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Tech Hosts Virginia for Homecoming

Oct. 20, 2002

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech hosts one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s hottest teams as Virginia visits Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. contest that will be televised by ABC (WSB Channel 2 in Atlanta). The game is Tech’s annual Homecoming contest.

ABC’s regional telecast will feature the announcing team of Sean McDonough and David Norrie. The game 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 (4-3, 1-3 ACC) look to rebound after consecutive losses to Maryland (34-10, last Thursday) and Wake Forest. Virginia (6-2, 4-1 ACC), on the other hand, has won six straight games, including last Saturday’s 37-27 win at North Carolina. Tech head coach Chan Gailey remains focused on the task at hand.

“The next game is the next game,” he said. “You don’t look any further than the next game, and you try to find a way to win this one. You challenge your players to regroup. “You go practice, you go work, you go fight, and you hang together. That’s the only way I know how to do it. There’s no magic wand you can wave. It takes hard work and focus to get it done.”

Tech continues to battle injuries to key players. With leading rusher Tony Hollings (Jeffersonville, Ga.) and all-America defensive end Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.) already out for the season, the Jackets now must cope with the loss of standout linebacker Keyaron Fox (Atlanta, Ga.), who is out with a sprained ankle.

Although Tech managed just 10 points against Maryland, the Jackets had a season-high 485 yards of total offense.

“We moved the football, it’s just that something we have done very well all year (score in the red zone), we didn’t get done in that game,” said Gailey. “We missed a field goal, fumbled on the 20, things that you can’t do and win in this conference.”

Starting quarterback A.J. Suggs (Powder Springs, Ga.) has completed 105 of 180 passes (58.3 percent) for 1,202 yards and seven touchdowns with six interceptions. Backup Damarius Bilbo (Moss Point, Miss.) has provided a spark, hitting 19 of 38 passes for 257 yards and two scores.

Kerry Watkins (LaPlace, La.) is Tech’s and the ACC’s leading receiver with 39 catches for 655 yards (16.8-yard average) and three touchdowns, while fellow senior Will Glover (Tampa, Fla.) adds 24 receptions for 231 yards and three scores.

At a tailback position decimated by injuries, true freshman Ajenavi Eziemefe (New Orleans, La.) has carried the ball 57 times for 234 yards and two touchdowns, but he is slowed by a sprained ankle. Redshirt freshman P.J. Daniels (Houston, Texas), 19 attempts, 49 yards, one TD, and senior Gordon Clinkscale (Doraville, Ga.), 13 attempts, 127 yards, also see action.

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 Tech defense is second in the ACC in fewest points allowed, giving up 18.7 points per game, and ranks among the league’s top three in total defense and pass efficiency defense.

The Jackets’ leading tacklers are the trio of outstanding linebackers: junior Daryl Smith (Albany, Ga.), 51 tackles, seven tackles for loss and one interception; Fox, 50 tackles, eight tackles for loss; and senior Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.) 42 tackles and two fumble recoveries. With Fox out, junior Ather Brown (Macon, Ga.), 12 tackles, steps into the starting lineup.

All-ACC free safety Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.) adds 37 tackles and two interceptions.

A bright spot for Tech has been the play of its special teams. The Jackets rank second in the ACC in net punting (37.5) and lead the league in kickoff coverage (18.6). All-ACC placekicker Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.) has extended his ACC record streak of consecutive extra points to 150 in a row.

At punter, the Jackets use a combination of seniors Dan Dyke (Winter Springs, Fla.), who is averaging 40.4 yards on 19 punts, and Chris Morehouse (Vernon, Conn.), who is averaging 44.4 yards on 17 punts.

THE SERIES VERSUS VIRGINIA

Georgia Tech holds a 12-11-1 lead in the series with Virginia, which began in 1965. Tech lost last year’s game, 39-38, in Charlottesville, Va., but shut out the Cavaliers, 35-0, in Atlanta in 2000. The two teams have split the last six meetings, and each of those six games, except Tech’s 2000 rout, have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Tech holds a 10-5 advantage at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field, and Virginia’s last win in Atlanta was a 24-7 decision in 1994. The home team has won the last seven games in the series.

