Oct. 26, 2001
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech faces the Atlantic Coast Conference’s hottest team as the 21st-ranked Yellow Jackets host No. 23 North Carolina in an ESPN Thursday night showdown at 7:30 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
The game is Tech’s second Thursday night affair in three weeks. In addition to the ESPN national telecast, the contest can be heard on the Georgia Tech ISP radio network, including Atlanta flagship WQXI-AM 790 The Zone, featuring the call of Wes Durham and Kim King.
Tech, whose last action was a 27-17 victory over NC State on Oct. 20, enters the game with a record of 5-2 overall, 2-2 in the ACC. The Tar Heels have won five in a row following an 0-3 start for a record of 5-3 overall, 4-1 in conference play.
“North Carolina is a team with tremendous athletes, and John Bunting has them playing hard and playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary.
“When you win five straight, you have a lot of talent. They’ve played good defense right from game one. I think their offense has put it together now, and they’re helping each other, which is the sign of a good football team.
“It’ll be a heckuva ballgame Thursday night.”
Tech quarterback George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.) leads the ACC in passing efficiency at 147.4. He has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,691 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. He directs a Tech offense that ranks averages 34.7 points and 435.7 yards per game.
Godsey is surrounded by a talented cast of skill players, including the one-two punch of all-ACC receiver Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.) in the passing game and junior tailback Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) in the running game.
Campbell leads the ACC receiving yards (572/95.3 per game) while ranking second in receptions (42/7.0 per game), good for 16th in the nation in both categories. Junior Kerry Watkins (LaPlace, La.) has 22 catches for 390 yards but leads the team in touchdown catches (4) and yards per catch (17.7).
Burns, the ACC’s fourth-leading rusher, is the backfield workhorse with 629 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 158 attempts. Junior Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.) has shown promise, rushing for 277 yards and one TD.
The game features two of the nation’s best defensive ends in Georgia Tech’s Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.) and North Carolina’s Julius Peppers. Gathers leads the ACC in sacks (9/1.3 per game), just ahead of Peppers (8/1.0 per game).
Gathers and his running mate at defensive end, senior Nick Rogers (East Point, Ga.), headline a Tech defense that leads the ACC, allowing just 290.3 yards per game. The Jackets are also second in the league in points allowed at 16.4 per game.
Rogers adds eight tackles for loss and four sacks. Linebacker Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.) is Tech’s top tackler with 51. The defense expects to receive a boost from the return of standout middle linebacker Daryl Smith (Albany, Ga.), who has missed three-and-a-half games since suffering a dislocated elbow against Clemson.
Tech placekicker Luke Manget, a junior from Conyers, Ga., is the ACC’s leading scorer with 27-of-27 PAT and 12-of-19 field goals for 63 points.
GEORGIA TECH VS. NORTH CAROLINA
Georgia Tech has won three in a row over North Carolina to take a 17-16-3 lead in the series, which began in 1915. Tech won last year’s game, 42-28, at Chapel Hill, and captured the last meeting in Atlanta with a 31-24 overtime decision in 1999.
North Carolina’s last win in the series was a 16-13 victory in 1997 at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field in the only previous Thursday night meeting between the two teams. The Tar Heels entered that game undefeated and ranked fifth in the nation.
Tech holds an 11-7 advantage in Atlanta.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIVE
For the second year in a row and the third time since 1996, Georgia Tech is playing two Thursday night, nationally-televised games on ESPN. The Yellow Jackets fell to Maryland in overtime, 20-17, on Oct. 11 and host North Carolina on Thursday, Nov. 1.
Tech has been selected to play in ESPN Thursday night games more than any other school in the nation. The Jackets have a 6-6 record in ESPN’s Thursday night games, and all but three of the games have been in Atlanta.
In addition to the 12 ESPN dates, the Jackets have also played two other Thursday prime-time games in recent years, defeating Virginia, 31-27, in 1983 on TBS and falling to Arizona, 20-19, in 1995 on Prime. Counting Thanksgiving, Tech’s record on Thursday is 28-19-2.
