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No. 13 Georgia Tech Travels to No. 12 Clemson for ACC Showdown

Oct. 15, 2006

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ATLANTA- Thirteenth-ranked Georgia Tech puts a five-game winning streak on the line as the Yellow Jackets travel to No. 12 for an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown Saturday at 7:45 p.m. at Clemson Memorial Stadium. The sold-out game will be nationally televised in ESPN.

Tech (5-1, 3-0 ACC) is coming off an open date, following a 27-23 comeback victory over Maryland, in which the Yellow Jackets scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the victory. The ACC only team with an undefeated conference record, Tech boasts its longest winning streak since 2000 and its highest ranking since 2001, when the Jackets climbed to No. 9 on Sept. 29.

Clemson is 6-1, 3-1 ACC after last Thursday’s 63-9 victory over Temple.

Calvin Johnson, Tech’s all-America wide receiver, leads the ACC in receptions with 35 (5.8 per game) and receiving yards with 559 (93.2 pg) while ranking third in the league in scoring. His eight touchdowns rank third in the nation.

Senior quarterback Reggie Ball has completed 67 of 129 passes for 929 yards and 10 touchdowns with five interceptions. He is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 315 yards and a 4.7-yard average. Tailback Tashard Choice leads Tech and stands third in the ACC with 502 yards rushing on 101 attempts and six touchdowns. As a team, Tech is second in the league in rushing (183.2) and third in scoring (28.67 ppg).

Linebackers KaMichael Hall and Philip Wheeler lead Tech’s outstanding defense with 42 and 41 tackles, respectively. Wheeler is second in the league in sacks (5.0) and tackles for loss (9.5). Safeties Djay Jones and Jamal Lewis have two interceptions apiece.

Tech ranks in the Top 10 nationally in rushing defense (7th, 72.5 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (9th, 98.24 rating) and in the Top 25 in every defensive category, including 17th in total defense (276.5) and 24th in scoring defense (16.17 ppg).

Clemson is the nation’s top scoring team at 43.86 points per game, and the Tigers lead the ACC in the majority of statistical categories, including rushing offense (250.57), total offense (459.0), scoring offense, pass efficiency defense (96.24) and total defense (234.0).

SERIES VS. CLEMSON

Georgia Tech has won two in a row and six of the last nine meetings with Clemson to take a 45-23-2 lead in the series, which dates all the way back to 1898. The two teams are permanent rivals in opposite divisions in the new Atlantic Coast Conference, meaning they will continue to play each year. Since the schools began playing as ACC members in 1983, Clemson holds a slim 12-11 advantage.

Tech won last year’s game, 10-9, in Atlanta, and the Jackets also captured the last meeting at Clemson, 28-24 in 2004. The Tigers’ last win in the series was a 39-3 decision in 2003.

Fifty-five of the 70 meetings have been played in Atlanta. Clemson leads, 8-5, on its home field but the Jackets have won three of the last four at Clemson Memorial Stadium.

JOHNSON, WHEELER NAMED MID-SEASON ALL-AMERICAS

Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson and linebacker Philip Wheeler were tabbed to the “Mid-Season All-America” first-team by SI.com. Tech and top-ranked Ohio State are the only schools with two players on the first team.

Johnson was also the No. 1 player on the “Mid-Season Hot List” by ESPN.com columnist Bruce Feldman, who tabbed Wheeler No. 18. Of Johnson, Feldman said, “The most gifted player in college football, Johnson is like the superman player you create on video football games when you want to toss reality aside.”

JOHNSON ON A ROLL

In the last three games, all-America wide receiver Calvin Johnson has 22 catches for 413 yards and five touchdowns. He leads the ACC in receptions (35, 5.8 pg) and receiving yards (559, 93.2 pg) and his eight touchdown catches are third nationally. He has caught eight of Tech’s 10 TD passes this season.

Johnson began his hot streak with a career-best 165 yards receiving on six catches with two touchdowns to lead Georgia Tech to a Thursday night victory over Virginia, 24-7. Despite missing the week of practice with a leg injury, Johnson caught the two longest touchdowns of his career on plays of 58 and 66 yards.

Then he led the Jackets to a 38-27 victory at 10th-ranked Virginia Tech with six catches for 115 yards, including touchdown catches of three and 53 yards on consecutive drives in the first quarter. He was chosen the Cingular All-America Player of the Week and was named ACC Offensive Back of the Week for the second straight week and the third time this season.

