Nov. 20, 2005
ATLANTA-Coming off its biggest win in 15 years, 20th-ranked Georgia Tech hosts No. 13 Georgia in the annual intrastate clash Saturday at 8 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. The game will be televised on ABC.
Tech, ranked 20th by the Associated Press and 24th in the coaches’ poll, is 7-3 overall, 5-3 in the ACC after Saturday’s 14-10 victory at third-ranked Miami.
Only twice in its 114 years of football has Georgia Tech defeated a team ranked higher than the Hurricanes: in 1990, the Yellow Jackets won at No. 1-ranked Virginia, 41-38, and in 1962, Bobby Dodd’s squad downed No. 1 Alabama, 7-6, at Grant Field. Tech has also posted ties against a No. 1 team (Notre Dame, 3-3, 1980) and a No. 2 team (Auburn, 7-7, 1958). In all of the above games except Virginia, Tech was unranked entering the game.
Georgia, which clinched the SEC East title with a 45-13 victory over Kentucky, enters the game at 8-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC and ranked 13th in both polls.
Tech has been sparked by the play of its defense. The Yellow Jackets rank in the Top 15 nationally in total defense (12th, 299.4), rushing defense (13th, 101.0), pass efficiency defense (13th, 106.1), turnover margin (10th, +1.10), interceptions (5th, 18) and takeaways (15th, 25).
All-ACC middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson is Tech’s top tackler with 73, including 6.5 tackles for loss and one interception, while junior linebacker KaMichael Hall has a team-leading 13.5 tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Eric Henderson has provided a spark since returning from injury; he leads the team with six sacks.
Offensively, Tech quarterback Reggie Ball is averaging 229.7 yards of total offense per game, including 194.7 yards through the air with nine touchdown passes as well as four rushing touchdowns. Because of his mobility (315 yards rushing on 79 attempts, 4.0-average) and improved decision-making, he has been sacked only five times all season.
His favorite target is sensational sophomore Calvin Johnson, an all-America candidate who leads the ACC in receiving yards per game (85.5) while ranking second in receptions (5.0 pg). Johnson has five touchdown catches.
Senior tailback P.J. Daniels, who ranks third in the ACC at 82.7 yards rushing per game, could return to the lineup after missing last week’s game at Miami due to injury.
Sophomore Tashard Choice stepped in for Daniels against the Hurricanes, rushing for 84 yards and scoring Tech’s first touchdown on a two-yard plunge.
For the season Choice has rushed for 481 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns.
The duo of Daniels and Choice have combined for 1,225 yards rushing (122.5 yards per game) and nine touchdowns.
TECH DEFENSE STINGS MIAMI
Georgia Tech’s defense turned in a remarkable effort to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 14-10 victory at third-ranked Miami. Tech held the Hurricanes to 30 yards rushing and 237 yards of total offense as the Jackets collected a season-high seven sacks, an interception and seven pass breakups.
Miami was just 1-for-14 on third downs, and the Jackets came up with two huge fourth-down stops in Tech territory, at the 33 and 12-yard lines.
Individual standouts included KaMichael Hall (four tackles for loss, two sacks, one pass breakup and key fourth-down stop), Philip Wheeler (three tackles for loss, two sacks), and Dennis Davis (two pass breakups and the game-saving interception).
THE SERIES WITH GEORGIA
Georgia holds a 56-38-5 lead in this annual rivalry that began in 1893 and has been renewed every year since 1925. Including last year’s 19-13 victory, the Bulldogs have won four in a row, following a three game winning streak by Georgia Tech from 1998-2000. Tech’s last win was a 27-15 victory in 2000 in Athens.
This year’s game marks the first time since 2001 that both teams are nationally ranked entering the game.
TWO HUGE ROAD WINS
Georgia Tech has punctuated its season with a pair of huge road victories, winning at Auburn, ranked 15th at the time and now No. 9, to open the season and then knocking off No. 3 Miami last Saturday at the Orange Bowl.
Take away their losses to Georgia Tech, and Auburn and Miami are a combined 17-2.
The two games had some common story lines: Tech driving for a touchdown on its first possession; the opponent scoring late in the first and appearing to seize the momentum but Tech weathering the storm; and great play and key takeaways by the Tech defense, especially in the second half.
Georgia Tech ends the season with a daunting duo. After knocking off third-ranked Miami on the road, the Jackets return home to face their annual rival and the SEC East champion, 13th-ranked Georgia.
With Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia, Tech will face three teams this season that have been ranked in the Top Five. The Hokies were No. 4 when they defeated Georgia Tech, while Georgia also climbed as high as No. 4. In addition to the win over No. 3 Miami, Tech defeated Auburn, which was No. 15 at the time and is now ninth, giving Tech four games against teams that reached the Top 10. Tech defeated Clemson, which is now in the Top 25, while losing at Virginia, which spent seven weeks in the Top 25.
JOHNSON NAMED SEMIFINALIST FOR BILETNIKOFF AWARD
“Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the nation . . . by far.”
-ESPN’s Lee Corso
“Calvin Johnson, a true sophomore, should win the Biletnikoff Award. He is the best receiver in the nation.”
-ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit
Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech’s sensational sophomore wideout, was named last week as a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.
Johnson, from Tyrone, Ga., leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with 85.1 receiving yards per game while ranking second with 5.0 receptions per game.
For the season, the 6-4, 230-pounder has 50 catches for 855 yards and five touchdowns.
He already ranks among Tech’s all-time leaders with career totals of 98 receptions, 1,692 yards and 12 touchdowns after just 22 games. Over the last two seasons, he has accounted for nearly one-third of Tech’s pass completions and more than 40 percent of its passing yards, despite facing constant double teams.
Johnson earned all-ACC and freshman all-America honors in 2004, when he was also named ACC Rookie of the Year.
“MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER IN THE ACC”
” . . . perhaps the most underrated player in the ACC, certainly the most underrated linebacker.” -ESPN.com
That’s how Georgia Tech senior linebacker Gerris Wilkinson is best described. His statistics are not gaudy, but simply put, he is the best player on Tech’s nationally-ranked defense.
In Tech’s superb defensive effort against third-ranked Miami, Wilkinson was also the defense’s most inspirational player. Just two days after losing his mother, Denise Bowers, to cancer, Wilkinson led the Jackets to a dominating defensive performance in Tech’s 14-10 victory in the Orange Bowl. He had six tackles and a pass breakup while helping Tech hold the Hurricanes to 30 yards rushing and 237 total yards, including 1-for-14 on third down conversions.
For the second straight year, Wilkinson is Tech’s top tackler with 73 hits, along with 6.5 TFL, two sacks, an interception and a pass breakup.
Wilkinson earned second-team all-ACC honors a year ago in his first season at middle linebacker. He started at defensive end in 2003 and played outside `backer in 2002.
Seventeen Georgia Tech seniors will be playing their final home game at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. Tech graduates five starters on defense, including three in the secondary in safeties Chris Reis and Dawan Landry and cornerback Dennis Davis, as well as linebacker Gerris Wilkinson and defensive end Eric Henderson. Tailback P.J. Daniels, wide receiver Damarius Bilbo and tackle Brad Honeycutt graduate from the offensive starting lineup.
Also playing their final home game for the Yellow Jackets are starting punter Ben Arndt and long-snapper Gavin Tarquinio as well as seven backups in offensive lineman Salih Besirevic, defensive tackle Omar Billy, fullback Ajenavi Eziemefe, cornerback Reuben Houston, tight end Jay Reid, receiver Robbie Rollins, and running back Chris Woods.
HENDERSON BREAKS RECORD FOR TACKLES FOR LOSS
Eric Henderson, the Yellow Jackets’ all-ACC defensive end, had two tackles for loss against Miami to break the Georgia Tech career record.
The senior from New Orleans, La., now has 59 career tackles for loss to surpass Greg Gathers’ record of 57. He set a Tech season record with 24 tackles for loss in 2003.
Henderson stands fourth in Georgia Tech history with 25 career sacks as he just moved past former Tech all-America and NFL All-Pro Pat Swilling. As a sophomore in 2003, Henderson led the ACC with 11 sacks.
BALL ENTERS RARE AIR
Quarterback Reggie Ball has entered “rare air” on Georgia Tech’s career passing charts. With 5,895 career passing yards and 35 touchdown passes, Ball now stands in fourth place in Tech history in both categories, trailing only a trio of all-ACC honorees in Joe Hamilton, Shawn Jones and George Godsey.
With 6,926 yards of total offense, Ball trails only Hamilton and Jones, both of whom finished their respective careers as the ACC’s all-time leader in total offense.
In ACC annals, Ball currently stands 18th in total offense and 24th in passing yards.
Career Passing Yards Years Cmp-Att TD Yards1. Joe Hamilton 1996-99 629-1020 65 8,8822. Shawn Jones 1989-92 652-1217 51 8,4413. George Godsey 1998-01 484-765 41 6,1374. Reggie Ball 2003-present 491-986 35 5,895