ESPN THURSDAY NIGHT GAMESYear Opponent Result Att1991 #20 Virginia hW 24-21 42,1921993 #25 Virginia hL 35-14 42,1001994 #7 Arizona hL 19-14 45,1121995 #16 Maryland hW 31-3 44,1371996 Duke hW 48-22 44,1451996 at Maryland aL 13-10 22,5101997 #5 North Carolina hL 16-13 45,1261998 at Clemson aW 24-21 62,0001999 Maryland hW 49-31 44,6122000 at NC State (ot) aL 30-23 49,8572000 Virginia hW 35-0 41,8852001 Maryland (ot) hL 17-20 40,574
LAST MEETING WITH NORTH CAROLINA
In 2000 in Chapel Hill, Joe Burns rushed for 123 yards and tied the school record with four touchdowns, two of them in the last four minutes, as Georgia Tech defeated North Carolina, 42-28. With the game tied at 28, Burns scored from one yard out with 4:02 left and then added a two-yard score with 1:55 to play, set up by his 51-yard run to the two. The Jackets had taken a 28-14 lead after UNC’s fumbled snap on a punt set up one score and then Tech’s Chris Young blocked the Tar Heels’ next punt for a touchdown, but UNC’s Ronald Curry threw a 78-yard touchdown to Kory Bailey and then scored on a 46-yard run.
The last meeting in Atlanta was decided in overtime as Tech won 31-24 on Joe Hamilton’s six-yard touchdown run. Trailing 24-21, Tech took over on its own two-yard line with 1:10 to play following a fourth down stop, and Hamilton guided the Jackets 79 yards on seven plays to set up Luke Manget’s game-tying 36-yard field goal with five seconds left.
CAMPBELL SWEEPS RECEIVING RECORDS
Kelly Campbell has made a clean sweep of Georgia Tech’s receiving records. The senior from Atlanta is the Yellow Jackets’ career leader in receptions (181), receiving yards (2,771), and touchdown catches (23). He also owns the season records in all three categories.
In ACC annals, Campbell ranks eighth in receiving yards, ninth in receptions and 10th in touchdown receptions.
GATHERS GATHERS SACKS
Defensive end Greg Gathers recorded the 29th sack of his career against NC State to become Georgia Tech’s career leader. The junior all-America candidate broke the record of 28.5 previously set by Coleman Rudolph from 1989-92. He has at least one sack in 20 of his last 23 games.
Gathers is tied with Rudolph with 52 career tackles for loss.
Gathers, who ranked third in the nation last season with 13 sacks, leads the ACC this year with nine sacks. He was named to the preseason Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List for the nation’s top lineman/linebacker. He is also a preseason second-team all-America and first-team all-ACC selection by Athlon Sports and Lindy’s.
TECH CAREER LEADERS: QB SACKS1. Greg Gathers 1999- 292. Coleman Rudolph 1989-92 28.53. Marco Coleman 1989-91 27.5
TECH CAREER LEADERS: TACKLES FOR LOSS 1. Coleman Rudolph 1989-92 52 Greg Gathers 1999- 52 3. Marco Coleman 1989-91 50
ACC CAREER SACK LEADERS 1. Chris Slade, UVa 1989-92 35.5 2. Reinard Wilson, FSU 1993-96 35.5 3. Peter Boulware, FSU 1994-96 34.0 4. Greg Ellis, UNC 1994-97 32.5 5. Mike McCrary, WF 1989-92 31.0 6. Julius Peppers, UNC Active 30.5 7. Greg Gathers, GT Active 29.0
MITCHELL A QUICK STUDY AT LINEBACKER
With injuries sidelining Georgia Tech’s top two middle linebackers, senior Ross Mitchell made a quick change, moving from fullback to linebacker.
Starting “mike” Daryl Smith, one of Tech’s top defenders, has missed three-and-a-half games since suffering a dislocated left elbow in the first half against Clemson, although he should return for the North Carolina game. Smith’s replacement, Ather Brown, is out for the year after injuring his left foot against Duke.
Mitchell made the move to defense on Sunday following Brown’s injury and then started against Maryland just four days later. He made nine tackles against the Terps and then added eight hits against NC State. Mitchell began his career at linebacker, starting six games in 1999, but switched to fullback in 2000.