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Tar Heels Up Next for 2-0 Jackets

Sept. 12, 2004

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech faces its second straight Atlantic Coast Conference road test at North Carolina Saturday in a non-televised game that kicks off at 6 p.m. at Kenan Memorial Stadium.

The Yellow Jackets are off to a 2-0 start (1-0 ACC) as they look to build upon the momentum of one of the most dramatic comeback victories in their storied history. Tech scored three touchdowns in the final five minutes, including the game-winner with just 11 seconds left, in a 28-24 win at 18th-ranked Clemson.

“You may watch a lot of football in your life, but you may never see anything like that,” Tech head coach Chan Gailey said after the game. “I hope you enjoyed it. I did.”

But now the Yellow Jackets must turn their attention to North Carolina, which is 1-1 overall, 0-1 in the ACC after a 56-24 loss to Virginia.

Sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball and true freshman wide receiver Calvin Johnson led the Tech comeback against Clemson. Ball threw four touchdown passes in the game, three of them to Johnson, who scored twice in the final two minutes on receptions of eight and 11 yards.

For the season, Ball has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes (34-for-57) for 452 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions.

Johnson is actually Tech’s second-leading receiver with 10 catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Levon Thomas has 11 receptions for 154 yards.

Still, the centerpiece of Tech’s offensive attack is all-ACC tailback P.J. Daniels, who leads the league with 272 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Daniels recorded his eighth 100-yard game with 103 yards against Clemson.

Anchoring the offensive line are three returning starters in senior tackle Kyle Wallace, senior center Andy Tidwell-Neal and junior guard Brad Honeycutt.

Senior all-America candidate James Butler quarterbacks the Tech defense from his free safety position, where he has recorded six tackles and three pass breakups, including one on Clemson’s final play.

Tech’s leading tacklers are linebackers Chris Reis, who tops the ACC with 24 tackles, and Gerris Wilkinson, with 17 hits.

The Jackets also hope to have all-ACC defensive end Eric Henderson back this week after missing the first two games due to injury.

While North Carolina has struggled on defense, the Tar Heels have a potent offense, featuring senior quarterback Darian Durant and sophomore tailback Ronnie McGill.

Durant has completed 64 percent of his passes for 362 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target is Adarius Bowman, who leads the Tar Heels with nine catches for a 14.2-yard average and one touchdown. McGill paces the ground attack with 190 yards on 31 attempts (6.1 average) and three touchdowns.

GEORGIA TECH VS. NORTH CAROLINA

Georgia Tech has won six straight games over North Carolina to take a 20-16-3 lead in the series, which began with a 23-3 Tech win in 1915.

Tech won last year’s game, 41-24, in Atlanta after earning a 21-13 win at UNC in 2002. North Carolina’s last win in the series was a 16-13 victory in Atlanta in 1997, when the Tar Heels were ranked fifth in the nation.

The Jackets have won the last three meetings at Kenan Stadium, following a nine-game winless streak on the Tar Heels’ home field. Before winning at UNC in 1998, Tech had not won in Chapel Hill since 1945. Tech’s record at UNC is 7-9-3.

LAST MEETING WITH NORTH CAROLINA

P.J. Daniels rushed for 240 yards and Jonathan Smith accounted for touchdowns passing, receiving and returning as Georgia Tech defeated North Carolina, 41-24, Tech’s sixth straight win over the Tar Heels. Reggie Ball passed for just 122 yards but threw three touchdown passes as Tech piled up 446 total yards, including 298 yards rushing. Daniels, who carried 36 times and scored on an eight-yard reception, had what was then the second-best rushing game in Tech history. Nate Curry caught two touchdown passes, one from Ball and one from Smith, who threw a 26-yard touchdown pass off a reverse, caught a 30-yard touchdown from Ball and then returned a punt 73 yards for a score, all in a seven-minute span in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Reuben Houston made two key plays with a second-quarter interception, which he returned to the UNC 29-yard line to set up a touchdown, and then a fourth-quarter fumble recovery at the Tech 14-yard line.

ONE FOR THE AGES

Calvin Johnson’s third touchdown catch of the game, with just 11 seconds left, capped a miraculous comeback as Georgia Tech scored three touchdowns in the final five minutes to defeat 18th-ranked Clemson, 28-24, at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Johnson, the true freshman, finished with eight catches for 127 yards, and senior Levon Thomas had eight catches for 100 yards. Quarterback Reggie Ball passed for 251 yards and four touchdowns, and P.J. Daniels added 103 yards rushing.

Trailing 17-7, Tech pulled within three on Thomas’ 19-yard touchdown catch with 4:36 left. The Tigers responded almost immediately with a 54-yard touchdown run by Kyle Browning to take 24-14 lead with 3:18 left. After a celebration penalty and a 32-yard kickoff return, Tech took over at its own 49, and eight plays later, Reggie Ball hit Johnson for an eight-yard touchdown in the right corner of the end zone, again pulling the Jackets within three points with just 1:50 remaining.

Clemson recovered the onsides kick at its own 33 and then gained nine yards on first down, but the Tech defense held on second and third downs. The Tigers were forced to punt with about 20 seconds left, but an errant snap gave Tech the ball at the 11-yard line with 16 seconds left. Ball lofted a pass to Johnson in the left corner of the end zone for the winning touchdown. The Jackets had to survive one last play after Clemson, aided by a celebration penalty, returned the kickoff to the Tech 31-yard line.

