Nov. 2, 2004
Georgia Tech (4-3, 3-3) will hit the road for the fourth time this season as the Yellow Jackets travel to NC State (4-4, 3-3) for an Atlantic Coast Conference game this Saturday at Noon. The game will be regionally televised on the JP Sports/Raycom ACC network (FSN in Georgia).
“I think that if you don’t set your goals high, then you are selling your team short,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “I don’ t ever want to sell a team short because we have all seen teams that weren’t supposed to do something and did it. So you never sell your team short. Do you have to reevaluate and say, `ok, this is where we are and this is where we can be the rest of the season’? Sure you do that.”
The Yellow Jackets are 2-1 on the road this season, while the Wolfpack are 2-2 at Carter-Finley Stadium, in Raleigh, N.C. Tech defeated then-No. 20 Clemson, 28-24, on Sept. 11, and then-No. 23 Maryland, 20-7, on Oct. 9, while NC State fell to then-No. 8 Ohio State, 22-14, on Sept. 18, and to No. 3 Miami, 45-31, on Oct. 23.
In the series, Tech has won three straight and eight of the last nine contests between these two schools and holds a 15-8 series advantage (10-2 home, 5-6 road). The Jackets upset an undefeated Top 10 NC State squad, 24-17, during the 2002 season.
“I think that is one of the things you talk about with your team,” said Gailey about winning on the road. “There were a lot of guys there in the team meeting on Sunday night that were there [in Raleigh] two years ago when we won. Our guys feel like they can go on the road and win, which is a big thing. You need to feel like you can.”
The Pack is led by a stingy pass defense (129.4 yards allowed per game) that ranks second in the NCAA and stands third in total defense (238.1 yards allowed per game). Oliver Hoyte leads the defensive attack with 62 tackles on the season, 10 for a loss.
First-year starting quarterback Jay Davis has steadily improved throughout the season after replacing record setting NFL first round selection Philip Rivers. Davis has passed for over 200 yards in each of his last five games and ranks second in the ACC in passing yards per game (196.4) and sixth in passing efficiency (121.6).
Junior tailback T.A. McLendon leads the ground attack for the Wolfpack and stands third in the ACC, averaging 89.0 per game. McLendon has three 100-yard rushing games this season and five rushing touchdowns.
“They are running the ball more now,” said Gailey. “They are not as elaborate in their passing game, but they are much more elaborate in their formations and personnel in the game to create running creases. They have done a nice job of that.”
Tech continues to rank in the Top 30 in the country in total defense (25th/310.5 yards allowed per game) and pass defense (26th/184.0 yards allowed per game). Linebacker Gerris Wilkinson continues to lead the Jackets in tackles with 68 for the season and ranks second in the ACC with 11.3 per game. Fellow linebacker Chris Reis is tied for the conference’s lead with seven sacks.
Freshman wide out Calvin Johnson remains amongst the league leaders in receiving yards per game and receptions per game with 66.8 (2nd) and 4.17 (4th), respectively. Sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball stands sixth in the ACC in total offense with 209.0 yards per game. “Our receivers have made some great plays and have dropped some easy ones,” said Gailey. “But I’m not disappointed with their play this season.”
Freshman place kicker Travis Bell has been another bright spot for the Yellow Jackets thus far. Bell has converted on six straight field goals heading into Saturday’s game and is 8 of 9 this season, including a perfect 12-for-12 on extra points.
“To me you have to give credit to Andrew Economos [long snapper] and Andy Thompson [holder] because that is a clean process for Travis to be able to do his job,” said Gailey. “He has certainly done an outstanding job. If we have to go kick one with the game on the line, I don’t care if he is a freshman, I would trust him to go out there and make it.”