Oct. 3, 2005
After a bye week, 24th-ranked Georgia Tech (3-1, 1-1 ACC) will host Atlantic Coast Conference foe NC State (1-2, 0-2 ACC) on Thursday night in Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. The Yellow Jackets and Wolfpack will play in front of a national audience on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. The game will also broadcast on 790 The Zone (WQXI-AM 790) and WREK-FM (91.1).
“There’s nothing like a Thursday night game,” said senior safety Dawan Landry. “The whole United States gets to see the game, and we’re playing a good opponent. Our crowd usually gets up for Thursday night games, and I don’t think this week will be any different.”
Tech has won four straight and nine of the last 10 meetings between these two schools. The Yellow Jackets defeated the Pack, 24-14, last season in Raleigh, N.C., but the past success against NC State does not matter much to coach Gailey and the players.
“Every game has been different but I think we’ve been fortunate to win each year,” said Gailey. “I can’t put my finger on one specific thing that has won it for us each of those years.”
“In a way, there might be an advantage, but it really doesn’t matter with an upcoming game,” said senior right tackle Brad Honeycutt. “They’re a whole new team and we’re a whole new team. You can’t look at it as a given that you’ll be successful the next time. That’s the kind of stuff that’ll get you beat.”
Despite coming into this game with a losing record, the Pack has out gained its opponents in each of its three games. NC State dropped a 20-16 decision to No. 3 Virginia Tech, but gained 438 yards of offense to the Hokies’ 232 yards. In a 31-24 loss to in state rival North Carolina, the Wolfpack gained 321 yards, to UNC’s 270.
“They could easily be 3-0,” said Landry. “They lost two games where they had some key turnovers that cost them. The yardage that they’re putting up on offense can cause a lot of defenses problems.”
NC State’s Jay Davis leads the ACC in passing with 267.3 yards per game and has thrown for over 200 yards in 10 of his last 11 starts. The senior quarterback has passed for 2,575 yards and 13 touchdowns during that span.
Sophomore Darrell Blackman and freshman Toney Baker join Davis in the Wolfpack backfield. Blackman is the top kickoff returner in the ACC, averaging 35.5 yards per kick return. Baker has scored five touchdowns in his first three games and ranks second in the nation in scoring (10.0) amongst freshman.
At the wide out position, the Wolfpack’s Tramain Hall leads the conference in receptions per game with 5.33 and stands seventh in the ACC with 60 yards per game. Tight end T.J. Williams is second on the team with 59.3 yards per game.
The nation’s top defense a year ago is again stingy, ranking 13th nationally in total defense, allowing just 260.3 yards per game. NC State’s pass defense has been solid as well, allowing 155 yards per game, ranking them 12th nationally.
Linebacker Stephen Tulloch leads the Wolfpack defense with 13.3 tackles per game, sixth in the NCAA, and ranks second in the nation with 2.8 tackles for a loss per contest. Defensive ends Mario Williams and Manny Lawson are two of the best in the ACC, with Lawson standing third in sacks with 3.5.
“They’re two big, strong ends that can run and play at an angle and challenge you to stop them if you can,” said Gailey about NC State’s Lawson and Williams. “It’s pretty impressive what they can do.”
“Their whole defensive line is very good,” said Honeycutt. “I’d rather play a good defensive front than one that’s considered bad. It’s always better to respect who you’re going against and look forward to the challenge.”
The Yellow Jackets’ offensive trio of Reggie Ball, P.J. Daniels and Calvin Johnson continue to lead Tech. Ball, a junior quarterback from Stone Mountain, ranks sixth in the ACC in total offense at 221.3 yards per game.
Daniels, a tailback from Houston, Texas, is third in the ACC with 94 yards per game and has surpassed the century mark in three of Tech’s first four games.
Johnson, a sophomore from Tyrone, Ga., leads the conference with 94.5 yards receiving per game and is fifth in the ACC with 4.50 receptions per game. The preseason All-America candidate is eighth in the league with three touchdown catches.
The Jackets’ defense remains one of the top units in the ACC, holding opponents to 312.2 yards per game. Tech ranks third in the ACC in rushing defense, surrendering just 84.2 yards per game and continues to lead the nation with 10 interceptions (3.33 per game).
“His philosophy is to bring pressure, and to find ways to create blocking scheme and protection problems,” said Gailey about Tech’s defensive coordinator John Tenuta. “We try to get to the quarterback and we’ll bring everybody on the defense in order to be able to do that. His main goal is to create confusion and he’s been very successful at it.”
All-ACC linebacker Gerris Wilkinson leads the Jackets with 8.5 tackles per game, sixth in the ACC. Landry averages 7.2 tackles per game and is one of two Yellow Jackets (Philip Wheeler) who has two interceptions on the season.