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Tech Hosts NC State for Homecoming

Sept. 28, 2003

ATLANTA –

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Georgia Tech begins a stretch of six consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference games as the Yellow Jackets host NC State Saturday at 12 noon at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field in a regionally televised contest on the Jefferson-Pilot ACC network (Fox Sports Net South in Atlanta). The game is Tech’s annual Homecoming contest.

Both teams are coming off victories Saturday as Tech (2-3, 0-2 ACC) defeated Vanderbilt, 24-17 in overtime, while the Wolfpack (3-2, 1-1 ACC) knocked off North Carolina, 47-34.

In their victory over Vanderbilt, the Jackets displayed character and heart in coming from seven points behind to tie the game in the final two minutes before winning in overtime.

Quarterback Reggie Ball showed that he is at his best in clutch situations. The true freshman struggled for much of the game, but he caught fire late to lead the Jackets to the victory.

With Tech trailing 17-10, Ball and the Jackets took over at their own 11-yard line with 2:12 to play. On third-and-three at the 18, Ball scrambled, then raced 45 yards down the sideline for a first down at the Vandy 37. Five plays later, he hit tight end John Paul Foschi for a six-yard touchdown to tie the score. Ball accounted for 86 yards on the 89-yard drive with 54 yards rushing and 32 yards passing on four completions.

On the first play of overtime, Ball faked right, then bootlegged left and dove into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown.

For the season, Ball has put up fairly modest numbers (65-for-133, 768 yards, 2 TD, 5 Int), but he continues to show poise and play-making ability well beyond his years.

Ball is Tech’s second-leading rusher with 157 yards on 51 attempts. Sophomore tailback P.J. Daniels leads the Jackets and ranks third in the ACC in rushing with 349 yards and three touchdowns on 90 carries.

“Reggie can create some problems for the defense because he can run the football,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey. “We’re going to look at doing more of the things that give Reggie room to operate. Anytime you have a quarterback who can run, it creates problems, but he has to throw the ball well enough to make that a weapon for us, as well.”

“Reggie is making progress,” Gailey continued. “He’s learning more about the game. He’s proved that he can do some things in the clutch for us, but at the same time, he’s got to be more consistent throwing the football to be a full-time threat there.”

Ball’s favorite target is senior wideout Jonathan Smith, who has 24 catches for 376 yards.

The Tech defense is led by senior linebackers Keyaron Fox and Daryl Smith and sophomore defensive end Eric Henderson.

Fox and Smith are one-two on the team in tackles with 60 and 51, respectively, while Henderson leads the Jackets with five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. The Tech secondary is second in the ACC with seven interceptions.

Senior placekicker Dan Burnett has been reliable, making all seven of his nine field goal tries as well as all seven of his extra points, while senior punter Hal Higgins averages 40.6 yards per kick.

The Rambling Wreck must contend with the high-powered attack of NC State, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Philip Rivers, who averages 349.6 yards passing per game and is third in the nation in pass efficiency. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.

The Wolfpack lead the ACC in scoring (43.4 points per game), total offense (486.0 ypg) and passing offense (366.2 ypg).

“They do such a great job with their passing game, especially,” said Gailey. “Rivers does a great job of finding receivers and getting the ball into the hands of the people that can make something happen.”

THE SERIES VERSUS NC STATE

Georgia Tech has won seven of the last eight meetings with NC State to take a 14-8 lead in the series, which began in 1918 with a 128-0 Tech win. The Yellow Jackets won last year’s game, 24-17 in Raleigh, and also captured the last meeting in Atlanta, 27-17 in 2001. NC State’s last win in the series was a 30-23 overtime win in 2000 in Raleigh.

Tech has won six in a row and nine of the 11 meetings at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field, where the Wolfpack’s only wins were in 1984 (27-22) and 1988 (14-6).

LAST MEETING WITH NC STATE

In 2002 in Raleigh, Gordon Clinkscale’s 14-yard run with 9:23 left capped Georgia Tech’s fourth-quarter comeback and backed an outstanding performance by the Tech defense as the Yellow Jackets handed eighth-ranked NC State its first loss of the season, 24-17. Trailing 17-9 in the fourth quarter, Tech drove 80 yards on nine plays, capped by a two-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Suggs to tight end John Paul Foschi. Suggs (21-for-36, 211 yards) then added a two-point conversion pass to Jonathan Smith, who made the key play on the drive with a 28-yard reception when Tech was facing third-and-19 at its own 11. After Tech forced the Wolfpack to go three-and-out, Kelley Rhino’s 26-yard punt return to the NCS 22 set up Clinkscale’s go-ahead touchdown two plays later. The Tech defense made several key plays down the stretch, including a fumble recovery and a fourth-down pass breakup by Reuben Houston and an interception by Jeremy Muyres on the Wolfpack’s final possessing. The Jackets limited NC State to 57 yard rushing and held the Pack 23 points below their scoring average.

