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Jackets Look to Bounce Back at Duke

Oct. 11, 2005

The Georgia Tech (3-2, 1-2 ACC) football team will try and snap a two-game skid as the Yellow Jackets travel to Durham, N.C. to face Duke (1-5, 0-3 ACC) in an Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division match-up on Saturday, Oct. 15. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium and will be televised on ESPNU. Radio coverage for the game will be 790 The Zone (WQXI-AM 790) and WREK-FM (91.1).

“It’s a challenge for any football team to recover from two losses after everything was going so well in the beginning of the season,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “We just have to find a way to get back on track and play like we did in the first three games.”

The Yellow Jackets dropped out of the polls for the first time in six weeks after consecutive losses to NC State, 17-14, and No. 3 Virginia Tech, 51-7. Georgia Tech will try and avoid its first three-game losing streak since the 1996 season.

“Both of those losses hurt real bad,” said offensive guard Matt Rhodes. “We’re ready to go, we’re ready to get a win, because it’s been two or three weeks now since we’ve had that win and it really hurts you inside. We’re feeling that we’re trying everything that we can and we don’t win, so there is a sense of urgency. We do need to step up and we need to have a great game this week.”

The Blue Devils are winless in the conference with losses to the third-ranked Hokies, 45-0, then-No. 23 Virginia, 38-7, and No. 9 Miami, 52-7, last Saturday.

“They have better team speed than people give them credit for,” said Gailey. “They’re very similar to us in defense in that they blitz and stunt a lot.”

“Duke is a good team,” said Rhodes. “A lot of times people underestimate them. Duke’s going to come out kicking, scratching and fighting to give us their best effort, which we expect.”

Duke’s Justin Boyle leads the team in rushing with 277 yards and is tied for third in the ACC with five touchdowns. Teammate and fellow tailback Ronnie Drummer ran for a career-high 101 yards against the Hurricanes, including an 81-yard scamper for a touchdown in the third quarter.

“On offense, they haven’t been able to find themselves,” said Gailey. “They’ve been able to run the ball but throwing the ball hasn’t been one of their strong points. One thing they do is try to confuse you with formations, motions, and shifts. The challenge for us this week is to recognize everything that they’re doing offensively and defensively, and also to keep our intensity level up throughout the game.”

Junior cornerback John Talley leads the Blue Devils and ranks third in the league with three interceptions this season. Talley ranks fourth in the league with 240 career return yards on interceptions. Sophomore safety Chris Davis added two picks last weekend against the Hurricanes to help the Duke pass defense to a No. 6 ranking in the ACC.

Former Georgia Tech standout Ted Roof enters his third season as head coach of the Duke football program. Roof, a 1987 graduate of Tech, earned his first career victory against his alma mater, but dropped a 24-7 decision last year in his return to Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.

The Jackets’ defense leads the nation with 12 interceptions this season and redshirt sophomore linebacker Philip Wheeler leads the ACC with three. Tech ranks second in the league and seventh in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 78.6 yards per game, and 10th in the NCAA in turnover margin (+1.20).

“I don’t think we’re doing anything differently,” said Gailey about getting all the turnovers on defense. “We’re taking advantage of our opportunities this year and that’s made a big difference.”

“Just running around, flying to the ball,” said linebacker KaMichael Hall on Tech’s turnovers this season. “As many hats as you can get around the receiver, it makes it harder for him to catch the ball. So we just pride ourselves on running around, flying around, trying to get to the ball, getting as many players to the ball as possible.”

Sophomore wide receiver Calvin Johnson continues to lead the ACC in receptions per game (5.60) and receiving yards per game (101.6). The Tyrone, Ga., native tallied 10 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown against the Wolfpack last Thursday night.

Junior quarterback Reggie Ball responded in the second half of the NC State game with one of his best halves of the season. Ball, a native of Stone Mountain, Ga., passed for 206 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for another 67 yards, finishing the half 15-for-28 to lead the Jackets back into the game.

“A lot of things went his [Reggie Ball] way during the last half of the game and they (NC State) played certain coverages that allowed him to run the football and see things better,” said Gailey. “I think he had a much better idea of what was happening in the game after we decided to make adjustments at halftime. One thing I know is that Reggie could not have made those adjustments at any point in his first two years, but he was able to do it on Thursday night.”

P.J. Daniels remains the ACC’s third leading rusher with 87.4 yards per game. The senior tailback from Houston, Texas, has two touchdowns on the season and three 100-yard rushing games.

“We need to improve our special teams, run the football more effectively, and avoid giving up big plays,” said Gailey. “Everybody needs some work.”

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