LAST MEETING WITH THE CAVALIERS

In 2001 in Charlottesville, Alvin Pearman took a lateral from Billy McMullen and ran 27 yards for the winning score on a hook-and-ladder play with 22 seconds left to give Virginia a 39-38 victory over 20th-ranked Georgia Tech. The teams combined for seven touchdowns in the fourth quarter, trading the lead with each score. The Jackets had taken a 38-33 lead with 1:45 to play on a 36-yard touchdown pass from George Godsey to Kerry Watkins. Virginia quarterback Bryson Spinner passed for 327 yards and five touchdowns, and Godsey set Tech records with 486 yards passing on 39 completions as the teams combined for 1,021 yards of offense. Watkins finished with nine catches for 161 yards, while Will Glover caught 13 passes for 172 yards.

By contrast, the last meeting in Atlanta was one-sided as Tech rolled up 627 yards of offense en route to a 35-0 victory in a Thursday night game.

HOMECOMING

Georgia Tech’s game against Virginia marks the Institute’s annual Homecoming celebration. Tech has won six consecutive Homecoming games, including a 27-17 victory over NC State last season. Tech has a 39-13-1 record in Homecoming games dating back to 1949.

The Jackets have hosted Virginia twice before, most recently Tech’s 41-38, come-from-behind win in 1998. The Cavaliers spoiled Tech’s Homecoming with a 23-14 win in 1987.

GAILEY VERSUS GROH

Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey and Virginia’s Al Groh are two of the eight current Division I-A head coaches who are former head coaches in the National Football League. Gailey served as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for two seasons (1998-99), while Groh spent one year (2000) as the head coach of the New York Jets.

Between them, Gailey (12 seasons) and Groh (12 seasons) also have 24 years of experience as NFL assistant coaches and have participated in six Super Bowls as assistant coaches, including four for Gailey.

The other Division I-A head coaches with NFL head coaching experience are Pete Carroll (Southern California), Dennis Erickson (Oregon State), Lou Holtz (South Carolina), June Jones (Hawaii), John Mackovic (Arizona) and John Robinson (UNLV).

TENUTA FACES ALMA MATER

Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is a 1982 graduate of Virginia, where he lettered three years as a defensive back. Tenuta began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Cavaliers.

WATKINS IS ACC’S TOP RECEIVER

Senior wideout Kerry Watkins is the ACC’s leading receiver with 5.8 receptions per game. He also ranks second in receiving yards at 93.6 per game. The LaPlace, La., native has 39 catches for 655 yards (16.8-yard average) and three touchdowns and is averaging 134.4 all-purpose yards per game, which ranks third in the league.

Watkins has raised his career totals to 139 receptions, 2,285 yards and 20 touchdowns. He ranks second in Tech history in career touchdown receptions, third in receiving yards and third in receptions. Watkins needs just seven yards to move past Harvey Middleton (2,291) and into second place in career receiving yards.

MUYRES CLIMBS TACKLING LIST

Free safety Jeremy Muyres has 234 career tackles to rank fifth in Tech history among defensive backs. He needs just five tackles to jump to third and 11 hits to move into second place, behind career leader Ken Swilling (267).

The senior from Stone Mountain, Ga., is Tech’s active leader with nine career interceptions.

Muyres was honored as ACC Defensive Back of the Week for his play in Georgia Tech’s 28-19 victory over Brigham Young. He had two interceptions in the game, the first Yellow Jacket with two picks in the same game since 1998. He also contributed seven tackles, a forced fumble and two pass breakups against BYU.

A two-time all-ACC and academic all-ACC selection, Muyres is Tech’s fourth-leading tackler with 37.

TECH CAREER TACKLES BY DB    Years   Tackles1.      Ken Swilling    1988-91 2672.      Mark Sheffield  1979-82 2443.      Lethon Flowers  1991-94 2384.      Travares Tillman        1996-99 2365.      Jeremy Muyres       1999-   234

CLINKSCALE, DANIELS STEP IN

With Georgia Tech’s tailback position decimated by injuries, the Yellow Jackets have gotten contributions from a pair of unlikely sources in fifth-year senior Gordon Clinkscale and redshirt freshman P.J. Daniels.

Clinkscale had been a little-used reserve until this season, when he found a niche as Tech’s third-down back. On his first carry against Maryland, he scampered 51 yards, more than his career rushing total in his first three seasons. He finished the game with 87 yards on just five attempts.

For the season, Clinkscale has rushed 13 times for 127 yards (9.8 yards per carry) and has eight catches for 43 yards.

Daniels, a walk-on from Houston, Texas, earned his first significant playing time against Maryland and scored Tech’s only touchdown on a one-yard run. He has averaged 32.2 yards on four kickoff returns, including a 59-yarder against Wake Forest.

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