Sept. 14, 2004
Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0 ACC) will hit the road for the second straight week against North Carolina (1-1, 0-1 ACC) in an Atlantic Coast Conference game on Saturday night in Kenan Memorial Stadium. The non-televised match-up kicks off at 6 p.m.
“I think that you have to get them to understand the capabilities of the team,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “Not where they are now but what they are capable of. They have to understand that we have to go out there and play the way we are capable of. That’s what I’m trying to get across to our players. We have a level we have to get to and it doesn’t matter who we line up against. We have to play to our level and work on our execution. If we can do that, than we will gain some consistency.”
The Tar Heels possess one of the most potent offenses in the conference. Carolina ranks second in total offense (504.5 yards per game), passing (266.5 yards per game) and pass efficiency (.688 completion percentage). Returning starting quarterback Darian Durant leads the Tar Heel attack and ranks 12th in ACC history with 6,879 career passing yards.
“They are that explosive,” said Gailey. “They did not put it all together last week, but they scored 49 the first week. They scored a bunch of points last year. They have some very good football players and they have a good scheme and they do a good job with their execution. When [Darian] Durant is hot, he is as good as anybody and he can beat you with his legs too. This is a good offensive football team. We have our work cut out for us.”
The Tar Heels also utilize an effective running attack to keep teams off-balanced on defense. Sophomore tailback Ronnie McGill is rushing for 95.0 yards per game heading into this week’s game and ranks third in the ACC. McGill tallied 133 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in UNC’s opener versus William & Mary.
“They have a good running game too,” said Gailey. “They have a few guys averaging a lot of yards per game with [Ronnie] McGill leading. I think that goes back to the same point that we talked about before, it doesn’t matter who we are playing. We have to go out and shut down what they do best and keep those big plays from happening. It doesn’t matter if they have blue uniforms or red uniforms or orange uniforms, it doesn’t matter. We have to play to our level. That’s the thing we are preaching. It doesn’t matter what they look like on film. If they look bad, they can be great this week. If they look great, they can be bad this week.”
Sophomore wide receiver Adarius Bowman leads Carolina in receptions this year with nine for 128 yards. Bowman has one touchdown catch in 2004 and stands seventh in the ACC in both yards and receptions per game.
The Rambling Wreck has won six straight in the series and three consecutive games in Chapel Hill, N.C. Tech scored 24 points in the fourth quarter last year in Atlanta to defeat the Tar Heels, 41-24. The Yellow Jackets posted three touchdowns in the final period last week to upset No. 18 Clemson, 28-24, and look to continue the offensive explosion this Saturday.
The Georgia Tech wide receiver corps of seniors Nate Curry and Levon Thomas, junior Damarius Bilbo and freshman Calvin Johnson have made it difficult for opposing defenses to key on one facet of the game for the Jackets. The Jackets gained 275 yards through the air against the 18th-ranked Tigers, and Johnson led the way with eight catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns. For his effort, Johnson was tabbed ACC Rookie of the Week.
“Last year we had two proven guys, Jonathan [Smith] and Nate [Curry],” said Gailey. “I don’t even think Nate was 100-percent healthy like he is this year. This year we look like we have four guys that can go out there compete at a very high level and that is very good for our football team. We helped our receiving corps a great deal this year.”
After leading his team to a stellar come-from-behind victory, sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball continues to show poise under pressure. Ball finished 20 of 36 for 251 yards and four touchdowns to rally Tech to three scores in the final five minutes.
Gailey talked about the progress that Ball has made since earning the starting job as a true freshman last fall.
“I think two things: one is his knowledge of what we are doing, and the other is the knowledge of what the other team is doing defensively,” said Gailey. “I think he has a much better grasp of that. Once you have a better grasp of that then you understand game. The game starts to make more sense. Your not just executing plays, you are running an offense and that is a big difference.
“He has a better understanding of the total offense and what we are trying to do, who we are trying to attack and thinks like that. As time goes on in the next couple of years, we will start to see the development of thinking ahead, next series, how we are setting something up for down the line. Right now he is just executing and has a much better understanding of what we are doing.”
A key match-up for the Jackets against the Tar Heels on Saturday will be the UNC offense versus the Tech defense. Tech’s secondary was one of the strong points heading into the season and is led by Reuben Houston, Dennis Davis, Dawan Landry and preseason All-American James Butler.
Another superb performer for two games this season has been junior Chris Reis. After learning the linebacker position last spring, Reis leads the ACC in tackles with 24 and continues to improve each week.
“It’s probably nothing short of amazing,” said Gailey. “He really has a nose for the football. I had a guy that has been around Tech football for a long time telling me that he is just the Georgia Tech football player. Hard nosed, tough, can run, will hit people, great instincts. All those things that are allowing him to be around the football. He’s making the tackles when he gets there. He’s not missing many either.”