ATLANTA (Nov. 21) — Georgia Tech’s 16th-ranked football team, looking to head into the bowl season on a winning note, closes out its regular season Saturday with the 94th renewal of its in-state rivalry with 21st-ranked Georgia in a 1 p.m. televised game (ABC, WSB-TV in Atlanta) at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
The Yellow Jackets (7-3, 5-3 ACC) finished its ACC slate with a 26-23 loss last Saturday at Wake Forest, tying with Virginia and Clemson for second place behind top-ranked Florida State. Georgia (7-3, 5-3 SEC) sewed up third place in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern division with a 20-17 win at Mississippi.
Tech is ranked 16th this week in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll and 20th by the Associated Press. Georgia is No. 21, according to the coaches, 16th by AP.
“If you’re going to play a big game after a loss, this is it,” said head coach George O’Leary. “Both teams come in with the same record with a lot riding on it, not the least of which is the rivalry itself and bragging rights.”
Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Hamilton (Alvin, S.C.) can add to his Tech season-record totals of 2,719 yards passing, 25 touchdown passes, 3,359 yards of total offense and 31 TDR. Against Wake Forest, he became the first ACC player to eclipse 10,000 yards of total offense in a career and the first in NCAA history to also accumulate 1,500 rushing yards.
The nation’s leading passer, Hamilton has an efficiency rating of 172.9, just behind the NCAA record of 183.3. He is also Tech’s second-leading rusher with 640 yards and six touchdowns.
Hamilton leads a potent Tech attack that leads the nation in total offense (504.2 yards per game) and ranks second nationally in scoring (39.7). The Jackets’ total of 53 touchdowns is a season record.
Hamilton’s favorite targets are the trio of Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.), Dez White (Orange Park, Fla.) and Kerry Watkins (LaPlace, La.), who have combined for 129 catches, 2,143 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Campbell leads the Jackets with 65 receptions for 1,013 yards (16.1 average) and nine touchdowns. White has 35 catches for 695 yards (19.9 average) and four scores, while Watkins has added 31 receptions for 435 yards (14.0 average) and six TDs.
Tech ranks 13th in the nation in rushing behind Hamilton, a dominating offensive line led by tackle Jon Carman (Waldorf, Md.) and sophomore tailback Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.), Tech’s leading rusher with 756 yards (5.2 average) and 11 touchdowns. Starting due to season-ending injuries to Phillip Rogers and Joe Burns, Gregory has made the most of his opportunity, topping the 100-yard mark in four of his last five starts, and he ranks fifth in the ACC with 75.6 yards per game.
Tech’s young defense, which has started as many as four true freshmen in games this season, including free safety Jeremy Muyres (Lilburn, Ga.), who has 61 tackles, is led by strong safety Chris Young (Senoia, Ga.) with 78 tackles and cornerback Travares Tillman (Lyons, Ga.) with 49 tackles.
“Jeremy Muyres really stood out for us Saturday ,” said O’Leary. “He played a very good game from a tackling standpoint. Travares is playing with the intensity we need. Chris did some good things.”
Georgia is led by quarterback Quincy Carter, who ranks 34th nationally in passing with 236.8 yards per game, ans 21st in total offense with 260.5 yards per game, and has a strong running attack led by backs Jasper Sanks (815 yards) and Patrick Pass (298 yards).
THE SERIES WITH GEORGIA
Georgia Tech and Georgia have met 93 times, including every year since 1925 (74 consecutive years). Georgia leads the series 52-36-5. Tech’s 21-19 win last season snapped a seven-game winning streak by the Bulldogs. The last four meetings have been decided by a total of 15 points.
In Atlanta, Georgia leads 27-25-4, including a 27-24 win in 1997. Tech’s last win over the Bulldogs at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field was a 33-22 victory in 1989.
The series began in 1893, when Tech travelled to Athens and won, 28-6, for the first football victory in school history.
The last two games between Georgia Tech and Georgia have featured dramatic endings.
