Sept. 11, 2001
Atlanta – Georgia Tech, ranked 10th in the nation by the Associated Press, travels to Tallahassee, Fla., to face sixth-ranked Florida State on Saturday at 7:45 p.m in the Yellow Jackets’ Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
The game will be nationally televised on ESPN, and live radio coverage will be available on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network (Flagships WQXI 790 AM, WLKQ 102.3 FM and WTSH 107.1 FM in Atlanta).
Tech enters the game with a 3-0 record after picking up non-conference victories over Syracuse (13-7), The Citadel (35-7) and Navy (70-7). The Seminoles are 2-0, 1-0 in ACC play after wins over Duke and UAB.
“I think it’s a good rivalry,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “There a lot of Georgia kids on Florida State’s roster and we have a bunch of Florida kids on our team. We’ll have our work cut out for us, but our players enjoy playing Florida State.”
The Seminoles have won all nine meetings with the Yellow Jackets since joining the ACC in 1992 and they lead the overall series 9-7-1. The last two meetings, however, have been decided by a total of 11 points.
“The last three years we have really brought in more speed in recruiting,” noted O’Leary regarding the improvement of his team as Tech has closed the gap with FSU. “We have a lot of sophomores and juniors on the field right now, and only nine seniors are listed on the two-deep depth chart. If you are going to compete against a good team, you better be recruiting the same type of players.”
O’Leary points out that the league as a whole has improved since Florida State joined the ACC in 1992. However, the Seminoles have lost just two ACC games in the last 10 years.
“I see more consistency in the ACC, and the teams in the league are improving themselves physically,” said O’Leary, who’s team has won 10 of its last 11 games. “But anytime you face a dominant team like Florida State it’s as much mental as it is physical. A lot of teams are beat before the first snap of the ball. The coaches’ job is to get you ready to play and to give you a chance to win with a good gameplan. When you play Florida State you need to have athletes, but so much of the game is mental and how you react to a setback. That’s where leadership is very important.”
“The game is extremely physical, but mentally you better know what you are doing and how you do it.”
Despite playing with a first-year quarterback in redshirt freshman Chris Rix, the Seminoles have continued their tradition of a high-octane offense by averaging 42 points over the first two games of the season. The Tech defense, however, has been equally impressive in the early going, ranking 11th nationally in scoring defense (7.0 points per game) and 13th in total defense (220.3 yards per game).
“Our defense is going against a stout offensive line this week,” said O’Leary. “They have great running backs and a quarterback that is playing really well. I was impressed with [Rix’s] avoidability and his ability to take a bad play and make something productive out of it.”
The Tech offense, which ranks 14th nationally in both scoring (39.3) and total offense (461.0) has been especially productive through the first three games. Quarterback George Godsey, who leads the nation in passing efficiency (197.9), has been the engineer of the Ramblin Wreck’s attack.
“What you see in George is what he is,” said O’Leary. “He is very respectful and very bright. He understands defense and that is what makes him a very good quarterback. Quarterbacks are natural leaders. They have to be the kind of guy that everybody looks to and respects, and I think he has those qualities.”
One area of concern for Saturday’s game in Florida State’s pass rush and the ability of Tech’s offensive line to contain the Seminoles. In last year’s meeting, Florida State recorded five sacks and put countless pressure on Tech’s quarterbacks.
“When you watch the film from last year, George got hit a lot,” noted O’Leary. “We have to make sure that we protect him. We weren’t real good in our protections last year, mainly because of Florida State. They have outstanding pass rushers.”
The media has been pointing to the Florida State game since the beginning of the season, but O’Leary has kept his team’s focus on each individual game leading up to this week.
“Our players have really handled our season well,” said O’Leary. “They have kept focus on the game at hand and dealt with that. This is now Florida State and they are anxious to play down there, and it should be a great football game. It’s important because it’s the first conference game. But we won’t do anything differently this week than we normally do. We will practice to get ready for our opponent. “