Nov. 20, 2011
By Jon Cooper
– Georgia Tech A-Back Roddy Jones and Duke safety Matt Daniels have had plenty of opportunities to get to know one another over the last four years.
Saturday afternoon at Wade Wallace Stadium, the 78th meeting between the schools provided the setting for the final series of meetings between Jones and Daniels, both of whom played their final ACC games.
After three years of going head-to-head, Jones and Daniels needed no introduction but had the opportunity to do so prior to the game. It was a special moment.
“We walked out to midfield together before the game at the coin toss and I kind of told him, ‘Here we go, again,'” said Jones after Tech’s 38-31 victory. “When you play a guy for four years, especially when you’re doing so much blocking on safeties and he’s a safety, we’ve become pretty familiar with each other.”
They should have. In the four years they played, Georgia Tech ran 276 offensive plays, with 231 of them coming on the ground. In all that Jones only carried on 17 of those plays, while Daniels only made or had a part in 20 stops.
That didn’t mean the two didn’t make plenty of contact during games and they certainly did on Saturday.
In fact, it was more likely the two met on plays that Jones didn’t carry the ball, as he was often out in front looking for a safety. There was no easier target to find than Daniels, who was always around the ball — he’s the school’s active leader in tackles and only the 14th Blue Devil ever to reach 300 stops.
Both fierce competitors, Jones relished the challenge of going up against the All-America candidate.
“He’s played a lot of football and he’s a great player,” said Jones. “I told him after the game that he’s a great player. It was fun. It’s fun when you get to play players of that caliber and he plays hard every play.”
The two made plenty of hard contact on Saturday, including on one of the most important plays of the game, the fourth-and-goal play from the one at the end of the first half. On the play, a pitch play right to B-Back Embry Peeples, Jones made contact with Daniels but Daniels, a Fayetteville, Ga., native shed the block and made the tackle on Peeples at the goal line. Fortunately for Tech, Peeples stretched the football out and broke the plane, allowing the Jackets to extend their lead to 28-14 going into the locker room.
Regardless of whether you count that play as a victory for Daniels over Jones in making the tackle or give the edge to Jones for slowing Daniels up enough for Peeples to reach the end zone, there were so many hard-fought battles over the four years that there probably was no clear-cut winner.
Coincidentally, Daniels made the tackle on what would be Jones’ final career carry against Duke early in the fourth quarter, following a four-yard gain. It was only the second time that the two converged on a running play (the other came the first play of the second quarter of 2009, a six-yard play).
Jones did get the last laugh team-wise, however, as the Yellow Jackets never lost to the Blue Devils in four head-to-head meetings.
“He won some [battles] and I won some,” said Jones. “We walked off the field and shook hands at the end of the day. He’s a good guy. I’ve been able to talk to him off the field for a couple of years and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.”