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No. 9 Jackets Host Undefeated Maryland Thursday

ATLANTA (Sept. 26) — Georgia Tech’s ninth-ranked football team looks for its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory as the Yellow Jackets (2-1, 0-1 ACC) host undefeated Maryland (3-0, 0-0 ACC) Thursday at 8 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field in a nationally-televised contest on ESPN.

We basically utilized the off week to get better both offensively and defensively and on special teams, said Tech head coach George O’Leary at his weekly press conference. It helped us as far as some of the nicks we have, injury-wise. Now we’ve got to get ready for Maryland on Thursday night.

Maryland comes to Atlanta, where they are winless in five games, with some impressive statistics. In addition to featuring one of the nation’s top running backs in Lamont Jordan (121 yards per game), the Terps lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 3.3 points per game, and are ninth in total defense, giving up 240.7 yards per game.

Maryland is 3-0 and they are playing with a lot of confidence, offensively and defensively and on special teams, said O’Leary. They are leading the conference in kickoff returns and are close in punt returns.

We have a chore Thursday night to make sure that we take care of business. It’s a conference game, the second one we are going to play. We’re 0-1 and we can’t afford any other losses. It’s a big game and our players understand that.

Offensively, Maryland’s improvements have been keyed by the combination of Jordan, who helps the Terps rank sixth in the nation in rushingone place ahead of Techand redshirt freshman quarterback Calvin McCall, the ACC Rookie of the Week the last two weeks.

The biggest difference I’ve seen is the quarterback position, said O’Leary. He’s giving them more options and avenues to get things done as far as the passing game or the option game. He’s opening more lanes for Lamont Jordan to run in, and he is a great running back. We’re going to have our work cut out for us on defense, plus they have great receivers who can run. It will be a great test for our defense.

Defensively they are leading the conference, and the country, in points allowed, continued O’Leary. We’ll have our work cut out for us on offense. The key is that they are tackling very well. Their secondary tackles very well. They are well-schemed as far as making people play left-handing, doing things they don’t want to get done.

The game features two of the nation’s top return specialists. Tech’s Dez White, who had a 100-yard kickoff return for a score in last year’s win over Maryland, is averaging 28.8 yards per return this season. That ranks second in the ACC to Maryland’s Lewis Sanders, who leads the ACC and the nation with a 44.5-yard average, including a 98-yard touchdown return against Western Carolina.

Tech and Maryland are meeting in an ESPN Thursday night contest for the third time in five years. In 1995, the Terps came to Atlanta with a 4-0 record and a No. 17 national ranking, but Tech claimed a 31-3 victory for O’Leary’s first win against a nationally-ranked opponent. The following year in College Park, however, Maryland prevailed 13-10. Tech leads the overall series, 8-3.

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