Sept. 6, 2004
ATLANTA–After opening the season with a non-conference victory over Samford, Georgia Tech begins Atlantic Coast Conference play with a visit to 15th-ranked Clemson Saturday for a sold-out, nationally-televised (ABC-TV) contest at 8 p.m. at Clemson Memorial Stadium.
Led by standout tailback P.J. Daniels, the Yellow Jackets (1-0) dispatched of the Division I-AA Bulldogs with relative ease in a 28-7 victory. Daniels rushed for 169 yards and scored three touchdowns.
The Tigers (1-0, 1-0 ACC), No. 15 in the Associated Press media poll and No. 16 in the coaches’ poll, struck first in the ACC race with a 37-30, double-overtime victory over Wake Forest.
Daniels, who gained 1,447 yards in 2003, is a preseason nominee for the Walter Camp Player of the Award. The Houston, Texas native is joined in the Tech backfield by senior fullback Jimmy Dixon and sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball, the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2003, when he passed for 1,996 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Ball opened the season with a solid performance as he completed 14 of 21 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. His targets include senior wideout Nate Curry, the Jackets’ top returning receiver who had three catches against Samford, including a 14-yard touchdown. Senior Levon Thomas caught three passes for 54 yards, while highly-touted freshman Calvin Johnson had two catches for 45 yards in his debut.
Anchoring the offensive line are three returning starters in senior tackle Kyle Wallace, senior center Andy Tidwell-Neal and junior guard Brad Honeycutt.
Defensively, senior free safety James Butler and junior defensive end Eric Henderson have both received preseason all-America recognition.
After leading the ACC in sacks last season with 11, Henderson pairs at defensive end with junior Travis Parker, a converted defensive tackle, although neither played against Samford. Parker will be back this week, while Henderson is questionable.
Butler, a preseason nominee for the Jim Thorpe Award, leads a veteran secondary that also returns junior strong safety Dawan Landry and junior cornerback Reuben Houston.
Juniors Gerris Wilkinson and Chris Reis, a pair of Academic All-ACC selections, anchor Tech’s revamped linebacker corps after moving there from defensive end and safety, respectively.
Tech faces a Clemson offense led by all-star quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who passed for 288 yards and two touchdowns against Wake Forest.
GEORGIA TECH VS. CLEMSON
Georgia Tech holds a 43-23-2 lead in the series with Clemson, which dates back to 1898. The Tigers have won three in a row, following a four-game streak by Tech. Clemson won last year’s game, 39-3, in Atlanta. The Jackets’ last win in the series was a 31-28 victory over the then fourth-ranked Tigers at Clemson in 2000.
Eleven of the 14 meetings since 1990 have been decided by five points or fewer, including six straight meetings from 1996-2001 that were decided by exactly three points.
Tech has played at Clemson just 12 times since first travelling there in 1974. The Jackets have a record of 4-8 at Clemson, winning two of the last three meetings there.
In the expanded Atlantic Coast Conference, Tech and Clemson will continue to meet each year as permanent rivals from opposite divisions
JACKETS OPEN WITH WIN OVER SAMFORD
P.J. Daniels rushed for 169 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead Georgia Tech to a 28-7 victory in its season opener against NCAA Division I-AA Samford at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. Daniels, who recorded the seventh 100-yard game of his career, totalled 193 all-purpose yards as he scored on a 25-yard screen pass to go along with rushing touchdowns of 46 yards and one yard. Quarterback Reggie Ball completed 14 of 21 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns as he also hit Nate Curry with a 14-yard scoring pass. The Tech defense held Samford to 211 yards of total offense, including 42 yards rushing.
With 169 yards in the season opener, P.J. Daniels vaulted from 12th place to eighth place on Georgia Tech’s career rushing list. Daniels moved ahead of Lenny Snow, Joe Hamilton, Ronny Cone and Leon Hardeman with his performance against Samford. His next target is seventh place William Bell with 2,026 yards. Daniels gained 1,447 yards last fall, the second-best season total in Tech history (Eddie Lee Ivery, 1,562 in 1978) and fourth-best in ACC annals.
Tech's Career Rushing Leaders Years Att. TD Yards1. Robert Lavette 1981-84 914 45 4,0662. Jerry Mays 1985-89 695 18 3,6993. Eddie Lee Ivery 1975-78 609 22 3,5174. Joe Burns 1998-01 614 31 2,6345. C.J. Williams 1994-96 539 20 2,3656. David Sims 1974-76 379 21 2,2747. William Bell 1989-93 418 14 2,0268. P.J. Daniels 2002- 380 14 1,871
BACK-TO-BACK DOMINATING EFFORTS
Georgia Tech’s last two games have been dominating efforts as the Yellow Jackets followed last January’s 52-10 victory over Tulsa in the Humanitarian Bowl with the season-opening, 28-7 win over Samford. In the two games, the Tech defense allowed just 355 yards of total offense, holding Tulsa to minus-56 yards rushing and Samford to 42 yards on the ground. On offense, Tech gained 677 yards rushing.