Last season in Athens, Brad Chambers’ 35-yard field goal with just two seconds left lifted 17th-ranked Georgia Tech to a 21-19 victory over 12th-ranked Georgia, capping a 14-point fourth-quarter comeback for the Yellow Jackets, who defeated their arch-rival for the first time since 1990. Chambers, who booted a 49-yarder with 5:01 left, capped a 52-yard, 10-play drive engineered by Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, who completed 15 of 24 passes for 170 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 54 yards.
In 1997 in Atlanta, Mike Bobo’s eight-yard touchdown pass to Corey Allen with eight seconds left gave Georgia a 27-24 victory. Georgia’s score came one play after a controversial pass interference penalty nullified what appeared to be a game-saving interception by Tech’s Travares Tillman. The touchdown negated a 14-point Tech comeback, including a three-yard touchdown run by Charles Wiley with just 48 seconds left that put Tech ahead 24-21.
HAMILTON IS NATION’S TOP PASSER
Quarterback Joe Hamilton LEADS THE NATION in passing efficiency with a rating of 172.9. The NCAA single-season record is 183.3, set last season by Tulane’s Shaun King. In nine games he has completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,719 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Also Tech’s second-leading rusher with 640 yards and six touchdowns, Hamilton ranks third nationally in total offense with 335.9 yards per game.
TECH LEADS NATION IN TOTAL OFFENSE
Georgia Tech leads the in total offense while ranking second in scoring. The Jackets are averaging 504.2 yards per game, ahead of second-place Louisiana Tech. In scoring, Tech’s 39.7 points-per-game average trails only Virginia Tech (41.0) and is just ahead Kansas State (39.4).
Last week against Wake Forest, Georgia Tech was held under 30 points for the first time this season.
Tech ranks 13th nationally in rushing (226.6) and 18th in passing (277.6).
HAMILTON REACHES NATIONAL MILESTONE
With 10,205 yards of total offense, Joe Hamilton is the first player in ACC history, and the 16th in NCAA Division I-A, to top 10,000 yards. Hamilton is the only player in Division I-A with 10,000 total yards that include at least 1,500 yards rushing. He has rushed for 1,664 yards.
Hamilton also owns the ACC records touchdown passes (61) and passing efficiency (146.7) while ranking second in ACC history in career TDR (79), and fourth in passing yards (8,541).
FOUR STRAIGHT SELLOUTS
Georgia Tech’s game against Georgia will be the Yellow Jackets fourth consecutive sellout at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. The Jackets also drew capacity crowds for games against North Carolina, NC State and Clemson. The last time Georgia Tech had four consecutive sellouts was in 1961 for games against Duke, Auburn, Florida and Georgia.
A crowd of 46,000 for Georgia will give Tech its highest average home attendance since 1973, when the stadium seated 60,000.
RECEIVING RECORDS ON THE LINE
Flanker Kelly Campbell has a chance to break all of Georgia Tech’s season receiving records. The speedy sophomore has already broken the record for receiving yards with 1,013, the first Yellow Jacket to top 1,000 yards. and one touchdown as he bettered the recor dof 973 that Dez White set last season.
With nine touchdown catches, Campbell is tied with White (1998) and Jimmy Robinson (1972) for the Tech record.
Campbell has 63 catches, just one behind Harvey Middleton’s 1996 school record of 64.
HAMILTON ECLIPSES JONES’ RECORDS
With 281 yards passing last week against Wake Forest, Joe Hamilton became Georgia Tech’s career leader in passing yards. Hamilton, who now has 8,541 yards, eclipsed the record of 8,441 yards set Shawn Jones from 1989-92.
Fourteen Georgia Tech seniors will be honored before the Georgia game as they play their final home game at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. The senior class has led the Jackets to 29 victories over the last four seasons, including two bowl victories and a share of the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference title. The 29 victories are the most over a four-year period since the 1992 senior class left with 31 wins from 1989-92.
OFFENSE KEEPS ROLLING
Georgia Tech’s high-powered offense has averaged 37.7 points over the last 21 contests. Not coincidentally, Tech has won 17 of those 21 games.
Tech has been held under 20 points just once in the last 26 games, a 34-7 loss to Florida State last season. The Jackets have failed to score at least 30 points only five times during that stretch while topping 40 points 12 times.
The Jackets had a school-record string of 10 straight games with 30 or more points snapped in last week’s loss to Wake Forest.