Nov. 26, 2006
ATLANTA-Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division champion and 22nd-ranked Georgia Tech takes on 16th-ranked Wake Forest, the Atlantic Division Champion, in the second ACC Championship Game, Saturday at 1 p.m. ET at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.
The game will be nationally televised on ABC.
Georgia Tech enters the game with a record of 9-3, 7-1 ACC after falling at Georgia 15-12. Wake Forest, 10-2, 6-2 ACC, is coming off a 38-24 victory over Maryland to clinch its division.
“Our team is disappointed about a loss yesterday (Georgia), but one of the things that good teams do is put those things behind you and get on to the next game,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey.” This is a big ballgame for the championship and I think our guys our excited about that opportunity.
“Wake Forest has a ton of momentum. They played some big ballgames and played well, so they do have a bunch of momentum going into this one. They’re a very good football team.”
Calvin Johnson, Tech’s all-America wide receiver, leads the ACC in receiving yards with 899 while ranking second in receptions with 59. His 13 touchdown receptions, a new Tech season record, rank third in the nation.
Tech tailback Tashard Choice is the ACC’s leading rusher, averaging 100.3 yards per game. He has 1,204 yards and nine touchdowns. He has topped 100 yards in five straight games and seven of the last eight.
Senior quarterback Reggie Ball leads the ACC with 20 touchdown passes while throwing for 1,691 yards.
Linebackers KaMichael Hall and Philip Wheeler lead the Tech defense 75 and 74 tackles, respectively. Wheeler leads the team in sacks (8.0) and tackles for loss (12.5). Safeties Djay Jones and Jamal Lewis have combined for seven interceptions, including a team-high four by Jones.
The Tech defense ranks 11th in the nation in rushing defense, eighth in pass efficiency defense and 20th in total defense.
“Overall for this season we have gotten better at every phase of our game,” said Gailey. “Our kicking game has become a better overall kicking game, our defense is a very strong defense. We kind of stay pretty steady on defense. Our offense has been a little bit up and down, but for the most part up. We’ve got to continue to work on consistency there, and making the plays at the right time and in the clutch times so we can win ballgames. Overall we have become a better football team and the play of our special teams has improved as much as anything in the last month.”
JACKETS FACE WAKE FOREST FOR ACC TITLE
Georgia Tech will be playing Wake Forest for its third ACC title. The Jackets previously won the ACC in 1990 and claimed a share of the crown in 1998.
Tech has won a total of 15 conference championships in its history, including titles in the SEC (1939, 1943, 1944, 1951, 1952), Southern Conference (1922, 1927, 1928) and SIAA (1916, 1917, 1918, 1920, 1921).
Tech is bowl eligible for the 10th straight year as the Jackets will extend their school-record bowl streak. The Jackets are also assured of their 10th straight winning season, the second-longest string in school history and longest since Tech had 18 consecutive winning seasons from 1908-1925.
Tech’s nine victories are its most since the 2000 season. The Jackets have won at least nine games for the third time in the last nine years but just the seventh time in the last 40 years. This year’s Jackets have tied the school record with seven ACC victories.
JOHNSON IS BILETNIKOFF FINALIST
Georgia Tech’s All-Everything wide receiver Calvin Johnson was named last Friday as one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. He has also been named one of the 10 “Players to Watch” for the 2006 Walter Camp Foundation Player of the Year award as well as a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award as Collegiate Player of the Year.
Johnson is THIRD IN THE NATION with 13 touchdown catches on the season, a Tech season record. He has caught 13 of Tech’s 22 TD passes. He leads the ACC in receiving yards (899) while ranking second in receptions (59).
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE
Tashard Choice is the ACC’S LEADING RUSHER, averaging 100.3 yards per game (15th in the nation), including 110.3 ypg in ACC games, which also leads the league. He has rushed for 1,204 yards–the fifth-best season total in Georgia Tech history–and 10 touchdowns.
Choice has topped 100 yards in five straight games and seven of the last eight. The workhorse has averaged 131 yards and 26.6 carries a game over the last five contests.
DURANT DURANT – FINALIST FOR RAY GUY AWARD
Junior Durant Brooks was named last week as one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter.
Brooks is SECOND IN THE NATION in net punting at 40.86 yards per kick. His gross average of 45.2 yards per kick lead the ACC and ranks sixth in the nation. Thirty-three of his 70 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line, and he has 23 punts of 50 yards or longer.
He has been ACC Specialist of the Week twice this season after wins over Miami and Duke.
THE SERIES WITH WAKE FOREST
Georgia Tech holds a 20-7 lead in the series with Wake Forest. The Yellow Jackets have won four of the last five and eight of the last 10 encounters.
The two teams have played just once in the last three seasons, a 30-17 Georgia Tech victory on Nov. 5, 2005, in Atlanta. In that game, Reggie Ball threw touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson and James Johnson and rushed for a third score, and P.J. Daniels and Tashard Choice combined for 173 yards on the ground to lead the Yellow Jackets. The Tech defense held ACC rushing leader Chris Barclay to just 24 yards on 15 carries and allowed the Deacons a total of just 100 yards rushing.
