ATLANTA-Winners of four in a row and nationally-ranked for the first time this season, No. 24 Georgia Tech hosts Virginia in a nationally-televised Thursday night showdown Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
Announcing the game for ESPN will be Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit in the booth and Dr. Jerry Punch on the sideline. The radio broadcast on the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network, including Atlanta flagship WGST 640 AM, has Wes Durham as the play-by-play voice and former Tech quarterback Kim King as the color analyst.
Tech’s stirring 31-28 victory at fourth-ranked Clemson marked the highest-ranked team Tech has defeated since knocking off top-ranked Virginia in 1990 and improved the Yellow Jackets’ record to 6-2 overall, 4-2 in the ACC.
Virginia, 5-3 overall, 4-2 ACC, is coming off a 17-6 win over North Carolina.
“Virginia is a very good team that is playing well right now,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “They have an experienced quarterback in Dan Ellis and a very good tailback in Antoine Womack. They are always well coached.”
Tech quarterback George Godsey is this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Back of the Week after his school-record 454 yards passing against the Tigers. For the season, the junior from Tampa, Fla., has completed 154 of 251 passes (61 percent) for 2,007 yards and 18 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
Junior Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.), the ACC leader in receptions and receiving yards, leads a balanced receiving corps with 49 catches for 780 yards and seven touchdowns. Seven Yellow Jackets have at least 10 receptions and seven different players have caught a touchdown pass.
Campbell also ranks 19th in the nation with a 24.9-yard average on kickoff returns and averages 161.3 all-purpose yards per game. His average of 18.2 yards per play is the third in the nation.
Georgia Tech’s trio of tailbacks-Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.), Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.) and Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.)-have averaged 130.3 yards rushing on 29 carries per game. Burns is Tech’s top rusher with 596 yards (4.4-yard average) and eight touchdowns, including six in the last four games. Gregory has 227 yards and one score, while Ford adds 219 yards and three touchdowns.
Tech’s offensive line continues to play well, led by senior guard Brent Key (Trussville, Ala.) and senior tackle Chris Brown (Augusta, Ga.).
Over the last three games-victories over Wake Forest, Duke and Clemson-the Georgia Tech offense has averaged 525 yards per game. That includes averages of 336 yards passing and 189 yards rushing.
Linebacker Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.) and Daryl Smith (Albany, Ga.) are Tech’s top tacklers with 69 each. Sophomore defensive end Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.) has 51 tackles and an ACC leading 11 sacks, while junior defensive end Nick Rogers (East Point, Ga.) adds nine sacks and 50 tackles.
JACKETS BECOME BOWL ELIGIBLE
With its last-second, 31-28 victory at fourth-ranked Clemson, Georgia Tech earned its sixth victory of the season, making the Yellow Jackets eligible for a fourth consecutive bowl game. Tech has not played in four straight bowls in nearly half a century, since the days of legendary head coach Bobby Dodd, who guided the Jackets to six straight bowls from 1951-56.
THE SERIES VS. VIRGINIA
Georgia Tech holds a slim 11-10-1 lead in the series with Virginia, which began in 1965. The two teams have split the last four meetings, with the home team winning each time. Those four games have been decided by an average of five points.
The two teams have played three consecutive shootouts, with the Cavaliers winning 35-31 in 1997 and 45-38 in 1999, sandwiched around Tech’s 41-38 victory in Atlanta in 1998. That’s an average of 76 points scored in the last three meetings. Last year, Virginia overcame deficits of 17-0 and 24-7 for its victory, while in 1998, the Jackets overcome a 38-17 second-half disadvantage.
Tech has won the last two meetings in Atlanta and holds a 9-5 advantage on its homefield. Virginia’s last win at Bobby Dodd Stadium was a 24-7 decision in 1994.
Tech and Virginia have played three times on Thursday night, including ESPN games in 1991 (Tech 24-21) and 1993 (Virginia 35-14). The two teams first met on Thursday night on TBS in 1983 (Tech 31-27).
LAST MEETING WITH VIRGINIA
In 1999 in Charlottesville, Virginia quarterback David Rivers threw for three touchdowns and tailback Thomas Jones rushed for 213 yards and two scores as the Cavaliers overcame deficits of 17-0 and 24-7 for a 45-38 upset of seventh-ranked Georgia Tech. Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton passed for 233 yards and two touchdowns and Sean Gregory rushed for 119 yards and three scores.
The last meeting in Atlanta in 1998 produced the greatest second-half comeback in Georgia Tech history as the Yellow Jackets scored the final 24 points in a 41-38 victory. Tech, which was outgained 600-370 in the game, trailed 38-17 late in the third quarter when Delaunta Cameron’s 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown sparked the comeback. Hamilton passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 54-yard scoring pass to Dez White with 4:40 left. White had a school-record 243 yards receiving and three scores.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIVE
Georgia Tech’s game against Virginia is the second of two ESPN Thursday night games for the Yellow Jackets this fall. The Rambling Wreck fell at NC State, 30-23 in overtime, on Sept. 21 in Raleigh, N.C.
Tech, which also played two ESPN Thursday night games in 1996, has a 5-5 record in such games, including this year’s loss to the Wolfpack.
Tech’s game against Virginia will be the Jackets’ 11th exposure on ESPN’s prime-time package and will equal Texas A&M for the most Thursday night appearances.
In addition to the nine 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 27-18-2.
