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Tech Faces Pass-happy NC State

ATLANTA (September 18) – Georgia Tech turns its attention to core of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule this week with the first of seven straight games against ACC opponents. One week after facing Navy’s wishbone ground attack, the Yellow Jackets will have to contend with NC State’s pass oriented offense.

“NC State is playing very well right now,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “They have done a great job in installing the passing attack, and their freshman quarterback is playing extremely well as far as poise is concerned with doing what they are asking him to do. They are undefeated and playing with a lot of confidence, so it should be a great game Thursday night.”

The Yellow Jackets visit NC State on Thursday at 8 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN, while live radio coverage will be available on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network (WGST 640 AM/WLKQ 102.3 FM in the Atlanta area). The game is also available on the Internet — Live TotalCast!.

Tech enters the game with a 2-1 overall record and a 0-1 mark in ACC play after sinking Navy, 40-13, last weekend. NC State is 3-0, 0-0 after picking up three non-conference wins over Arkansas State, Indiana and Southern Methodist over the last three weeks.

For the second straight week, Tech will have to completely readjust its defensive gameplan. After facing pass-oriented offenses in the first two weeks of the season against Central Florida and Florida State, the Yellow Jackets took on Navy and the option last Saturday. Now Tech must regroup again for a NC State offense that leads the nation in passing with 376.3 yards per game while attempting nearly 50 passes per contest. Wolfpack freshman quarterback Philip Rivers has already passed for 1,069 yards and ranks second in the nation in total offense at 355.3 yards per game.

Complicating that is the fact that the Yellow Jackets have a short week to prepare for the Thursday night contest.

“Obviously the short week is an interesting time, because you get right back to practicing and you are a couple of days short of the work that you would like to get,” said O’Leary. “The players have handled it extremely well. Basically you need to have the gameplan installed by Tuesday.

“We’ve already faced the gambit as far as run teams and pass teams, so I think we have enough in wth what we’ve done in the past to help us on defense. Offensively, we do a lot of different things so we aren’t really adding a lot of things, but we’re just refining what we already have.”

Thursday night starts a stretch of seven straight ACC games for Tech, and O’Leary wants to get his team back on a winning note after dropping the ACC opener to Florida State, 26-21, two weeks ago.

“This game is pivotal, only because it is an ACC game and you want to stay in the hunt,” said O’Leary. “They are undefeated and we already have a loss. It’s a Thursday night game and it’s the only game in the country. It gives your program exposure, but you want it to be good exposure. All the ACC games are pivotal and you better be ready to play.”

Offensively, O’Leary hopes to continue to develop Tech’s running game against the Wolfpack. After averaging 225.6 yards per game on the ground last year, the Yellow Jackets have rushed for just 109.3 yards per game this year.

“Because of what we do with the option, a lot of people are putting eight guys up front against us,” said O’Leary. “I think we blocked better last Saturday, but we still need to sustain blocks a little bit longer. I look for improvement each week and that what’s I see. In fairness to our offense, though, they were only out there for four possessions in the first half and we had three sustained drives.”

Senior Ed Wilder (Washington, Ga.), one of the top fullbacks in the conference and a key figure in Tech’s rushing attack, has played only sparingly due to a chronic knee injury. As a result, junior Ross Mitchell (Grayson, Ga.), who moved to fullback from linebacker in pre-season camp, and sophomore Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.), Tech’s starting tailback, have both seen action at fullback.

“I don’t think Ed is 100 percent, but he’s giving us what he has,” said O’Leary. “I have nothing but great praise for Ed. We try to get him in different situations where he can be a factor.

“Moving Ross Mitchell to fullback has been a good move for us. He’s a guy that will put a hat on you, he can catch the ball, and he gives you another big kid over there that can move the line of scrimmage. Joe Burns is out there, too, depending on what we are trying to do. Joe can be a very good fullback, and that’s the flexibility that he has, but he’s still a tailback.”

On the injury front, O’Leary reported that Tech should be back to a full lineup on Thursday night. Three players who did not play against Navy — defensive end Felipe Claybrooks (Decatur, Ga.), sprained knee; cornerback Marvious Hester (Smyrna, Ga.), pulled hamstring; and wide receiver Kerry Watkins (Laplace, La.), bruised shoulder all returned to practice on Monday and are probable for the NC State game.

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