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Tech Opens Conference Play Against Virginia on Thursday

Sept. 18, 2006

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech hosts Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams Thursday night as ESPN returns to Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field. Thursday’s kickoff is at 7:45 p.m. for the nationally televised contest.

Reggie Ball ran for 130 yards, setting a school record for a quarterback, and Georgia Tech (2-1) scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Troy 35-20 Saturday. The Yellow Jackets wore down the smaller Troy defense by rushing for 320 yards.

Virginia (1-2) returns to the field after being upset by Western Michigan 17-10 on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. Coach Al Groh used three quarterbacks in the contest including third-string freshman quarterback Jameel Sewell for the entire second half. The Cavaliers outgained the Broncos 258-179 but could not overcome the upstart Mid-American Conference team.

“They (Virginia) are a real big team,” said defensive end Adamm Oliver. “Big offensive line, the biggest we go up against. They like to run power football, more than the teams we have faced this year. Two tight ends, one back, and run that powerhouse offense right at you. It’s a little bit of a change from Troy, Samford and even Notre Dame, this team is different.”

Without an off week in between, both teams will return to the field on a quick turnaround after Saturday’s game.

“We’re having to practice on Monday, which we normally never do,” said coach Chan Gailey. “Monday is a big lab day at Tech, which is why we don’t practice. We`ll miss quite a few players in practice today, and then we can’t do a lot of the things like film study because of late labs. We put together sack lunches for the players so they can go straight from practice to late labs. It’s a little bit of a stress to practice on Mondays.”

This week’s game has been dubbed “Throwback Thursday” as the Yellow Jackets will wear special “Throwback” uniforms. Tech will don uniforms reminiscent of the early 1970s, including gold jerseys, white pants and white helmets. Tech wore various gold jerseys with white or gold helmets from 1968-1971.

“This is big time. I told the players last night … national TV, everybody’s watching,” added Gailey. “You get a chance to go prove what kind of team we are. It still is the college version of Monday Night Football, I still believe that. The ACC has about six or seven games on, and that’s great for the conference.”

The Tech offense, led by quarterback Reggie Ball, compiled a total of 500 yards against Troy. Ball has completed 35 of 69 passes for 387 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions in 2006. After his 130-yard outing against Troy, he is also the team’s leading rusher with 194 yards and a 6.9-yard average. Tailback Tashard Choice has 176 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s (Ball) a senior in his fourth year, he understands the game,” said Gailey. “He doesn’t get rattled on the field. He’s going to make good decisions to get our team in a position to have a successful play. Then, we tried to not make it so complicated that it becomes burdensome. If you get him thinking too much, then you paralyze him to a certain extent.”

The Jacket offense will line-up across from a Virginia defense that features a 3-4 scheme led by sophomore linebackers Jon Copper and Clint Sintim. Copper leads the team with 24 tackles including three for a loss and a sack. Sintim is third on the team with 18 tackles and first with five tackles for a loss and two sacks.

“We had to spend extra time in meetings,” said fullback Mike Cox. “The 3-4 defense is different than what most collegiate teams run. With only a short week to prepare for them makes it difficult as well, but we actually spent three practices in the preseason preparing for Virginia.”

Linebacker Philip Wheeler leads the Yellow Jackets outstanding defense with 21 tackles and an ACC-leading five tackles for loss, while safety Jamal Lewis leads the league in interceptions with two.

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