Oct. 18, 2005
Georgia Tech (4-2, 2-2 ACC) will travel to No. 6 Miami (5-1, 2-1 ACC) for an Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division showdown in the Orange Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 22. The game will be regionally-televised on ABC (WSB-TV in Atlanta) at Noon. The game will also air over the radio at 790 The Zone (WQXI-AM 790) and WREK-FM (91.1).
The sixth-ranked Hurricanes have won five straight after a season opening loss to archrival Florida State, 10-7, in Tallahassee, Fla. Miami has limited its last four opponents to 5.00 points per game and the `Canes rank No. 1 in the nation in total defense, yielding just 227.2 yards per game.
“We have a saying here, and that’s `respect all, fear none’,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “You have to respect every team you play, but you don’t fear them. We’ve already played Auburn, who was undefeated last year, and we beat them at their place. Our guys know how to handle playing big-time opponents in big-time venues.”
The Hurricanes also lead the nation in pass defense, allowing just 127.2 yards in the air, and rank second in scoring defense, surrendering just 10.0 points per game. UM freshman safety Lovon Ponder has two interceptions on the season, one for a touchdown, to rank seventh in the ACC.
“They have tremendous speed, but you will have opportunities to make plays,” said junior quarterback Reggie Ball. “They are just like any other defense. We’re a lot more experienced, and we have our heads screwed on right, so we’re ready to go down there and make something happen.”
Junior Devin Hester is back for the Hurricanes as a defensive back, punt returner and offensive threat. Hester has three carries on the season for 45 yards, one punt return for a touchdown and leads the ACC with 17.3 yards per punt return.
“Obviously, when he’s on the field, they are going to give him the ball,” said senior safety Chris Reis. “That’s the reason that he’s on the field. We all know who the ball is going to. He’s a playmaker, that’s what he does. He has great speed, he has great moves, and we just have to tackle him.”
Sophomore quarterback Kyle Wright runs the offense for the Hurricanes and is third in the ACC in pass efficiency with a 138.7 rating. Junior tailback Tyrone Moss leads the ACC in scoring with eight rushing touchdowns and ranks third in the league with 80.0 yards per game on the ground.
“We’re looking forward to getting after it a little bit,” said Reis. “We know that they are going to come out passing and running and we know that we are going to have to get after it and counteract with pressure, which is blitz, and everybody knows that. We’re just going to come and do what we do best.”
After the departure of first round NFL draft picks Jeremy Shockey (Giants) and Kellen Winslow (Browns) at the tight end position, the Hurricanes’ Greg Olsen is doing his best to follow in their footsteps. Olsen, a 6-5 sophomore, leads the Hurricanes with 21 catches for 312 yards and three touchdowns.
“They are talented,” said senior linebacker Gerris Wilkinson. “They are great route runners, have good hands, nice speed, and are good blockers.”
Not to be overshadowed, the Rambling Wreck defense is putting up solid numbers as well. Tech leads the conference and ranks second in the nation with 14 interceptions this season, averaging 2.3 per game. The Yellow Jackets’ Philip Wheeler is tied for the league lead with four this year.
“It will be interesting to see how they adjust,” said Gailey. “The thing about our guys is that they can drop back, rush inside or outside, or rush the passer so it’s hard to scheme and know what we’re going to do on every play. That’s the great thing about [defensive coordinator] Jon’s (Tenuta) defense. He really lets guys move around and be active in order for them to make plays.”
The rushing defense continues to be a focal point for the Jackets. Tech ranks third in the ACC and 13th in the nation, allowing just 95.7 yards per game. The Rambling Wreck has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season.
Sophomore wide receiver Calvin Johnson leads the ACC in receptions per game (5.33) and receiving yards per game (96.8). The All-America candidate has four receiving touchdowns on the season, and grabbed a season-high 10 for 130 yards against NC State on Oct. 6.
“This year, he is more knowledgeable about our offense which allows us to put him in a lot of different positions and give him more chances to make plays,” said Gailey. “He’s also learned a lot more about defenses and how teams are going to go after him.”
Ball went 16-for-25 against Duke with one touchdown before leaving midway through the third quarter. He is fifth in the ACC in total offense, averaging 243.8 yards per game.
Senior tailback P.J. Daniels remains among the league leaders in rushing, gaining 82.3 yards per game, placing him second on the ACC list. The former walk-on has three 100-yard rushing games this year for the Yellow Jackets.
Daniels, who missed the second half of the Duke game last week, was replaced by sophomore Tashard Choice, who rushed for a career-high 107 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tech attack on the ground. Choice has gained 262 yards this season on 54 attempts as the No. 2 running back.
Officials from both schools and the ACC are keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Wilma, which is projected to hit the Miami area sometime on Saturday. As of right now, the game has not been moved.
“I just heard this morning that there is a possibility that they might make a change in regards to the game,” said Gailey. “I don’t know what that is, though. They could move it up, back, or leave it like it is. All we can do is prepare as if we’re going to play at Noon on Saturday, and if we have to adjust, then that’s what we’ll do.”