ATLANTA (November 14) – Georgia Tech, ranked 20th in the nation this week, closes out the 2000 Atlantic Coast Conference schedule and puts its five-game winning streak on the line this weekend at Maryland.
The game will be regionally televised on the ACC/Jefferson Pilot Network (Fox Sports Net South in Georgia), while live radio coverage will be available on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network (WGST 640 AM in Atlanta).
Tech enters the game with a 7-2 overall record and a 5-2 mark in ACC play after rattling off consecutive wins over North Carolina, Wake Forest, Duke, Clemson and Virginia. Maryland is 5-5, 3-4 after falling North Carolina, 13-10, last Saturday in Chapel Hill. The Terrapins are looking for their sixth win of the season to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1990.
This week’s matchup with the Terrapins is eerily similar to Tech’s 1999 game at Wake Forest. In that contest, a senior-laden Demon Deacon squad needed a victory at home in their regular season finale to become bowl eligible while the Yellow Jackets were 7-2 and eying a potential Bowl Championship Series berth. Wake Forest knocked off 12th-ranked Tech, 26-23, to advance to its first bowl game since 1992.
“There’s a pretty good comparison there between last year and this week,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “Because there are so many similarities, I think you have something to compare it to. You have a bunch of seniors in Wake Forest last year and Maryland this year, and there are bowl implications for both teams.
“I never felt comfortable during that whole week of practice last year [leading up to the Wake Forest game]. I think our guys understand this year what has to get done. And if Monday night’s practice is any indication, the kids are fired up about what needs to get done this week.”
The Terrapins have been one of the hotter teams in the ACC over the last month, winning three of their last four games. Maryland’s offense is led by senior tailback LaMont Jordan, the third leading rusher in ACC history with 4,122 career yards.
“We have to make tackles,” said O’Leary. “He’s a good back and you have to keep him going east and west and not let his shoulders going north and south. He has the ability to make people miss, he has great feet, and can outrun a lot of people to the end zone.
“I think the emergence of Shaun Hill last week at quarterback really gives them another dimension with a big guy that can run the option well and can throw the ball with great accuracy. That, coupled with LaMont Jordan sitting back there, means our defense will have its work cut out for it.”
Maryland’s defense has been playing well in recent weeks, and the Terps turned in an outstanding effort last week at North Carolina. Maryland held the Tar Heels to just 283 yards of total offense, including just 42 yards through the air. Over the last four games, the Terrapins are allowing just 344 yards of total offense while allowing just 14.2 points per game.
Conversely, Tech has paced its current winning streak with the emergence of the offense. Over the last four games the Yellow Jackets are averaging 551 yards of total offense and 41 points per game.
“Maryland is a team that is very physical,” said O’Leary. “They have gotten better on defense in the last few games. They are tackling better and playing their positions better.”
The Tech offense is led by junior quarterback George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.), who is quietly putting together the second best statistical season in school history behind only Joe Hamilton’s performance last year. Godsey has passed for 2,330 yards and 20 touchdowns while throwing only four interceptions. He currently ranks seventh in the nation with a passing efficiency of 151.6.
Tech’s ground attack — led by the quartet of sophomore Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.), junior Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.), sophomore Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.), and freshman Jermaine Hatch (Baton Rouge, La.) — has helped Tech average 218 yards on the ground in the last four games. For the season, the group is averaging nearly 160 yards per game.
The Yellow Jackets feature a balanced receiving corps, led by junior Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.) who leads the team with 53 catches for 850 yards. For the year, 15 different players have caught a pass — including six wide receivers, five running backs and four tight ends.
On the injury front, O’Leary reported that Tech should be back to a near-full lineup on Saturday. Senior guard Brent Key (Trussville, Ala.), who missed the second half of the Virginia game with a sprained knee, freshman tight end John Paul Foschi (Old Brookville, N.Y.), who suffered a sprained knee against the Cavaliers, and sophomore placekicker Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.), who missed the Virginia game with a pulled groin, have all returned to practice and are probable for Saturday’s game at Maryland.