Tech’s net of 38.14 per punt is second in the ACC and 11th in the nation.
PRINCE OF A RUNNER
Senior tailback P.J. Daniels looks like the Daniels of 2003, when he led the ACC with 1,447 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns and earned first-team all-conference honors. Last season, injuries forced him to miss four games and two other halves, and he managed 714 yards and eight touchdowns.
Daniels currently ranks third in the ACC, averaging 84.7 yards per game. He has topped 100-yards four times in 2005, most recently going for 100 yards against Clemson, following 114 against Connecticut, 103 yards against North Carolina and 111 versus Auburn. He has 14 100-yard games for his career.
The Houston, Texas, native topped the 3,000-yard mark against Clemson. He stands in fourth place on Tech’s career rushing list with 3,010 yards. A former walk-on who earned a scholarship after the 2002 season, Daniels has averaged 98.3 yards per game since the start of the 2003 season.
Daniels, a two-time Academic All-ACC selection, had two of the top three rushing games in Tech history in the 2003 season with 307 yards against Tulsa in the Humanitarian Bowl and 240 yards versus North Carolina.
Tech’s Career Rushing Leaders Years Att. TD Yards 1. Robert Lavette 1981-84 914 45 4,066 2. Jerry Mays 1985-89 695 18 3,699 3. Eddie Lee Ivery 1975-78 609 22 3,517 4. P.J. Daniels 2002- 642 23 3,010
BALL ENTERS RARE AIR
Quarterback Reggie Ball has entered “rare air” on Georgia Tech’s career passing charts. With 5,329 career passing yards and 32 touchdown passes, Ball now stands in fourth place in Tech history in both categories, trailing only a trio of all-ACC honorees in Joe Hamilton, Shawn Jones and George Godsey.
With 6,247 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.
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. George Godsey 1998-01 484-765 41 6,137 4. Reggie Ball 2003-present 448-891 32 5,329
Over the last three games, junior quarterback Reggie Ball has rushed for 175 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. For the season, Ball is Tech’s third-leading rusher with a net of 202 yards and an average of 4.0 yards per carry.
Ball has been sacked just three times all season. As a team, Tech leads the ACC in fewest sacks allowed with five.
Ball has moved into third place in career rushing yards by a Tech signal caller, trailing only Joe Hamilton (1,758) and option specialist Danny Myers (921). He needs just four yards to pass Myers, and 82 yards to become the 31st 1,000-yard rusher in Georgia Tech history.