ATLANTA (Sept. 23) — Making its ninth appearance of the 1990s in an ESPN Thursday night game, 10th-ranked Georgia Tech hosts unbeaten Maryland on Thursday, Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
Tech (2-1 overall, 0-1 ACC) has won 12 of its last 14 games, with both losses coming at the hands of Florida State. The Jackets have won 15 of its last 19 games, dating back to the 1997 season.
Maryland (3-0, 0-0 ACC) is off to its best start since 1995, when the Terps brought a 4-0 record and a No. 17 national ranking to Atlanta for a Thursday night clash. Tech won that game, 31-3, for head coach George O’Leary’s first win over a nationally-ranked opponent.
Quarterback Joe Hamilton LEADS THE NATION in passing efficiency with a rating of 211.4, far ahead of second place Ben Leard of Auburn (187.9). In three games he has completed 77 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. The senior from Alvin, S.C., also ranks 16th nationally in total offense with 281.3 yards per game.
His favorite targets are Tech’s trio of wide receivers, junior Dez White (Orange Park, Fla.), nine catches, 23.4-yard avg., one TD; sophomore Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.), 13 catches, 14.2 avg., two TD; and redshirt freshman Kerry Watkins (LaPlace, La.), nine catches, 14.9 avg., two TD.
Sophomore Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.) leads Tech’s balanced rushing attack with 189 yards (7.0 average) and three touchdowns. Gregory began the year as Tech’s third-team tailback but stepped in against Central Florida and rushed for a career-high 150 yards on 22 carries in his first collegiate start. Senior Phillip Rogers (East Point, Ga.), 129 yards (5.0 avg.) and three TDs, is expected back for the Maryland contest after missing one game with a shoulder injury.
Tech’s potent offense ranks ninth in the nation in rushing (257.7 yards per game) and total offense (494.0) and 10th in scoring (41.7 points per game). The Jackets take on a Maryland defense that has pitched two shutouts in three games and ranks second nationally in scoring defense, (3.3 points per game) and 13th in total defense (240.7).
Maryland also features a prolific ground game, led by junior Lamont Jordan, who ranks third in the ACC and 18th nationally with 121.0 rushing yards per game. Redshirt freshman Calvin McCall has taken over the quarterback job, completing 31 of 59 passes for 430 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIVE
Georgia Tech has a 4-4 record in its ESPN Thursday night games, including last year’s 24-21 victory at Clemson.
Tech and Maryland are meeting in an ESPN Thursday night contest for the third time in the last five years. In 1995 in Atlanta, Tech knocked off the Terps, then undefeated and ranked 17th, 31-3, but the following year in College Park, Maryland won, 13-10.
In addition to the eight ESPN dates, the Jackets have also played two other Thursday prime-time games in recent years, defeating Virginia, 31-27, in 1983 on TBS and falling to Arizona, 20-19, in 1995 on Prime. Counting Thanksgiving, Tech’s record on Thursday is 26-17-2.
THE SERIES WITH MARYLAND
Georgia Tech has won two in a row over Maryland and leads the series, 8-3, including a 31-14 victory in last year’s meeting. Tech is a perfect 5-0 against the Terrapins in Atlanta, including a 37-18 win in 1997. The Jackets defeated the Terps, 28-24, on their first visit to Atlanta in 1989; in the four meetings since then, Tech has outscored Maryland, 140-31.
LAST MEETING WITH MARYLAND
Freshman tailback Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) rushed for 179 yards and one touchdown and sophomore Dez White returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score to lead 23rd-ranked Georgia Tech to a 31-14 victory over Maryland at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore, Md. Quarterback Joe Hamilton, hampered by a hip pointer suffered the previous week against Florida State, completed 11 of 26 passes for 118 yards.
FRIEDGEN FACES ALMA MATER
Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen is a 1969 graduate of Maryland, where he began his coaching career in 1972 as a graduate assistant under head coach Jerry Claiborne. Friedgen then spent five seasons (1982-86) as Maryland’s offensive coordinator under head coach Bobby Ross. Those Terrapin teams won three ACC titles and played in four bowl games while averaging better than 28 points a game. While at Maryland, Friedgen tutored future NFL quarterbacks Boomer Esiason, Stan Gelbaugh and Frank Reich.
HAMILTON HITS 18 STRAIGHT
Quarterback Joe Hamilton completed his first three passes against Central Florida to extend his school-record string to 18 straight completions. The senior from Alvin, S.C., completed his final pass of the first half against top-ranked Florida State and then was a perfect 14-for-14 in the second half. The previous high for consecutive completions by a Rambling Wreck quarterback was 12 in a row by Shawn Jones in Tech’s 1990 win over Georgia.
Hamilton has thrown 90 consecutive passes without an interception. His last miscue was on his first attempt of the second half of last year’s Georgia game. However, he is far away from his school-record of 161 in a row without an interception, set ovthe 1997 and 1998 seasons.
CLIMBING ACC LISTS
With two touchdowns rushing and one passing against Central Florida, Joe Hamilton tied former Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward of Florida State for third place in Atlantic Coast Conference history in career touchdown responsibility with 59. Only former Tech quarterback Shawn Jones (70) and Virginia’s Shawn Moore (83) have accounted for more touchdowns than Hamilton.
Hamilton also ranks eighth in ACC annals in total offense (7,690) and 11th in passing yards (6,509).
A MODEL OF EFFICIENCY
Joe Hamilton owns the top pass efficiency rating in school history at 142.5, which is also the fourth-best mark in ACC history. The current school record is 134.6 by Toppy Vann from 1953-56, while the ACC standard is held by Thad Busby of Florida State at 144.89.
Hamilton’s numbers over the last three seasons are even more impressive. Since the beginning of his sophomore season, the Alvin, S.C., native has an efficiency rating of 151.1. During that time, he has averaged 206.7 yards passing and 244 yards of total offense per game while completing 62 percent of his passes. Hamilton has thrown 36 touchdown passes against just 15 interceptions over the last 25 games.
OFFENSE KEEPS ROLLING
Georgia Tech’s high-powered offense has averaged 36.2 points over the last 19 contests, including two bowl games. Not coincidentally, Tech has won 15 of those 19 games.
Tech has been held under 20 points just once in the last 20 games, a 34-7 loss to Florida State last season. The Jackets have failed to score at least 30 points only four times during that stretch while topping 40 points nine times.
NO ROOM TO RUN
Georgia Tech allowed Central Florida 92 yards rushing on 29 attempts, marking the 16th time in head coach George O’Leary’s tenure that the Jackets have held their opponent under 100 yards. Tech has a 14-2 record in those games.