Wake’s last win in the series was a 24-21 victory in Atlanta in 2002.
The series dates all the way back to 1917, when the John Heisman-coached Yellow Jackets defeated Wake Forest, 33-0. After Tech downed the Deacons by a cumulative score of 133-0 in four games from 1917-1921, the two schools did not play again until Tech joined the ACC. The Jackets then won four more in a row from 1982-85 by a 159-57 combined score, giving Tech a 292-57 advantage before Wake broke through with a 24-21 victory in 1986.
Tech head coach Chan Gailey and Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe both served as assistant coaches at the Air Force Academy, although not at the same time. Gailey was in Colorado Springs from 1979-82, including his final two years as defensive coordinator, while Grobe was there from 1984-94.
Tech and Wake Forest are facing each other for the first time in the ACC Championship Game. However, both of the Jackets’ previous ACC titles have been clinched against the Demon Deacons. In 1990, Tech won 42-7 at Wake Forest for a 6-0-1 ACC mark and the outright title. In 1998, the Jackets defeated Wake, 65-35, for a 7-1 record to share the title with Florida State.
COMMON OPPONENTS THIS SEASON Opponent Tech Wake Clemson L 7-31 L 17-27 Duke W 49-21 W 14-13 NC State W 31-23 W 25-23 North Carolina W 7-0 W 24-17 Virginia Tech W 38-27 L 6-27 Maryland W 27-23 W 38-24
TECH IN JACKSONVILLE
Georgia Tech returns to the city of Jacksonville for the first time since the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 2000, when the Yellow Jackets fell to Miami, 28-13. Tech has played in the Gator Bowl a total of six times, posting a 3-3 record, including a 1-1 mark in the current Alltel Stadium. In addition, the Jackets won regular-season games against Navy in 1964 (17-0) and 1973 (26-22) and against Florida in 1912 (14-7) and 1913 (13-3) for a record of 7-3 in the city.
Three current Yellow Jackets hail from the Jacksonville area in backup defensive back Pat Clark (Jacksonville Mandarin H.S.), special teams player Troy Garside (Jacksonville Episcopal H.S.), and sophomore tight end Colin Peek (Jacksonville Bolles), who is redshirting this season.
PROTECTING THE END ZONE
On the season, the Georgia Tech defense has allowed 19 touchdowns in 12 games. The Jackets have held seven opponents (Samford, Virginia, Maryland, Miami, NC State, North Carolina and Georgia) to one offensive touchdown or less.
That includes a string of nine straight quarters in which the Tech defense did not allow a touchdown, covering a 7-0 shutout of North Carolina and a 31-23 victory over NC State in which the Wolfpack offense managed only three field goals, before Duke broke through with a touchdown.
The Tech defense has been stout in the red zone. Yellow Jacket opponents have had 27 red zone possessions but have managed just 10 touchdowns.
The Tech defense ranks seventh in the nation in pass efficiency defense, 11th in rushing defense (88.75), 20th in total defense (289.50), and 24th in scoring defense (17.50).
ON THE BALL
Quarterback Reggie Ball made his 48th career start against Georgia, the school record for starts by a quarterback. Among all Yellow Jackets, he trails only linebacker Recardo Wimbush, who started 50 games from 1999-2002.
Ball won his 29th game as Tech’s starting quarterback against Duke, tying Joe Hamilton for second place in Yellow Jacket annals. Shawn Jones, quarterback of Tech’s 1990 national championship team, is the winningest signal caller in school history with 31 victories.
Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech’s sensational wide receiver, is one of the nation’s top players. The two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection earned first-team all-America honors last fall. He is the preseason choice as the ACC Player of the Year as well as a preseason all-America.
With two touchdown catches against Duke, Johnson raised his career total to 26, adding to his Georgia Tech career record and moving into seventh place in ACC history. Johnson ranks third in Tech history in receiving yards and fifth in receptions.
GEORGIA TECH CAREER LEADERSReceiving Yards Years Yds ACC
Receptions Years Rec ACC 1. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 195 5th 2. Jonathan Smith 2000-03 174 13th 3. Kerry Watkins 1999-02 171 T-14th 4. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 165 T-19th 5. Calvin Johnson 2004- 161 26th
THE “OTHER” JOHNSON
Everyone knows about Georgia Tech’s all-America wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and now fans are beginning to learn about the “other” receiver named Johnson, sophomore James.
For the season, James has 36 catches for 528 yards (15.2-yard average) and six scores. Over the last six games, he has 21 receptions for 303 yards and five touchdowns, covering 35, 46, 25, 7 and 37 yards.
The two Johnsons have accounted for 95 of Tech’s 146 pass completions, 1,427 of 1,920 passing yards and 19 of the team’s 22 TD passes.