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Tech Gridders Prepare for First ACC Test at Clemson

Sept. 8, 2002

ATLANTA –

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After opening the 2002 season with a pair of non-conference victories, the Georgia Tech football team travels to Clemson for the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams Saturday at 12 noon at Clemson Memorial Stadium.

The game will be nationally televised on ESPN and can also be heard on the Georgia Tech-ISP Radio Network, including Atlanta flagship station, WQXI-AM “790 The Zone.” Wes Durham calls the play-by-play, while Kim King provides color analysis. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 31-14 victory at Connecticut, while Clemson defeated Louisiana Tech, 33-13, last Saturday.

The contest between Tech (2-0) and Clemson (1-1) is the renewal of a rivalry that has provided thrilling finishes in recent years, including last year’s 47-44 overtime victory by the Tigers and Tech’s 31-28, last-second victory in 2000. In fact, the last six meetings have all been decided by exactly three points, including four straight Tech wins from 1997-2000.

“Clemson has very good team speed, and they’ll be bigger than anybody we’ve faced so far, and the atmosphere will be different,” Tech head coach Chan Gailey said Sunday.

“Coach [Bill] O’Brien relayed to me on the plane coming home last night that the last few games with Clemson have gone right down to the wire, so I don’t know why we should expect anything different.”

The story of Tech’s first two games has been tailback Tony Hollings (Jeffersonville, Ga.), who has averaged 148.5 yards and scored six touchdowns in his first two games on offense after moving from the secondary last spring. He leads the ACC in rushing and scoring this week while ranking sixth in the nation in rushing and second in the nation-to Baylor’s Jonathon Golden-in scoring.

Hollings, quarterback A.J. Suggs (Powder Springs, Ga.) and the receiving tandem of seniors Will Glover (Tampa, Fla.) and Kerry Watkins (LaPlace, La.) lead a Yellow Jacket attack that has averaged 38 points and 438 yards per game.

“We started fast and our first group took advantage of some opportunities, but we missed some opportunities that we can’t miss in order to win big games down the road,” said Gailey. “Things like opportunities for turnovers, pinning people on pooch punts, big plays in the passing game.

“We’ll be focusing this week on making sure we take advantage of every opportunity. Everybody understands that this is a big ballgame, and we’ll try to make sure our guys understand the sense of urgency necessary to prepare for a game like this.”

Suggs has completed 70 percent of his passes (19-for-27) for 268 yards and three touchdowns while playing little more than half of each game.

Watkins is Tech’s leading receiver with seven catches for 159 yards and one touchdown, while Glover adds six receptions for 58 yards and two scores.

To go along with Hollings in the backfield, Tech welcomed the return of senior tailback Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.), who rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries against UConn after missing the Vanderbilt game with a concussion.

The Tech offensive line is led by a pair of all-star candidates in sophomore left tackle Nat Dorsey (New Orleans, La.) and junior center Hugh Reilly (Smyrna, Ga.).

The Rambling Wreck defense has been stout, allowing just 17 points in the first two games, all coming against Tech’s reserves long after the outcome had been decided. The Jackets are led on that side of the ball by all-America defensive end Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.), seven tackles, linebackers Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.), 13 tackles, and Daryl Smith (Albany, Ga.), seven tackles, two sacks and one interception, and free safety Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.).

Tech’s kicking game is very solid with Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.), a two-time all-conference placekicker extended his ACC record streak of consecutive extra points to 141 in a row.

At punter, the Jackets have used seniors Dan Dyke (Winter Springs, Fla.), who averaged 41.2 yards on five punts against Vanderbilt, and Chris Morehouse (Vernon, Conn.), who averaged 45.8 yards on four punts against UConn. With that combination, Tech leads the ACC in net punting (40.3).

SERIES VS. CLEMSON

Georgia Tech has won four of the last five meetings with Clemson to take a 43-21-2 lead in the series, which began in 1898. The two teams have split the last 10 games. The Tigers won last year’s game, 47-44 in overtime.