ESPN THURSDAY NIGHT GAMES
Year 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 49,857
GOOSE IS GOLDEN IN FOURTH QUARTER
Quarterback George Godsey has done some of his best work in the fourth quarter. “Goose” has completed 46 of 63 passes (73 percent) for 505 yards and seven touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Most recently, he completed 14 of 20 passes for 168 yards in the fourth quarter of Tech’s 31-28 win over fourth-ranked Clemson. He guided the Yellow Jackets on two 80-yard touchdown drives in the final 10 minutes, capped by a 48-yard touchdown pass to Kelly Campbell and then the game-winning, 16-yard touchdown to Kerry Watkins with just seven seconds left.
Godsey also guided the Yellow Jackets to fourth-quarter wins over North Carolina and Central Florida.
SMITH EARNS ROOKIE RECOGNITION
There is perhaps no freshman defender making a bigger impact in the ACC than Georgia Tech linebacker Daryl Smith. The Albany, Ga., native is this week’s ACC Rookie of the Week after making a team-high 10 tackles, a pass breakup and a key fumble recovery in Tech’s win over Clemson. Smith recovered a Clemson fumble at the Tigers’ 41-yard line, leading to a Tech field goal. He helped the Tech defense hold the Tigers to 354 yards of total offense, 138 yards below their average.
Smith, who moved into the starting lineup in the season’s third game, is Tech’s co-leader in tackles with 69, along with eight tackles for loss, four sacks, an interception and three fumble recoveries.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Georgia Tech has won 14 of its last 16 home games, with both defeats coming at the hands of Florida State (2000 and 1998). In 12 of those 14 home wins, Tech has scored 40 or more points.
CAMPBELL ON A ROLL
Kelly Campbell, Tech’s leading receiver with 49 catches for 780 yards, has had three straight 100-yard games. The junior from Atlanta has totalled 25 catches and 483 yards receiving in Tech wins over Wake Forest, Duke and Clemson.
Against Clemson, Campbell tied the Tech single-game record with 14 catches, equalling a mark held by Robert Lavette (Notre Dame, 1981), Steve Harkey (South Carolina, 1970) and John Sias (Navy, 1968). Campbell’s 209 receiving yards were a career best and the fourth-best single-game in school history. The record is 243 yards by Dez White against Virginia in 1998.
GODSEY CONTINUES TO EXCEED EXPECTATIONS
Quarterback George Godsey is well on his way to recording the second-best passing season in school history, surpassed only by the 1999 campaign turned in by Heisman runner-up Joe Hamilton.
Godsey’s 18 touchdown passes are more than any Tech quarterback except for Hamilton’s school-record 29 last fall. With 2,007 yards passing, Godsey already ranks ninth on Tech’s season list and is on pace to throw for 2,750 yards, which would be second only to Hamilton’s 3,060 yards in 1999.
Godsey’s pass efficiency rating of 149.0 would also rank second to Hamilton’s 175.0.
JACKETS LEAD ACC IN TURNOVER MARGIN
After ranking last in Division I-A last season, Georgia Tech leads the ACC and ranks fifth nationally in turnover margin at +1.50.
The Tech defense has garnered 11 interceptions (by nine different players) and recovered 10 fumbles. Tech’s defense has set up the offense for 69 points (nine TDs and two FG) following interceptions and fumble recoveries.
Three additional touchdowns have been set up by special teams with a fumble recovery on punt coverage against Wake Forest and two punt plays against North Carolina.
JACKETS BAG SACKS
The Georgia Tech defense has recorded 34 sacks this season, more than double its total of 16 for all of last season. The school record is 45 sacks, achieved in 1990 and 1991, when the Yellow Jackets featured the tandem of Marco Coleman and Coleman Rudolph.
The Jackets have had 27 sacks in the last five games, including a season-high seven sacks each against NC State and Duke. Tech had six sacks in its win over North Carolina and four versus Clemson.
Tech’s starting defensive ends Greg Gathers and Nick Rogers have combined for 20 sacks. Gathers leads the ACC and ranks third in the nation with 11 sacks, while Nick Rogers is fourth in the ACC with nine sacks. Rogers is also second in the country in fumbles with six recoveries.
Through its first five games of the season, Georgia Tech had managed only four plays of 30 yards or more. In the last three games, Tech has recorded nine plays of 30 yards or more, including four of 50 yards or more.
Against Duke, Kelly Campbell had a 41-yard run and a 47-yard touchdown catch from George Godsey, and Sean Gregory contributed a 58-yard touchdown run. Against Wake Forest, Godsey threw touchdown passes of 53 and 35 yards to Campbell and 72 yards to Kerry Watkins. In the win over Clemson, Godsey hit Watkins for a 33-yard touchdown, Campbell for a 48-yard score and Joe Burns for a 51-yard completion.
CAMPBELL CLIMBS RECEIVING LISTS
Kelly Campbell is well on his way to becoming the most prolific receiver in Georgia Tech history. The junior from Atlanta already holds the Tech record for touchdown catches with 18, breaking the previous record of 14 that was shared by Dez White, Buck Martin and Gary Lee.
Campbell is now second in Rambling Wreck annals to Harvey Middleton in career receptions (129) and receiving yards (2,016). He also ranks 9th in career all-purpose yardage (2,711).
GATHERS GATHERS SACKS
In his sophomore season, Greg Gathers has already recorded 18 career sacks and 36 tackles for loss (including sacks), ranking fourth in Tech history in both categories.
The only Yellow Jackets with more career sacks or tackles for loss than Gathers are the all-America triumvirate Coleman Rudolph (who played three years in the NFL), Marco Coleman (one of this year’s NFL sack leaders) and Pat Swilling (a former NFL All-Pro).
Gathers has had at least one sack in 11 of the last 12 games and at least one tackle for loss in 13 straight contests.
Senior Felipe Claybrooks is tied with Gathers with 18 career sacks and also ranks sixth with 33 tackles for loss.