Oct. 7, 2003
The Georgia Tech football team will try and win its third consecutive game this Saturday against Atlantic Coast Conference foe Wake Forest (3-2, 1-1 ACC) in Winston-Salem, N.C. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. in Groves Stadium and will not be televised.
Wake Forest enters the contest after a bye last week. The Demon Deacons have one of the best special team units in the country and can create turnovers on defense. Wake Forest ranks fifth in the nation in turnover margin (+1.60) and sophomore kicker Ryan Plackemeier ranks third in the NCAA in punting average (46.7). Along with talented special teams, the Deacs run an option based offense with a lot of misdirection plays.
“What they’ve done is that they’ve taken the misdirection more out of the wishbone, some of the option, but a lot of the misdirection: the counter plays, the reverses, the things like getting people to run one way and come back the other way,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “They’ve taken a ton of that out of the wishbone, which we all used. Wishbone is full one way, all 10 guys headed that way, and then if you can get a counter going, you can have a big play. His base offense is sprint-out pass and power running, but he does enough of the option, misdirection, and the reverses to create problems for you. You can’t go full-bore on anything on the front side because you’ve got to monitor the backside.”
The Demon Deacons are an attacking offense that tries to take advantage of over-pursuit and aggressiveness with misdirection and roll out patterns. Georgia Tech, who plays an aggressive style, must pick its spots on where and when to be aggressive.
“We’re searching for that,” said Gailey. “You cannot walk on the field and say that you’re not going to be aggressive, though. We’re an attacking defense, so we’re going to make you adjust, we’re not going to adjust off of you. We’re going to come after them just like we’ve come after everybody, that’s what we do. You have to pick and choose how you’re going to do it, and make sure that you’re smart about how you do it, but it’s not going to keep us from being aggressive.”
The Tech defense held the nation’s No. 5 offense, NC State, to 336 total yards in last Saturday’s 29-21 win. The Jackets allowed 13 points through 59:54 and held State to minus-eight yards on the ground, the fifth-best performance in school history. NC State was averaging close to 40 points per game and over 470 yards of offense.
“I think first of all, we have great quickness on our defense that allows us to get into some gaps and to stunt and create problems for blocking schemes,” said Gailey. “If you can do that, you can stop the run. If you can stop the run, it allows you to do a lot of things on defense. I know the other day (against NC State), they would have first down and then they’d end up with second-and-12 or second-and-13, because it was minus-two and minus-three yards. I’ve been on the other side of that too, I know how hard that is.”
The Yellow Jacket offense has been more balanced over the last two weeks. Mixing in long and intermediate pass plays, along with an effective running attack, has allowed Tech to spread the ball all over the field.
“It’s just like we talk about Wake’s offense where we have to monitor a lot of threats,” said Gailey. “Now you just can’t zone in on one guy or one phase of the offense, you now have to honor everything. For a while, like we said, the biggest thing was Jonathan Smith and maybe Reggie (Ball) running it, scrambling on an attempted pass or a called pass play. Now it’s a little bit more than that. So if we can continue to improve, hopefully we’ll continue to improve our numbers. I still believe in the ball-controlled offense, and not turning it over and not taking sacks. We didn’t turn it over last week, but the sack thing is something that we’re going to have to eliminate. Reggie thinks that he can get out of anything, and eventually he’ll learn that he’s going to have to throw a few of them away.
The special teams unit made some big plays against NC State with a fumble recovery on a kick off and a 90-yard kick off return. But Gailey knows that it’s far from being perfect, just yet.
“It was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with our special teams,” said Gailey. “They were great and they were awful. We had some big returns, we recovered the sky kickoff for a big play, and both of those set up scores. Both of those were big plays. But we did not kick the ball very well. We did not cover very well. So I’m disappointed in some aspects, but we keep getting big plays with special teams. It seems like every week we get a big play with special teams, which is good, we need that. Eliminate some of the negative, and we’ll be in great shape.”
Tech comes off its best all-around performance last week, establishing season highs in points and total offense (372), and had very good performances from quarterback Reggie Ball, wide receiver Jonathan Smith and tailback P.J. Daniels.
Ball was named ACC Rookie of the Week for the second straight week, and third time overall, going 24 of 37 for a season-high 283 yards and two touchdowns. The 5-9 freshman connected on a career-long 42-yard touchdown pass to teammate Smith on Tech’s first score of the ballgame to get the Jackets going on offense. The two-way threat also gained 45 yards on the ground (does not include sack yardage).
Smith continues to climb the record books at Georgia Tech. The Argyle, Ga., native caught nine balls for 155 yards and one touchdown last week en route to being named ACC Offensive Back of the Week. He moved up to fourth place on the career receptions list and 10th on the career receiving yardage list.
Daniels fell one yard short of reaching the century mark for the second straight game and third time this season. He ended the game with 99 yards rushing and ranks third in the ACC averaging 74.7 yards per game.
“In some respects, we’ve moved a long way, in other respects, we’re gaining gradually,” said Gailey. “We haven’t improved by leaps and bounds, by any means, but we are making some improvements. I think that’s probably evident by the fact that since the first game, P.J. (Daniels) has had three almost-100-yard games. We’ve thrown the ball better, and we’re getting more people involved. It’s not just Jonathan Smith anymore, now it’s P.J, now it’s Nate Curry. I’d like to see us get J.P. (Foschi) involved a little bit more, if we can. It just depends on the game, the situation, and what defenses are being called.”
Linebacker Keyaron Fox continues to lead the Tech defense with 70 tackles on the year. Fox currently ranks fifth in the ACC with 11.7 tackles per game. Fellow linebacker Daryl Smith ranks second on the Tech squad with 58 tackles and stands ninth in the league. Defensive lineman Eric Henderson is tied for second in the ACC with five sacks on the season.