Tech has won two in a row at Clemson, including a 31-28 victory in 2000. Just 11 of the 66 games between the two schools have been played at Clemson, where the Tigers have a 7-4 advantage.

CLOSE SHAVES WITH THE TIGERS

Amazingly, the last six games between Georgia Tech and Clemson have all been decided by exactly three points, including four straight Tech wins from 1997-2000.

Clemson 47, Tech 44, OT (2001, Atlanta): Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler passed for 254 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 164 yards, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime, to give the Tigers a 47-44 victory over No. 9 Georgia Tech. In a game that featured 10 lead changes, Tech took a 38-34 lead with 3:51 to play on Sidney Ford’s 10-yard touchdown, but Clemson answered by converting a 4th-and-13 into a 63-yard touchdown pass from Dantzler to J.J. McKelvey with 1:58 left. Tech quarterback George Godsey then directed an 87-yard, 10-play drive to set up Luke Manget’s game-tying 20-yard field goal with six seconds left in regulation. Tech had the ball first in overtime but had to settle for another Manget field goal, and then Dantzler scored from 11 yards out for the win.

Tech 31, Clemson 28, 2000, Clemson: George Godsey passed for a then-school record 454 yards, including the game-winning touchdown to Kerry Watkins with just seven seconds left to lift Tech to a 31-28 victory at fourth-ranked Clemson. The Tigers took a 24-21 lead on Brian Mance’s 88-yard punt return, but Godsey guided the Jackets on two 80-yard scoring drives in the final 10 minutes. First he hit Kelly Campbell for a 48-yard touchdown with 6:35 to play. After Clemson went ahead 28-24 on a Willie Simmons-to-Rod Gardner touchdown pass with 1:52 left, Godsey took over at the Tech 20 and completed seven of 11 passes for 72 yards, capped by a 16-yard touchdown to Watkins with seven seconds remaining. Watkins, who made a spectacular, one-handed grab for the score, caught four passes for 51 yards on the final drive.

Tech 45, Clemson 42 (1999, Atlanta): Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton passed for 322 yards and five touchdowns, including two to Kelly Campbell and one to Kerry Watkins, as the Yellow Jackets won, 45-42. Tech led 28-7 in the second quarter and 45-28 in the fourth, but the Tigers pulled within three with seven minutes left. Clemson had 4th-and-seven at the Tech 43 with three minutes to play, but Tech safety Chris Young batted down Woody Dantzler’s pass inside the 10-yard line.

Tech 24, Clemson 21 (1998, Clemson): Joe Burns scored on a one-yard run with 1:00 left to give Tech a 24-21 victory in a Thursday night game at Death Valley. Trailing 21-17, the Jackets took over at their own 43 with 2:30 remaining, and quarterback Joe Hamilton completed three passes for 53 yards to set up the winning score.

Tech 23, Clemson 20 (1997, Atlanta): Brad Chambers’ 20-yard field goal with 1:54 left gave Tech a 23-20 win over the 17th-ranked Tigers. Chambers’ winning field goal was set up by Harvey Middleton, who returned a punt 21 yards and then caught a 39-yard pass from Joe Hamilton at the five-yard line.

LAST TIME OUT

Tony Hollings rushed for 144 yards and tied the school record with four touchdowns-all in the first half-as Georgia Tech won at Connecticut, 31-14. Hollings, the converted defensive back, recorded his second 100-yard effort in as many games, highlighted by scoring runs of 34 and 46 yards. He is the sixth Yellow Jacket to score four touchdowns in a game and just the third player to rush for four scores. The Jackets jumped on UConn quickly, scoring on three of their first four possessions en route to a 28-0 halftime lead before Tech head coach Chan Gailey emptied his bench in the second half. Quarterback A.J. Suggs completed nine of 14 passes for 183 yards, including four completions for 89 yards to Kerry Watkins. The Huskies scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes against Tech’s reserves.

