ATLANTA – Two days after having its season opener at Virginia Tech called because of excessive lightning in the Blacksburg, Va., area, the Georgia Tech football team will regroup for the “second” season opener this weekend against Central Florida.
“A lot of time and energy was spent in that first game, and now weve got to move on to a different team,” said Tech head coach George OLeary. “The biggest challenge is coming from a great high and getting as close as we did to kickoff, to now focusing on another team almost immediately. Your seniors and coaches have to be a major factor in focusing and understanding that game is over, whether we played it or not, and we need to move on and get ready for Central Florida.”
The Yellow Jackets host UCF on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. There will be no live television coverage, but the game will be aired on a tape-delay basis on Monday. Sept. 4, at 11 a.m. on Fox Sports Net South. Live radio coverage will be available on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network (WGST 640 AM/105.7 FM in the Atlanta area).
UCF is coming off a 4-7 campaign in 1999, but the Golden Knights return 43 lettermen and 15 starters from last year.
“Offensively, they return the heart of their football team,” said OLeary, now in his sixth season on the Flats. “They return four of the five offensive linemen, and their quarterback [Vic Penn] does a good job of getting the ball where it is supposed to get. They have an offense that can put some points on the board, and they can move the ball extremely well. Last year they threw for a lot of yards and they can create a running game off that.”
Penn, the Golden Knights offensive MVP in 1999, passed for more than 3,000 yards last season. He ranked 12th nationally in total offense, accounting for just over 295 yards per game. Penn set a UCF record for pass attempts (455) and passed for over 300 yards on four separate occasions, including 370-plus performances against Florida, Auburn and Bowling Green.
“Ive been really impressed with their quarterback,” said OLeary. “He makes all the right throws and he puts it where he is supposed to. Hes a good athlete, and Ive seen him run for yards and avoid the rush. He runs that offense very well and he knows what hes doing with the football, which is the sign of a good quarterback.”
OLeary notes that his team cannot take UCF lightly despite the would-be Virginia Tech game last week and a matchup with defending national champion Florida State next week.
“We had better be on top of our game with this team, or we are going to be in trouble,” he said. “They have enough talent on the field that they can create some space against our defense. They have enough good athletes out there defensively to cause problems. They also have good special teams ” they blocked five punts last year.”
UCF is in its fifth year of football at the Division I-A level and only its 22nd season of football overall.
“Im impressed with the way that their program has come since we first played them in 1996,” said OLeary. “They are playing some good people across the country, and they are getting better every year. Theres no question about that.
“They didnt have a great record last year, but they had a chance to win a few more games. I see them as a team that has improved tremendously since moving to Division I-A. Its tough when you are an independent when you have to go on the road a lot.”
Despite being in I-A for just five years, OLeary expects a good challenge for the Yellow Jackets on Saturday night.
“I anticipate a game that we are going to have to play great defense,” said OLeary. “We have to keep the ball with our offense because they are a team that can move the chains and put some numbers on the board.
“They are a team that likes to spread you out, and they play with three and four wide outs. People have outscored them in certain cases, but I dont think that their offense has been where the problem has been.”