Oct. 12, 2004
Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-2 ACC) looks for its second straight Atlantic Coast Conference victory as the Yellow Jackets host Duke (1-4, 0-2 ACC) Saturday at 12 Noon at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field. The game, Tech’s Homecoming contest, will be regionally televised on the Jefferson Pilot-ACC Sports Network (FSN in Georgia).
The Yellow Jackets will face a Duke offense that expects the return of starting tailback Cedric Dargan. Dargan rushed for 114 yards in the Blue Devils’ season opening loss to Navy, 27-12, on Sept. 4, but has missed the last four ballgames due to a knee injury.
“They are a big play team,” said football head coach Chan Gailey. “They make big plays on offense, defense and special teams and they return a good running back [Cedric Dargan] this weekend.”
Duke enters the game averaging 19.6 points per game and on the heels of its first victory Oct. 2 against The Citadel, 28-10. The Blue Devils rushed for a season-high 191 yards and starting quarterback Mike Schneider accounted for three touchdowns, finishing the game 17 of 24 for 190 yards.
The Jackets will be going up against a Blue Devil defense that ranks near the bottom of the ACC in almost every category. Duke ranks 105th in the nation in total defense, allowing 444.0 yards per game and 91st in scoring defense, surrendering 31.0 points per game. According to coach Gailey, those figures are misleading.
“A couple of reasons they are so low is they have returned interceptions for touchdowns and had special teams touchdowns, so their defense has to go right back on the field,” said Gailey. “They still play multiple formations and force you to be on top of your game. They rotate between a three-man front and a four-man front. They do a great job of all of the multiple things that they do.”
Duke cornerback John Talley leads the ACC with three interceptions, two of which he has returned for touchdowns. As a team, Duke is plus-two in turnover margin on the season.
Blue Devil head coach Ted Roof returns to Atlanta after serving as a Tech assistant coach from 1998-2001. Roof was the defensive coordinator for the Jackets and also was an All-ACC linebacker at Tech in 1985. He was named interim head coach at Duke last season for the final five weeks and led Duke to wins over Tech, 41-17, and North Carolina, 30-22, before being named head coach on Dec. 6, 2003.
“He has a way of being tough with them and getting them to understand what needs to be done to win,” said Gailey. “He’s doing a nice job over there, they were right there at the end with UConn, Navy and had Maryland in a dogfight.”
Tech is coming off one of the top defensive performances in program history in last week’s 20-7 win over Maryland. The Rambling Wreck held the Terps to just 81 yards of total offense, which ranks tops in the country this season. That was also a school record in an ACC game and ranks sixth overall in school history.
Linebacker Chris Reis led the defensive charge for the Yellow Jackets. Reis tallied two-and-a-half sacks and three tackles for a loss in the 13-point victory and currently leads the ACC in sacks with five.
Defensive end Eric Henderson has added a sack threat since his return against No. 3 Miami on Oct. 2. He has 10 tackles, two sacks and three-and-a-half tackles for loss in his two ballgames for the Jackets. Tech has accumulated 12 sacks over the last two games, versus three in the first three games before Henderson’s return.
“I think that has been part of the process but not all of it [on Henderson’s return],” said Gailey. “I think also we have had some young players learning new positions that have gained more and more experience and knowledge. For example, Travis [Parker] is playing end for the first time this year and is beginning to understand what he needs to be doing. Darryl Richard is starting to understand how to play his position better. [Joe] Anoai is getting more and more experience. When you put all of those things together, plus you bring back a quality player like Eric Henderson, you hopefully see numbers increase.”
After two subpar performances against North Carolina and No. 4 Miami, sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball led the Jackets to their second win over a ranked opponent with 197 yards through the air, including one touchdown versus the 23rd-ranked Terrapins.
“He did a better job with protecting the ball and made better decisions,” said Gailey. “There were a couple of times that I wrote down on my notes that he tucked the football and got what he could, without forcing the ball into a bad situation. A quarterback must be able to make his reads after the snap, not before it. If he makes it before it, he’s most likely going to get himself into trouble.”
After missing the Miami game, P.J. Daniels returned for the Jackets last Saturday and rushed for 91 yards against the Terrapins. Daniels also scored a touchdown in the game and ranks third in the ACC, averaging 103.8 yards per game.
“He’s an All-ACC back,” said Gailey. “Anytime you return the ACC’s leading rusher, you’re going to be better. Anybody who loses a conference leading rusher is going to be hurt.”
True freshman starting wide out Calvin Johnson continues to shine for the Jackets. Johnson ranks third in the ACC in receiving yards per game (60.6), while junior teammate Levon Thomas is fourth (57.8). Johnson is sixth in the league in receptions per game (3.40) and Thomas is tied for seventh (3.20).