GAILEY’S THIRD WIN OVER RANKED TEAM

Georgia Tech’s 28-24 win over 18th-ranked Clemson was the Yellow Jackets’ third win over a ranked team in three seasons under head coach Chan Gailey. Two of the three victories have been on the road.

In 2002 in Gailey’s first season on the Flats, the Jackets won at eighth-ranked NC State, 24-17. Last fall, Tech knocked off No. 17 Auburn, 17-3, at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.

MORE ON THE COMEBACK

Georgia Tech’s miraculous comeback win over Clemson, in which the Jackets scored 21 points in the final five minutes, easily ranks as one of the greatest comebacks in school history.

In terms of a game turning on an improbable series of events, the win over Clemson compares to Tech’s 51-48 overtime victory over Georgia in 1999, in which the Jackets tied the game with 2:37 left, then forced overtime by recovering a fumble at the one-yard line to prevent what could have been a game-winning field goal. In the overtime, Tech’s Luke Manget got a second chance to kick the game-winning field goal after his attempt on third down was blocked but recovered by holder George Godsey behind the line of scrimmage.

A few other unlikely comebacks in recent Tech history:

Two touchdown passes by George Godsey in the final 3:48 in 21-17 win over UCF, 2000

Two touchdowns in final 6:35, including game-winner from Joe Hamilton to Kerry Watkins with seven seconds left, in 31-28 win at fourth-ranked Clemson, 2000

Two touchdown passes from Hamilton to Dez White in the final eight minutes as Tech turned a 38-17 third-quarter deficit into a 41-38 victory over sixth-ranked Virginia, 1998

Three fourth-quarter touchdowns, engineered by backup quarterback Brandon Shaw, in 27-19 victory over NC State, 1995

COMING OUT PARTY FOR FRESHMAN JOHNSON

True freshman wide receiver Calvin Johnson enjoyed a coming out party against Clemson. The 6-4, 225-pounder caught three touchdown passes, including two in the final two minutes to lift Georgia Tech to a miraculous 28-24 road win over the 18th-ranked Tigers.

With Tech trailing 24-14, Johnson hauled in two “jump balls” from Reggie Ball, first from eight yards out with 1:50 left and then the game-winner from 11 yards out with just 11 seconds left.

Johnson also had a spectacular 37-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. He is one of just six Tech players to catch three or more touchdowns in a game, and the first since Dez White vs. Virginia in 1998. The Tech record of four by Buck Martin vs. Auburn has stood since 1951. Of the five Yellow Jackets to catch three touchdowns in a game, Johnson is the only freshman.

Johnson finished the game with eight catches for 127 yards. The Tech freshman records are 14 receptions (Robert Lavette vs. Notre Dame, 1981) and 193 yards receiving (Greg Lester vs. Duke, 1987).

NO DOUBT THAT THOMAS STEPS UP

Perhaps overshadowed by the spectacular talents of freshman Calvin Johnson, senior wide receiver Levon Thomas is one of Tech’s most improved players.

Through two games, Thomas has already eclipsed his totals for all of last season. The College Park, Ga., native leads Tech with 11 catches for 154 yards. Last season, he caught 10 passes for 101 yards.

Thomas had career highs with eight catches for 100 yards in Tech’s win over Clemson. His 19-yard touchdown catch with 4:36 remaining was the first of Tech’s three touchdowns in the final five minutes.

GOLD RUSH

With 257 yards rushing in Tech’s first two games, P.J. Daniels leads the ACC and ranks 10th in nation in rushing, averaging 136.0 yards per game.

The junior from Houston, Texas has raised his career total to 1,974 yards, good for eighth on Tech’s career rushing list. His next target is seventh place William Bell with 2,026 yards.

Daniels gained 1,447 yards last fall, the second-best season total in Tech history (Eddie Lee Ivery, 1,562 in 1978) and fourth-best in ACC annals.

Tech's Career Rushing Leaders        Years   Att.    TD      Yards1. Robert Lavette       1981-84 914     45      4,0662. Jerry Mays   1985-89 695     18      3,6993.      Eddie Lee Ivery 1975-78 609     22      3,5174.      Joe Burns       1998-01 614     31      2,6345.      C.J. Williams   1994-96 539     20      2,3656.      David Sims      1974-76 379     21      2,2747.      William Bell    1989-93 418     14      2,0268.      P.J. Daniels    2002-   404     14      1,974

BALL CLIMBS PASSING LISTS

After setting Georgia Tech freshman records for passing yards (1,996) and total offense (2,380) a year ago, sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball is already beginning to climb Tech’s career passing charts. The sophomore from Stone Mountain already ranks ninth in Tech history in career passing yards.

Tech's Career Passing Leaders        Years   Cmp-Att TD      Yards1. Joe Hamilton 1996-99 629-1020        65      8,8822. Shawn Jones  1989-92 652-1217        51      8,4413. George Godsey        1998-01 484-765 41      6,1374. Mike Kelley  1978-81 391-785 23      5,2495. John Dewberry        1983-85 310-533 27      4,1936. Eddie McAshan        1970-72 360-698 32      4,0807. Donnie Davis 1992-95 270-478 22      3,2618. Kim King     1965-67 243-460 14      2,7639. Reggie Ball  2003-present    215-407 16      2,448

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