Oct. 5, 2004
Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-2 ACC) will travel to No. 23 Maryland (3-1, 1-0 ACC) for an Atlantic Coast Conference match-up on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. The Yellow Jackets will try and snap the Terrapins’ 13-game winning streak in Byrd Stadium. The game will be regionally televised on ABC (WSB-TV in Atlanta).
“I don’t know that players sit around and think about that,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey about his team dealing with adversity. “I think players sit around and look at game plan, opponents and challenges and line up to play as good as they can. The big picture stuff gets heaped on them when they are more involved in their own individual position, responsibilities and their side of the ball. They take a lot of pride in their play individually and understand what’s at stake for the team and care about that deeply.”
The Terps are coming off a bye week after handling Duke, 55-21, in Durham, N.C., on Sept. 25. In the win, Maryland tied a school record with 35 first downs, 100 offensive plays and had 685 total yards on offense, the second most by a Ralph Friedgen UMD squad. The Terps lead the ACC in pass offense (238.2 yards per game) and are second in total offense (454.5 yards per game) and scoring offense (34.8 points per game).
Maryland’s starting quarterback Joel Statham leads the league with 226.8 yards per game through the air. Statham ranks second in the ACC in pass efficiency (140.7) and is tied with Tech’s Reggie Ball with seven touchdown passes, tops in the ACC.
The Terrapins use a two-back attack on the ground. Tailbacks Sammy Maldonado and Josh Allen share the load and both rank in the top 10 in the ACC in rushing, averaging 89.5 and 73.5 yards per game, respectively.
The special team’s unit for Maryland has been one of its keys for success this season. Steve Suter, who is four yards shy of becoming the ACC’s all-time leader in punt return yardage, leads the Terps. Nick Novak, the ACC’s all-time leading scorer, has converted on 9 of 11 field goals this season and continues to be a key ingredient for the Terrapins.
Not to be outdone, Maryland’s defense has been solid this season. The Terps rank in the top six in the league in total defense (305.0 yards per game), rushing defense (144.0 yards per game) and pass defense (143.0 yards per game).
“They lost eight of eleven starters off of last year’s team and they are pretty good again this year,” said Gailey. “I think [Shawne] Merriman is one of the better players in the conference. He is a really good football player. Obviously [Domonique] Foxworth is a very good football player too. But they have taken other guys and put them on the field and are making things happen defensively and are doing a good job.”
The Yellow Jackets played without the services of the ACC’s leading rusher P.J. Daniels last weekend against No. 4 Miami. Daniels is probable for Saturday’s game and defensive end Eric Henderson should be close to 100 percent this weekend after playing in his first game of the season against the Hurricanes.
“I thought he [Henderson] was between 80 and 90 percent against Miami,” said Gailey. “He gained a ton of confidence going through the ballgame last week and he will be closer to 100 percent this week. Even though he didn’t have the sack totals, he helped our sack total.
“I think P.J. has a very good chance to be back this weekend. I would say he is probable. He will not go through a full practice today. We will limit what he does in practice, but I think he can be full speed by tomorrow. We are going to let him test it today. If everything goes well, we will have a chance to let him go more full speed tomorrow.”
Freshman Calvin Johnson is the leading receiver for the Yellow Jackets with 56.8 yards per game. Johnson stands fourth in the ACC in receiving yards per game and fifth in receptions per game (3.50). After catching three touchdown passes, including the game winner with 11 seconds left against then-No. 20 Clemson, defenses across the ACC have taken notice.
“He has seen a lot more double coverage over the last two games,” said Gailey. “They’re rolling over the top and doing a lot of that bump hard and jamming him. He has seen a lot more looks than he thought he would see in the first four weeks of his career, I can promise you that. When you have a game like he had in the second game of your career, you’re going to start getting that type of attention.”
Sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball is fourth in the ACC in passing yards per game (171.0) and fifth in total offense (206.5).
“Reggie is the starter,” said Gailey. “There’s no question on that. As we look at the game plan, if we can find a way to use and get [Damarius] Bilbo’s hands on the ball, we will continue to use that option. He is a good athlete and we would like to try to get his hands on the ball. We are going to make plans to have someone ready to go this week and put somebody in just to give some else the opportunity if that situation arises.”