SUPER START FOR TONY THE TAILBACK

Junior Tony Hollings is off to a super start at tailback. The former reserve defensive back, who has a Superman logo tattooed on his biceps, moved to tailback last spring and has averaged 148.5 yards rushing in his first two games at the position. Playing just about half of each contest, he has an eye-catching average of 9.0-yards per carry.

Hollings made an impressive debut in Tech’s 45-3 victory over Vanderbilt. He rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, scoring on runs of two and 56 yards, becoming the first Tech player to top 100 yards in his first game at running back.

He was just as effective against Connecticut, rushing for 144 yards and a school record-tying four touchdowns on 16 carries, all in the first half. He scored on runs covering 34, one, 46 and one yard to equal a mark reached by five other Yellow Jackets.

RHINO ON THE RETURN

Senior Kelley Rhino is Georgia Tech’s career leader in punt return yards with 824, surpassing the school record that was set by his father, former Tech all-America Randy Rhino (749, 1972-74). Kelley broke the record with 110 yards-one yard off his career best-against Vanderbilt in the season opener.

A first-team all-ACC selection last fall, Rhino broke his father’s Tech season record a year ago. The younger Rhino collected 515 yards in 2001, surpassing his father’s 1972 total of 441 yards as well the ACC record of 448 yards, previously held by Corey Sawyer of Florida State. Kelley’s 48 returns in 2001 tied the Tech season record, set by Willie Clay in 1991.

Rhino ranks eighth in ACC history in career punt return yards and tied for 10th with 76 career returns.

ACC CAREER PR YARDS  Years   Yds1.      Ledel George, NCS       1990-93 1,1912.      Troy Slade, Duke        1973-75 1,0213.      George Coghill, WF      1989-92 9924.      Peter Warrick, FSU      1996-99 937        Dee Feaster, FSU        1995-98 9376.      Greg Poole, UNC 1979-82 9167.      Bob Smith, Md   1972-74 8998.      Kelley Rhino, GT     1999-   824

ACC CAREER PUNT RETURNS Years Ret 1. Ledel George, NCS 1990-93 125 2. Troy Slade, Duke 1973-75 101 Willie Clay, GT 1988-91 101 4. Pat Chester, UVa 1978-82 100 5. Greg Poole, UNC 1979-82 90 6. George Coghill, WF 1989-92 84 7. Bob Smith, MD 1972-74 82 8. Jack Westbrook, GT 1980-83 77 9. Donnell Woolford, Clem 1985-88 76 Dee Feaster, FSU 1995-98 76 Kelley Rhino, GT 1999- 76

HOMECOMING FOR LOGAN

Georgia Tech has one player from the state of South Carolina in sophomore wide receiver Mark Logan, who hails from Greenwood. The former quarterback who was the 1999 South Carolina Player of the Year by USA Today as well as Mr. Football by the South Carolina Athletic Coaches’ Association as a senior at Greenwood High, which he led to a state title. Logan moved to receiver last fall and has caught three passes for 40 yards in Tech’s first two games.

IN A ZONE IN THE RED ZONE

The Georgia Tech offense is a perfect 8-for-8 on red zone possessions, scoring seven touchdowns and one field goal.

On defense, Tech has allowed three scores (two touchdowns and one field goal) on five red zone possessions, leading the ACC.

141 IN A ROW AND COUNTING

Senior placekicker Luke Manget has made 141 consecutive PAT in his career, every one he has ever attempted. The two-time all-ACC honoree from Conyers, Ga., has already surpassed the previous ACC record of 93 in a row by Jess Atkinson of Maryland. This year Manget takes aim at the NCAA record of 161 in a row by Tennessee’s John Becksvoort (1991-94).

Manget is 44-for-64 on field goals for a career for a total of 273 points. On the Tech career scoring list, Manget trails only placekicker Scott Sisson (299 points, 1989-92) and running back Robert Lavette (276 points, 1981-84).

Manget’s point total ranks 13th in ACC history, seventh among kickers. He leads all active ACC kickers in scoring, field goals and extra points.

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