Sept. 28, 2004
Georgia Tech (2-1, 1-1 ACC) hosts fourth-ranked Miami (3-0, 1-0 ACC) in an Atlantic Coast Conference battle in Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. The game will be regionally televised on ABC (WSB-TV in Atlanta).
“I think they enjoy the challenge of games like this,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “I know I do. I think most anybody does that is a competitor.”
The Hurricanes roll into Atlanta with the nation’s fourth longest winning streak at seven games. Helping Miami achieve this winning streak has been a dominant defense. The Hurricanes are No. 3 in the nation in total defense, allowing just 211.0 yards per game. The Hurricanes have only allowed one offensive touchdown this season and boast one of the best cover cornerbacks in Antrel Rolle.
“You obviously can look at the talent level,” said Gailey. “The other thing that really makes a difference on their football team is their depth. They have great depth and can rotate people in at almost every position and still have really good football players walking on the field.”
On the offensive side of the ball, senior quarterback Brock Berlin leads the Hurricanes. Berlin is 59-2 as a starter, including high school (45-0), and ranks fourth in the nation in winning percentage (.875) of all the returning signal callers. The Shreveport, La., native currently holds the `Canes’ sixth best winning percentage at Miami with a .867 mark, ahead of legends Bernie Kosar and Jim Kelly.
“To be honest I have not watched Brock Berlin a lot,” said Gailey. “I have been watching their defense and their special teams. I have not spent a lot of time watching him. I did see a stat up the other day and it’s a pretty interesting stat; what his win/loss record is as a quarterback from high school and college (59-2). The last time I looked as a quarterback, if you lead your team to victory, you have done well. So he is doing something mighty well.”
Miami also brings in a very talented group on special teams. UM’s Deven Hester returned two punts for touchdowns against Louisiana Tech in a 48-0 rout on Sept. 18. The `Canes also scored a touchdown on a blocked punt against Houston last Thursday in a 38-13 win, and lead the nation in non-offensive touchdowns since the 1999 season (48).
When asked about changing his special team’s units, coach Gailey responded, “No, I think you challenge those guys who are on special teams to accept what is getting ready to happen during the course of the ballgame. The thing you always say on special teams is, there is no second or third down remaining to make something happen. It’s a one-time shot when you walk on the field. That’s what you have to get them to understand. You have to get out there and play lights out for that one play.”
The game between Tech and No. 4 Miami will be the first since the `Canes inception into the ACC and the first meeting since the 1999 Toyota Gator Bowl where UM defeated the Jackets, 28-13. It will be Miami’s first visit to Atlanta since the 1978 season. The anticipation of playing Miami at home has gone on since the Hurricanes made the decision to join the league this fall.
“All spring and all summer people talked about this game,” said Gailey. “Everyone was talking about the new ACC and the shot at playing Miami and Virginia Tech at home.”
The Yellow Jackets are coming off a bye week, while the fourth-ranked Hurricanes played last Thursday night.
“You are able to get people well,” said Gailey about the off week. “You are able to scrimmage some of the young guys and see how much progress they have made. It really does two things; it lets you get well and it lets you get extra time on game plan for the team you are about to play. That’s basically what an open date does.”
Junior defensive end Eric Henderson is expected to return for the Rambling Wreck defense this Saturday. The 2003 ACC sacks leader and all-conference performer sat out Tech’s first three games due to an injury.
“He looks rusty,” said Gailey. “Today will be the first day he will be in pads going and doing things full speed. He looked rusty in the walk through and the half speed and three-quarter speed stuff that he has done so far. I’m sure it will be a little different for him to get out there and hit.”
Continuing to lead the offensive attack for the Jackets is junior running back P.J. Daniels and sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball. Daniels leads the ACC in rushing yards per game (108) and Ball ranks third in the league in passing yards per game (205.3). Freshman standout wide receiver Calvin Johnson is second in the ACC in receptions per game (14.1) and yards per game (72.3).