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No. 24 Tech Travels to Virginia for Key ACC Matchup

Nov. 6, 2005

ATLANTA–Winners of three in a row, 24th-ranked Georgia Tech travels to Charlottesville, Va., to face ACC Coastal Division rival Virginia Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Scott Stadium. The game will be regionally televised on ABC.

Tech is 6-2 overall, 4-2 in the ACC after last Saturday’s 30-17 victory over Wake Forest, which made the Yellow Jackets bowl eligible for the ninth straight year. The win also moved Tech back into the national rankings at No. 24 in both polls.

Virginia is coming off a 51-3 victory over Temple that improved the Cavaliers to 5-3 overall, 2-3 in the ACC.

Tech’s three-game winning streak over Duke, Clemson and Wake Forest has been keyed by defense. The Tech defense has allowed just three touchdowns and an average of 12 points in the three games. The Yellow Jackets have held the three opponents to an average of 285.3 total yards and forced nine turnovers.

One week after holding Clemson without a touchdown in a 10-9 victory, Tech shut down the ACC’s top rushing offense in the Yellow Jackets’ 30-17 victory over Wake Forest. The Tech defense limited ACC rushing leader Chris Barclay to just 24 yards on 15 carries while the Deacons managed 100 yards as a team. Barclay entered the game averaging 124.8 of Wake’s 215.6 rushing yards per game.

For the season, Tech ranks 10th nationally in pass efficiency defense (102.7 rating) 14th in rushing defense (102.4 ypg), 16th in total defense (298.9) and 21st in scoring defense (19.0). But perhaps the key to Tech’s strong defensive play has been the ability to create turnovers. The Jackets are tied for third in the nation with 16 interceptions and tied for ninth with 23 turnovers gained. Tech leads the ACC and ranks fifth in the nation in turnover margin at +1.38.

The primary thieves have been sophomore linebacker Philip Wheeler, who leads the ACC and ranks sixth in the nation with four interceptions, and senior safety Dawan Landry, who has three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

All-ACC middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson is Tech’s top tackler with 62, including six tackles for loss and one interception, while junior linebacker KaMichael Hall has a team-leading eight tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Eric Henderson has provided a spark since returning from injury; he leads the team with four sacks.

Senior tailback P.J. Daniels posted his fifth 100-yard game of the season with 109 yards against the Demon Deacons. The senior from Houston, Texas, ranks second in the ACC at 87.9 yards rushing per game.

But Daniels has company in the Tech backfield in the person of sophomore Tashard Choice, who combines with Daniels to form an effective one-two punch. Choice has rushed for 370 yards with a 5.1-yard average and four touchdowns.

For the season, the pair of Daniels and Choice have combined for 1,073 yards rushing (134.1 yards per game) and seven touchdowns.

Tech quarterback Reggie Ball is averaging 229.3 yards of total offense per game, including 198.0 yards through the air with eight touchdown passes as well as three rushing touchdowns.

His favorite target is sensational sophomore Calvin Johnson, who leads the ACC in receiving yards per game (90.6) while ranking second in receptions (5.0 pg). Johnson has five touchdown catches.

BOWL ELIGIBLE FOR NINTH STRAIGHT YEAR

Georgia Tech earned its sixth win of the season with a 30-17 victory over Wake Forest, making the Yellow Jackets eligible for a ninth straight bowl game.

Tech is one of just eight schools in the nation to play in a bowl game each of the last eight years. Florida State and Virginia Tech are the only other Atlantic Coast Conference schools in this elite group, which also includes Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Purdue, and Tennessee. However, Purdue is out of bowl contention with six losses.

On their current streak, the Yellow Jackets have played in the 1997 Carquest Bowl, the 1999 and 2000 Toyota Gator Bowls, the 2000 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the 2001 Seattle Bowl, the 2002 Silicon Valley Classic, the 2004 Humanitarian Bowl and the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl, going 5-3 in the eight games. Tech’s longest previous streak was six straight bowl games from 1951-56 under legendary head coach Bobby Dodd.

JACKETS BACK IN THE RANKINGS

After three straight wins, Georgia Tech is nationally ranked for the first time in five weeks at No. 24 in both polls.

Tech moved into the national rankings for the first time this season the week of Sept. 4 at No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 21 by USA Today. Tech climbed as high as No. 15 in both polls, the week of Sept. 18th, before falling out following losses to Virginia Tech and NC State.

Before this season, the last time Tech was ranked was the final poll of the 2001 season, when the Jackets were No. 24 by AP. No. 15 is the highest the Yellow Jackets have been in either poll since Tech achieved a No. 15 ranking in both polls the week of Oct. 7, 2001.

GEORGIA TECH'S WEEK-BY-WEEK RANKINGSWeek    Record  AP      USASept. 4 1-0     17      21Sept. 11        2-0     16      18Sept. 18        3-0     15      15Sept. 25        3-1     25      T-24Oct. 2  3-1     24      23Nov. 6  6-2     24      24

THE SERIES WITH VIRGINIA

The series between Georgia Tech and Virginia is tied at 13-13-1, but the Cavaliers have won two of the last three meetings and nine of the last 13.

Virginia won last year’s game, 30-10, in Atlanta as Alvin Pearman scored two touchdowns and the Cavaliers came up with four key turnovers. The Cavaliers also captured the last meeting in Charlottesville, 29-17, in 2003.

Tech’s last win in the series was a 23-15 victory in Atlanta in 2002.

