ATLANTA – One week later than expected, Georgia Tech opens the 2000 season by hosting Central Florida Saturday at 7 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
Georgia Techs scheduled opener at 10th-ranked Virginia Tech in the BCA Bowl was postponed indefinitely due to lightning Sunday night in Blacksburg, Va.
“We got back here about 4:00 this morning, and now we’ve got to get busy on Central Florida,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “That’s the toughest thing. You’re at a high ready for the kickoff, and all of a sudden, theres no game and youve got to change your path and get ready for another team. That will be the toughest chore with the players, after all the hard work they put in.”
Coming off three consecutive bowl appearances, Georgia Tech posted a record of 8-4 in 1999. UCF, coached by Mike Kruczek, was 4-7 last fall.
“We’re looking forward to a great football game against an experienced quarterback, Vic Penn, who puts a lot of numbers on the board,” said O’Leary.
Penn, a 6-1, 180-pound senior, passed for 3,078 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
“They also return a receiver who caught quite a few balls in Kenny Clark (54 receptions, 655 yards, 6 TD) and their tailback, Edward Mack (461 yards, 5 TD), is back,” continued O’Leary. “They are big up front, averaging about 300 pounds.”
“On defense, they only have three or four starters back, but they have good athletes.”
“Its a big stretch with three home games, the first one being Central Florida, and that’s the only one were worrying about right now.”
For the Yellow Jackets, junior quarterback George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.) steps into the considerable shoes of Hamilton, who started 45 of Techs last 47 games. As Hamiltons backup the last two seasons, Godsey completed 13 of 32 passes for 146 yards, including 5-for-13 for 57 yards in six games last fall.
“George controls the offense, hes a good leader in the huddle and he knows what to do with the ball when he has it in his hands,” said O’Leary.
“The key is that we have a much better surrounding cast around George than when Joe Hamilton took over four years ago.”
The Jackets cast of skill players features junior flanker Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.), who set school records with 69 receptions for 1,105 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall, and tailbacks Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.), who rushed for 474 yards and five touchdowns in 1998, and Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.), who led the team with 837 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1999. Senior left tackle Chris Brown (Augusta, Ga.) and senior guard Brent Key (Trussville, Ala.) anchor the offensive line.
Georgia Techs defense looks to be much improved, led by junior strong safety Chris Young (Senoia, Ga.). The Jackets return their top four tacklers from a year ago in Young, 89 tackles, sophomore linebacker Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.), 91 tackles, sophomore end Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.), 71 tackles, 18 TFL, and sophomore free safety Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.), 69 tackles.
The Yellow Jackets special teams return intact with sophomore kicker Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.), set a Tech record with 86 points by kicking (11-16 FG, 53-53 PAT), and sophomore punter Dan Dyke (Winter Springs, Fla.), an Academic All-America who averaged 43.8 yards per kick.
There is no live television coverage of the Tech-UCF game, but a one-hour replay will air on Fox Sports Net South on Monday, Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. The radio broadcast on the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network features Wes Durham as the play-by-play voice and former Tech quarterback Kim King as the color analyst.
The game will be TotalCast on ramblinwreck.com. Click Here for the TotalCast.
POSTPONEMENT IS BELIEVED TO BE A FIRST
No one associated with Rambling Wreck football can recall a Georgia Tech game being postponed or cancelled. The last time the Yellow Jackets had a game delayed by lighting was against Florida at Grant Field in 1980.
In 1963 when most games around the country were cancelled following the assassination of President John Kennedy, Tech did not have a game scheduled.
“In all my years of coaching, Ive been put off the field for weather but always gone back out,” said head coach George O’Leary, who spent 12 years in high school coaching before his first college position at Syracuse in 1980.
“The weather at this game was really something. It wasnt the rain but the lightning and the strikes that were happening near the stadium. The field was really unplayable.”
“I thought it was the best decision for the safety of the players and also for the fans. Water and electricity are two things you dont mess around with.”
“The one good thing is that we took a lot of young players on the road to a big-time environment and saw how they reacted. They got a little taste of what Division I football is about at an away game.”
O’Leary quipped, “I thought we looked pretty good in pregame warmups.”
Georgia Tech has won both meetings with UCF, both of which were played in Atlanta. Tech defeated the Golden Knights last season, 41-10, and in 1996 by a 27-20 margin.
In last years game at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton ran for a career-high 100 yards and passed for 161 more, and tailback Sean Gregory rushed for a career-best 150 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start. UCF quarterback Vic Penn completed 23 of 39 passes for 176 yards.
HOME WINNING STREAK
Georgia Tech enters the 2000 season with a seven-game winning streak at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. The Yellow Jackets were a perfect 6-0 at home last fall after defeating Wake Forest in the final home game of 1998. Techs last loss at home came at the hands of Florida State on Oct. 24, 1998.
TECH IN SEASON OPENERS
Georgia Tech has a record of 73-30-4 (.701) in season openers. The Jackets defeated Navy, 48-14, in last years opener. Tech is 65-11-3 (.842) when the opener is at home.
FRESHMEN MAKE AN IMPACT
Georgia Tech’s highly regarded freshman class has already made an impact on the Yellow Jackets depth chart. As many as 10 true freshmen could see action in backup roles or on special teams.
On offense, receivers Nate Curry (Miami, Fla.) and Jonathan Smith (Argyle, Ga.), tight end John Paul Foschi (Glen Head, N.Y.), fullback Johnathan Jackson (Jacksonville, Fla.) and guard Leon Robinson (Garden City, Ga.) are in backup roles. Smith could also be used on punt returns. On defense, linebackers Hobie Holiday (Warner Robins, Ga.), Daryl Smith (Albany, Ga.) and Keyaron Fox (Atlanta, Ga.), strong safety Sterling Green (Hyattsville, Md.) and cornerback Jonathan Cox (Chicago, Ill.) are in the mix.