Johnson tied his career best with 10 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in Tech’s win over Maryland.

CHOICE CUTS

Tashard Choice rushed for a career-best 138 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead Georgia Tech to a 27-23 victory over Maryland. His 15-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winning score.

Choice, who ranks third in the ACC in rushing, recorded his second straight 100-yard effort after rushing for 105 yards and two scores in the Jackets’ win over Virginia Tech. He is the only player inthe league averaging better than 100 yards in ACC games (108.7 ypg).

The junior from Riverdale, Ga., raised his Georgia Tech career rushing total to 1,015 as he became the 32nd 1,000-yard rusher in school history. Choice also had 100 yards rushing as a freshman at Oklahoma for a career total of 1,115 yards.

BIG-PLAY K

Senior linebacker KaMichael Hall has turned in big plays in Georgia Tech’s last two victories.

Hall made one of the key plays in Tech’s 27-23 comeback victory over Maryland with his fourth-quarter fumble recovery at the Terps 17-yard line, setting up the go-ahead score. He had a game-high 11 tackles, including a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week, the second time in his career he has been so honored. He also won the award following last year’s win at Miami.

In the win at Virginia Tech, Hall had 11 tackles, including two sacks for minus-23 yards as he helped Tech hold the Hokies to just 42 yards rushing. He broke up two passes and forced a fumble that the Jackets recovered.

The Houston, Texas, native is Tech’s leading tackler with 42, including three sacks, 4.5 TFL, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

ON THE BALL

Senior quarterback Reggie Ball is playing the best football of his career. He is averaging 207.3 yards of total offense per game, including 154.8 yards passing and 52.5 yards rushing per game. He ranks third in the league in total offense and fourth in pass efficiency.

Ball is tied for the ACC lead with 10 touchdown passes, and he also has two rushing TDs.

CLOSE SHAVES WITH THE TIGERS

Last year’s 10-9 victory by Georgia Tech over Clemson was just the latest in a string of close games between the two schools. Nine of the last 10 games between Tech and Clemson have been decided by five points or fewer, including six straight games from 1996-01 that were decided by exactly three points.

2005, Tech 10, Clemson 9: P.J. Daniels rushed for 100 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown on a three-yard run in the fourth quarter in the Yellow Jackets’ 10-9 victory over Clemson at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. For Clemson, six trips inside the Tech 35 netted just three field goals as Tech forced four turnovers and held the Tigers without a touchdown for the first time since the opening game of the 2003 season. After Tech scored go ahead 10-6, Aaron Kelly returned the ensuing kickoff to the Tech 19. The Tigers had a first-and-goal at the six, but cornerback Kenny Scott knocked away Charlie Whitehurst’s third-down pass and the Tigers had to settle for a field goal.

2004, Tech 28, Clemson 24: Calvin Johnson’s third touchdown catch of the game, with just 11 seconds left, capped a miraculous comeback as Georgia Tech scored three touchdowns in the final five minutes. Johnson finished with eight catches for 127 yards, and senior Levon Thomas had eight catches for 100 yards. Quarterback Reggie Ball passed for 251 yards and four touchdowns, and P.J. Daniels added 103 yards rushing.

Trailing 17-7, Tech pulled within three on Thomas’ 19-yard touchdown catch with 4:36 left. The Tigers responded almost immediately with a 54-yard touchdown run by Kyle Browning to take 24-14 lead with 3:18 left. After a celebration penalty and a 32-yard kickoff return, Tech took over at its own 49, and eight plays later, Reggie Ball hit Johnson for an eight-yard touchdown in the right corner of the end zone, again pulling the Jackets within three points with just 1:50 remaining. Clemson recovered the onsides kick at its own 33 and then gained nine yards on first down, but the Tech defense held on second and third downs. The Tigers were forced to punt with 25 seconds, but an errant snap gave Tech the ball at the 11-yard line with 16 seconds to play. Ball lofted a pass to Johnson in the left corner of the end zone for the winning touchdown. The Jackets had to survive one last play after Clemson, aided by a celebration penalty, returned the kickoff to the Tech 31-yard line.