The Yellow Jackets are seeking their first victory at Charlottesville since 1990’s historic 41-38 win over then No. 1-ranked Virginia. Since then, Tech has lost six straight games at Scott Stadium, including three straight defeats by a combined 12 points in 1997, 1999 and 2001. Tech has a 2-7-1 record on Virginia’s home field; other than the 1990 win, the Jackets’ only other victory at Virginia was a 28-14 decision in 1986.

COACHING CONNECTIONS

Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey and Virginia’s Al Groh served one year together on Ken Hatfield’s staff at Air Force.

Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is a Virginia graduate, lettering three years as a defensive back for coach Dick Bestwick. During Tenuta’s time in Charlottesville, his position coach was current Tech Director of Athletics Dave Braine.

CONSISTENT SUCCESS

With four Atlantic Coast Conference victories, Georgia Tech is guaranteed to finish with an ACC record of .500 or better for the 11th straight year. The only other ACC school that can make that claim is Florida State, which has posted a winning ACC record each of its 14 years in the league, including this season. Clemson has the next longest current streak with six straight years of .500 or better in the ACC entering this season (the Tigers are currently 3-4 in the ACC in 2005).

BELL SHAKES SLUMP

Sophomore placekicker Travis Bell, a semifinalist last year for the Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award, has finally shaken the slump that saw the normally reliable kicker miss six straight field goals.

The former walk-on, who was placed on scholarship this fall, made 20 of his first 22 field goals, including a school-record 15 in a row last season. But he missed from 43 yards against Connecticut, from 35 (blocked) and 43 yards against Virginia Tech, and then from 27 and 24 yards against NC State. He did not have a field goal try against Duke, then missed a 47-yarder against Clemson before connecting on a 33-yarder on the final play of the first half, points that proved pivotal in Tech’s 10-9 win.

Then against Wake Forest, Bell connected from 41, 44 and 47 yards, the latter tying his career long.

Earlier this season, Bell booted three field goals to help Georgia Tech to a 23-14 victory at 16th-ranked Auburn. His third field goal came with 1:32 left to essentially seal the victory. He added two field goals in the Jackets 27-21 win over North Carolina.

Bell is now nine-for-15 on the season and 24-for-32 (75 percent) in his career. He is a perfect 52-for-52 on extra points for his career.

HENDERSON MAKES PRESENCE FELT

Returning to the lineup after missing four games with an ankle injury, defensive end Eric Henderson has made an immediate impact in Georgia Tech’s wins over Clemson and Wake Forest. In the two games, he has totalled 11 tackles with four tackles for loss, including three sacks, and three caused fumbles. He helped Tech hold Clemson without a touchdown and then limit Wake’s potent rushing attack to just 100 yards.

Henderson was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the third time in his career for his play against the Tigers. He had two sacks, both times causing fumbles by Tiger quarterback Charlie Whitehurst that Tech recovered. The second fumble was recovered by Yellow Jacket linebacker Philip Wheeler at the Tigers’ 34-yard line to set up a Tech field goal on the final play of the first half.

Henderson has four sacks on the season and has caused the quarterback to fumble on each one.

SAFETY VALVES

Georgia Tech’s senior safety tandem of Dawan Landry and Chris Reis turned in an outstanding efforts in Georgia Tech’s win over Wake Forest, helping Tech hold the ACC’s top rushing team to just 100 yards, including only 24 yards on 15 carries by league rushing leader Chris Barclay.

Reis had a season-high 13 tackles, including two tackles for loss. Just before the half, with Tech holding a 14-3 lead but Wake Forest on the move, he grabbed an interception and returned it 39 yards to the Wake 31-yard line that set up a field goal just before the half.

Landry added eight tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass breakups against the Demon Deacons. On Tech’s current three-game winning streak, Landry has 19 tackles, three tackles for loss, three pass breakups, an interception and two fumble recoveries.

HENDERSON CLIMBS CAREER LISTS

Eric Henderson, the Yellow Jackets’ all-ACC defensive end, is nearing the Georgia Tech record for career tackles for loss, which includes sacks and other tackles for minus yardage.

The senior from New Orleans, La., has 56 career tackles for loss to rank second in Yellow Jacket annals, needing just one to equal Greg Gathers’ record of 57. He set a Tech season record with 24 tackles for loss in 2003.

Henderson is tied for fourth in Georgia Tech history with 23 career sacks as he equalled former Tech all-America and NFL All-Pro Pat Swilling. As a sophomore in 2003, Henderson led the ACC with 11 sacks.

TECH CAREER TACKLES FOR LOSS    Years   TFL     Yds

1. Greg Gathers 1999-02 57 290 2. Eric Henderson 2002- 56 220 Coleman Rudolph 1989-92 52 285 4. Marco Coleman 1989-91 50 215

TECH CAREER SACKS Years Sack Yds 1. Greg Gathers 1999-02 31 210 2. Coleman Rudolph 1989-92 28.5 200 3. Marco Coleman 1989-91 27.5 162 4. Eric Henderson 2002- 23 167 Pat Swilling 1982-85 23 194

BALL’S “FEETS”

Over the last three games, junior quarterback Reggie Ball has rushed for 192 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries. For the season, Ball is Tech’s third-leading rusher with a net of 219 yards and three touchdowns.

Ball has been sacked just four times all season. As a team, Tech leads the ACC in fewest sacks allowed with six.

Ball has moved into second place in career rushing yards by a Tech signal caller, trailing only Joe Hamilton. He needs 65 yards to become the 31st 1,000-yard rusher in Georgia Tech history.

Career Rushing Yards by Tech QB Years   Yards

1. Joe Hamilton 1996-99 1,758 2. Reggie Ball 2003-present 935 3. Danny Myers 1973-75 921 4. Shawn Jones 1989-92 855

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