TEN TRUE FRESHMEN SEE ACTION
Ten true freshmen saw action in Georgia Tech’s first game, including wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who started the contest and caught two passes for 45 yards. Also playing against Samford were wide receiver Pat Clark, who returned punt and kickoff returns, placekicker Kyle Belcher, cornerback Jamal Lewis, safety Djay Jones, fullback Mike Cox, linebacker Gary Guyton, guard Nate McManus and defensive linemen Darryl Richard and Darrell Robertson.
REGAL EFFORTS FOR PRINCE
Junior tailback P.J. Daniels rushed for 169 yards against Samford, but that was just the fourth-best game of his career. In his last five games, Daniels has gained 837 yards rushing.
Daniels turned in two of the top performances in Georgia Tech and ACC history in his last four games, totalling 668 yards. He had what was then the second-best rushing performance in Georgia Tech history with 240 yards on 36 carries in the Yellow Jackets’ win over North Carolina.
Daniels topped that three games later with an NCAA bowl-game record 307 yards and four touchdowns (a school record) in Tech’s 52-10 Humanitarian Bowl victory over Tulsa. Only Eddie Lee Ivery with 356 yards against Air Force in 1978–which stood as the NCAA single-game record until 1984–has rushed for more yards in a Tech uniform.
In his last five games, Daniels has rushed for 837 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He has 476 yards and six touchdowns in his last two games.
DANIELS' TOP GAMES Att Rush TD All-P TDTulsa, 2003 31 307 4 307 4North Carolina, 2003 36 240 0 248 1Wake Forest, 2003 33 175 1 175 1Samford, 2004 25 169 2 193 3
> PALMETTO STATE
Tech has three players from the state of South Carolina, including senior backup quarterback Mark Logan, the state’s Mr. Football in 1999 after leading Greenwood High to the state title. Walk-ons David Smith (Mt. Pleasant) and David Sanborn (North Augusta) also hail from the Palmetto State.
NO ROOM TO RUN
Georgia Tech held Samford to just 42 yards rushing in the season opener, marking the 13th time in 27 games under defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta that the Jackets have allowed fewer than 100 yards rushing.
Georgia Tech led in the ACC and ranked 12th nationally in rushing defense in 2003, allowing 100.5 yards per game. Tech held seven opponents last season to fewer than 100 yards rushing.
The Jackets had two of the top six performances in school history against the run last season. After holding NC State to minus-eight yards during the regular season, the Jackets set a school record in the Humanitarian Bowl against Tulsa, which was credited with minus-56 yards. Tech also held Auburn to just 40 yards rushing, BYU to 86 yards, Virginia to 89, Florida State to 91, and Maryland to 96 in 2003.
NEW FACES AT LINEBACKER
Georgia Tech enters the 2004 season with a brand new trio at linebacker, where the Jackets graduated all three starters. Tech must replace two of the most productive defenders in school history in Daryl Smith, a second-round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars who had 383 career tackles with 48 tackles for loss, and Keyaron Fox, a third-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs who had 376 tackles with 40 tackles for loss.
Tech has turned to a pair of veterans who played other positions last season. Junior middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson started every game at defensive end last season, collecting 47 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and four sacks. Junior outside linebacker Chris Reis was Tech’s top backup at safety last fall, when he had 37 tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks. Both players were named to the 2003 ACC All-Academic football team.
Reis and Wilkinson passed their first test against Samford, helping Tech hold the Bulldogs to 211 yards of offense and just 42 yards rushing. Reis was Tech’s leading tackler in the game with 10 hits, including a tackle for loss, while Wilkinson added six tackles.
ENDS FILL IN
Georgia Tech faces Samford without both of its starting defensive ends in Eric Henderson, a first-team all-ACC selection who led the ACC in sacks last fall, and Travis Parker, an honorable mention all-ACC selection in 2003.
Filling in was Chirod Williams, a fifth-year senior who has played sparingly before this season, and redshirt freshman Adamm Oliver. Williams had four tackles with a tackle for loss, while Oliver, who likes to joke that the extra “M” in his first name stands for “Machine,” had four tackles and a fumble recovery.
SOLID DEBUTS FOR NEW KICKERS
Georgia Tech’s punting, placekicking and kickoff jobs are in the hands–and on the feet–of new players this season.
In his debut as Tech’s placekicker, redshirt freshman Travis Bell was perfect on four PATs, although he did miss from 46 yards on his only field goal attempt.
True freshman Kyle Belcher was outstanding on kickoffs. After his first kickoff was fielded behind the back of the end zone, he had two more touchbacks. His other two kickoffs were fielded at the goal line with excellent hang time and were returned to the 12 and the 17 yard lines.
Junior transfer Ben Arndt was named Tech’s punter just two days before the game. He averaged 39.8 yards on four punts with a net of 36.5.
Arndt spent two years at Tusculum College, an NCAA Division II school in Greeneville, Tenn. In 2002, he punted nine times for a 39.7-yard average with a long of 42 yards. He enrolled at Tech in 2003 and then joined the football team as a walk-on last spring.
Senior Andy Thomson, whom Arndt beat out for the punting job, takes over as holder. The lone returnee is senior long-snapper Andrew Economos, in his third year in that role.