ATLANTA (Sept. 12) — Seeking to rebound from last week’s disappointment at No. 1-ranked Florida State, 13th-ranked Georgia Tech hosts non-conference foe Central Florida in the Yellow Jackets’ home opener Saturday at 7 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
Tech (1-1 overall, 0-1 ACC) opened the season with a pair of road games, including last Saturday’s 41-35 defeat at top-ranked Florida State. Central Florida is 0-2 after losses to Purdue and Florida.
“Central Florida has played two very good opponents,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “The state of Florida produces a lot of very good skilled athletes, so we’ll have our hands full.
“We need to learn something from the Florida State game and keep the same intensity for each and every game.”
The Tech attack features two of the nation’s most exciting players in Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Hamilton (Alvin, S.C.) at quarterback and Biletnikoff Award nominee Dez White (Orange Park, Fla.) at split end.
Hamilton LEADS THE NATION in passing efficiency at 233.3, far ahead of second-place Tee Martin of Tennessee (203.7). In two games, Hamilton has completed 34 of 42 passes (81 percent) for 526 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. He has 583 yards of total offense and eight TDR while guiding the Tech offense to an average of 42 points and 494 yards of offense in the two games.
White is averaging 26.8 yards per catch on six receptions, but sophomore Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.) is Tech’s leading receiver with nine catches for 154 yards and two scores.
Senior Phillip Rogers (East Point, Ga.) is Tech’s top rusher with 135 yards and three touchdowns on 26 attempts (5.2 average). The Jackets must overcome the loss of sophomore tailback Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.), who had 87 yards rushing (6.2 average) and seven catches for 96 yards before suffering a broken right ankle against FSU.
The veteran offensive line is led by all-America candidate Jon Carman (Waldorf, Md.) at tackle.
Free safety Travares Tillman (Lyons, Ga.), is Tech’s top tackler with 19 hits and three pass breakups, while defensive end Felipe Claybrooks (Decatur, Ga.) has 16 tackles with four tackles for loss.
Central Florida, coached by Mike Kruczek, is averaging 409 yards of offense per game and put up 27 points in its loss to Florida.
Quarterback Vic Penn has passed for 629 yards and four touchdowns. His favorite target is Charles Lee with 18 catches for 250 yards. The top rusher is Edward Mack with 86 yards and one touchdown on 13 attempts (6.6 average).
THE SERIES WITH CENTRAL FLORIDA
Georgia Tech and Central Florida have met just once before, with Tech taking a 27-20 victory on Oct. 26, 1996 at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, then a freshman, missed the game with a knee sprain, but tailback Charlie Rogers scored three touchdowns, including a 96-yard scoring pass from Brandon Shaw that is still the longest play from scrimmage in Tech history.
Georgia Tech’s defensive ends and special teams coach, Danny Crossman should be very familiar with this week’s opponent. Crossman joined the Tech staff this season after two years as the defensive backs and special teams coach at Central Florida. The Knights also have a face that is familiar to Tech in starting linebacker Edwin Ferguson, who transferred to Central Florida from Georgia Tech prior to the 1997 season.
AN EPIC EFFORT
Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton turned in the most productive game of his career, and one of the top efforts in school history, in Tech’s hard-fought, 41-35 defeat at top-ranked Florida State. Hamilton completed 22 of 25 passes for 387 yards and four touchdowns, all career highs. He also scored on a 19-yard run for 405 yards of total offense, another a career best.
Hamilton, who completed his final 15 passes and has not thrown an interception in two games this season, tossed touchdowns of 80, 56, 22 and 11 yards. His 80-yard strike to Dez White is the longest completion of his career, while his 22-yard scoring pass to Kelly Campbell brought the Jackets to within six points with 1:35 left.
Hamilton’s passing and total offense yards are the second-best single-game figures in Tech history, bettered only by Darrell Gast, who had 416 yards passing and 412 yards of total offense in a 1987 loss to Duke. His four touchdown passes is one shy of Eddie McAshan’s school-record of five, set in 1972 vs. Rice, while his five TDR ties McAshan’s Tech standard.
“I thought Joe directed the offense magnificently,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “He took what they gave him, and he kept us in the game offensively and really competed. That 19-yard touchdown run was a great statement by him.”
A MODEL OF EFFICIENCY
Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, who leads the nation in passing efficiency this season, has a career rating of 142.1. That is the best mark ever by a Tech quarterback and currently ranks fourth in ACC history, bettered only by Thad Busby of Florida State (144.89), Shawn Moore of Virginia (143.74) and FSU’s Charlie Ward (142.92).
KELLY’S COMING-OUT PARTY
Sophomore Kelly Campbell enjoyed the best game of his career against top-ranked Florida State with seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Campbell’s 56-yard touchdown catch in the first half was the longest reception of his career. He then made a spectacular, one-handed catch in the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown that brought the Jackets within six points with 1:35 to play.
Campbell, whose biggest moment as a freshman was his 55-yard touchdown catch against Georgia, is Tech’s leading receiver with nine catches for 154 yards (17.1 average).
“I’ve seen Kelly’s skill and potential in practice and I was happy to see him come out and make some plays,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “He showed the speed that he has by outrunning three guys into the end zone. There’s no question that opens up the field for us with Dez White on the other side.”
OFFENSE KEEPS ROLLING
Georgia Tech’s high-powered offense has averaged 35.9 points over the last 18 contests, including two bowl games. Not coincidentally, Tech has won 14 of those 18 games.
Tech has been held under 20 points just once in the last 19 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.
After two games this season, Tech is 11th in the nation in both scoring (42 points per game) and total offense (494 yards per game).