Oct. 30, 2002
Georgia Tech’s special teams have been a strength this season, but the Yellow Jackets (5-3, 2-3 ACC) will face their biggest challenge in that phase this week as they take on eighth-ranked and undefeated NC State (9-0, 4-0 ACC) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.
The game will be regionally televised on ABC (WSB Ch. 2 in Atlanta). Radio coverage is available on the Georgia Tech-ISP sports network, including Atlanta affiliate 790 The Zone (WQXI-AM) as well as WTSH-FM (107.1) and WMGP-FM (98.1).
In addition to an offense that averages 40.9 points per game and a defense that allows just 18.1 an outing, NC State boasts a special teams unit that has blocked seven kicks this season and has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns. Among the Wolfpack’s seven blocked kicks are five punts, one PAT and one field goal.
“We’ve worked hard at special teams, as we do every week,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey. “I think our guys understand the importance of special teams and have really paid attention to the little things. I think we have conscientious guys on special teams.”
Terrence Holt leads the way for the Wolfpack with three blocked kicks this season and 12 in his career. When asked how difficult it is to simulate that in practice, Gailey quickly said that scout teamer Sterling Green was doing the best he could but it’s impossible to simulate.
Special teams coach Tommy Raye added, “If we could simulate him, we’d be doing that ourselves.”
Tech’s special teams play has been solid this season. The Jackets rank second in the ACC in net punting (37.1) while leading the league in kickoff coverage (17.8 average per return). All-ACC punt returner Kelley Rhino averages 10.8 yards per return, punters Chris Morehouse (44.5) and Dan Dyke (40.5) each average over 40 yards per punt, and two-time all-ACC placekicker Luke Manget is perfect on extra points and has hit six of 10 field goals. He also has 13 touchbacks on 26 kickoffs this season.
A senior from Conyers, Ga., Manget has a chance to break the Georgia Tech career scoring record. He enters the game with 296 points on 48 career field goals and an ACC-record 152 consecutive extra points. Scott Sisson is the current record-holder with 299 career points. Manget’s total ranks seventh in ACC history.
“I’ve only been here for one year of it, so I haven’t seen as much as everybody else has, but he’s certainly an excellent kicker,” said Gailey. “Anytime a guy can get a school record, that means he’s done something really well for a long time.”