CENTURY MARK, TIMES TWO

Tailback P.J. Daniels rushed for 105 yards and quarterback Reggie Ball gained 103 yards against Vanderbilt, giving Georgia Tech two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since 1999. That year against UCF, tailback Sean Gregory (150) and quarterback Joe Hamilton (100) turned the trick.

With 103 yards on the ground and 108 yards in the air, Ball became just the third quarterback in Georgia Tech history to rush and pass for 100 yards in the same game. Hamilton accomplished the feat in that same contest against UCF in 1999 with 161 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. Donnie Davis was the first Tech quarterback to achieve a double-100 with 206 yards passing and 103 yards rushing versus Duke in 1995.

FOSCHI MAKES CATCHES COUNT

Tight end John Paul Foschi is known for his blocking, but the 6-4, 270-pound senior has made two of Georgia Tech’s biggest catches of the last two seasons. In Tech’s win over Vanderbilt last Saturday, Foschi tied the game with a six-yard touchdown catch from Reggie Ball with just 32 seconds left.

In last season’s win at eighth-ranked NC State, Foschi also caught the tying touchdown on a two-yard pass from A.J. Suggs with 11 minutes to play. Tech scored the go-ahead touchdown two minutes later and won the game, 24-17.

TECH IN OVERTIME

Georgia Tech’s 24-17 victory over Vanderbilt was Tech’s first overtime victory since 1999 and evened the Yellow Jackets’ record in overtime games at 3-3.

The current overtime format was instituted in 1996, but Tech did not play its first overtime games until 1999, when the Jackets defeated both North Carolina and Georgia. Since then, Tech lost at NC State in 2000 and then fell to Clemson and Maryland, both at home, in 2001.

Tech has never played more than one overtime period. Interestingly, the overtime win over Vanderbilt required just two plays: the Jackets scored on their first play and then intercepted Vanderbilt on the Commodores’ first play.

HOMECOMING

The NC State game is Georgia Tech’s annual Homecoming contest. Tech has a record on 40-13-1 in Homecoming games (since 1949). The Yellow Jackets have won seven straight Homecoming games, including wins over the Wolfpack in 2001 and 1997, both by the same 27-17 score. Those are Tech’s only two Homecoming games against NC State.

Homecoming festivities include the annual Rambling Wreck Parade, which begins at 8 a.m. Saturday and runs along Fowler Street.

ICKEY SHUFFLES ALONG

Defensive end Eric Henderson is developing into one of the ACC’s most productive defensive linemen. The sophomore from New Orleans, La., leads Tech and is second in the ACC in sacks with five (1.0 per game). He also leads the Jackets with 10 tackles for loss and has 22 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.

After just 18 games, Henderson already has 10 career sacks and 25 tackles for loss.

Nicknamed “Ickey,” Henderson made a huge play in Tech’s win over Vanderbilt with his block of the Commodores’ 44-yard field goal attempt that would have won the game on the final play of regulation.

BIG PLAYS FOR SPECIAL TEAMS

Georgia Tech’s special teams turned in several big plays of this season, including a blocked punt, a pair of successful fake punts and a blocked field goal.

BYU: True freshman Kenny Scott blocked a punt deep in BYU territory, and junior safety Nathan Burton recovered the ball and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown. That was Tech’s first blocked punt since the 2000 season, when Chris Young blocked a North Carolina punt that Tony Hollings recovered for a touchdown.

Auburn: Tech converted on fourth-and-one at the Tigers’ 41-yard line with a fake punt. Up-back Chris Reis received the snap and gained four yards for the first down, keeping alive a drive that led to Tech’s first touchdown.

Florida State: Tech converted another fake punt. On fourth-and-nine from the FSU 38, punter Hal Higgins completed a 12-yard pass to Dawan Landry, helping set up a Tech field goal.

Vanderbilt: Eric Henderson blocked Vanderbilt’s 44-yard field goal attempt that would have won the game on the final play of regulation. Nathan Burton recovered a fumble at the Vanderbilt 34-yard line on the opening kickoff.

SPECIAL TEAMS STANDOUT

Backup free safety Nathan Burton is making a name for himself on special teams. A former walk-on who is now on scholarship, Burton plays on virtually every special teams unit and has made two big plays already this season.

Against BYU, Burton scored Tech’s only touchdown as he recovered a blocked punt and returned it 18 yards for the score.

In Tech’s win over Vanderbilt, he recovered a Commodore fumble on the opening kickoff at the Vandy 34-yard line.

THROWN FOR A LOSS

With one tackle for loss against Vanderbilt, linebacker Daryl Smith has moved into fourth place in Georgia Tech history. The senior from Albany, Ga., now has 38 stops behind the line of scrimmage, more than any Yellow Jackets except Greg Gathers (57), Coleman Rudolph (52) and Marco Coleman (50).

Senior Keyaron Fox also appears on that list, standing in 11th place with 26 career tackles for loss.

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