2001, Clemson 47, Tech 44 (ot): In a game that featured 10 lead changes, Woody Dantzler’s 11-yard run in overtime provided the final margin. Trailing 34-26 in the fourth quarter, Tech took a 38-34 lead with less than four minutes to play on touchdown runs by Joe Burns and Sidney Ford. Clemson answered by converting a fourth-and-13 into a 63-yard touchdown pass from Dantzler to J.J. McKelvey with 1:58 to play. Tech quarterback George Godsey moved the Jackets 87 yards on 10 plays for Luke Manget’s game-tying field goal with six seconds left in regulation.

2000, Tech 31, Clemson 28: George Godsey hit Kerry Watkins for the game-winning, 16-yard touchdown pass with just seven seconds left. Clemson led 24-21 after Brian Mance’s 88-yard punt return for a touchdown, but Godsey, who passed for 454 yards, guided the Jackets on two 80-yard scoring drives in the final 10 minutes. First he found Kelly Campbell for a 48-yard touchdown with 6:35 to play. After Clemson regained the lead, 28-24, on a Willie Simmons-to-Rod Gardner touchdown pass with 1:52 left, Godsey completed seven-of-11 passes for 72 yards, capped by the game-winner to Watkins, who caught four passes for 51 yards on the drive. Campell finished with a school-record 14 catches for 209 yards.

1999, Tech 45, Clemson 42: Tech’s Joe Hamilton passed for 322 yards and five touchdowns. The Jackets led 28-7 in the second quarter and 45-28 in the fourth, but Clemson pulled within three with seven minutes left. The Tigers had fourth-and-seven at the Tech 43 with three minutes to play, but Chris Young batted down Woody Dantzler’s pass inside the 10-yard line.

1998, Tech 24, Clemson 21: Joe Burns scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard run with 1:00 left. Trailing 21-17, Tech took over at its own 43 with 2:30 remaining. Joe Hamilton complete three passes for 53 yards to set up the winning score.

1997, Tech 23, Clemson 20: Brad Chambers kicked the game-winning 20-yard field goal with 1:54 left. The kick was set up by Harvey Middleton, who returned a punt 21 yards to the Clemson 44, then caught a 39-yard pass from Joe Hamilton down to the five-yard line.

LINEBACKER TANDEM

The key to Georgia Tech’s defense is the linebacker tandem of senior KaMichael Hall and junior Philip Wheeler.

Hall and Wheeler are one-two on the team in tackles. Hall leads the team with 42 hits, while Wheeler is right behind with 41. Wheeler leads in sacks (5.0) and tackles for loss (9.5) – second in the ACC in both categories – and Hall is next with 4.5 TFL and three sacks. Between them, they have four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

In Tech’s win at 10th-ranked Virginia Tech, Wheeler and Hall combined for 19 tackles, four sacks, two caused fumbles and two pass breakups. Wheeler was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week and Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week.

One game later against Maryland, they teamed for 17 tackles, two sacks, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery. Hall was honored this team as ACC Defensive Back of the Week.

CALVINISM

Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech’s sensational wide receiver, is one of the nation’s top players. The two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection earned first-team all-America honors last fall. He is the preseason choice as the ACC Player of the Year as well as a preseason all-America.

Johnson already ranks among Tech’s all-time leaders with career totals of 137 receptions, 2,284 yards and 21 touchdowns after just 30 games. He has tied the school record with 10 100-yard games.

GEORGIA TECH CAREER LEADERSReceiving Yards Years   Yds     ACC

1. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 2,907 9th 2. Kerry Watkins 1999-02 2,680 11th 3. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 2,291 27th 4. Calvin Johnson 2004- 2,284 28th

Receptions Years Rec ACC 1. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 195 5th 2. Jonathan Smith 2000-03 174 13th 3. Kerry Watkins 1999-02 171 T-14th 4. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 165 T-19th 5. Calvin Johnson 2004- 137

TD Receptions Years TD ACC 1. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 24 T-8th 2. Kerry Watkins 1999-02 22 3. Calvin Johnson 2004- 21

100-yd games Years G ACC 1. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 10 T-10th Kelly Campbell 1998-01 10 T-10th Calvin Johnson 2004- 10 T-10th

CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH REC Years G 1. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 40 2. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 32 3. Calvin Johnson 2004- 30

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