Sept. 22, 2002
Georgia Tech returns to Atlantic Coast Conference play with a road test at North Carolina at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium.
The game will be regionally televised on ABC (WSB Channel 2 in Atlanta) and 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.
Tech (3-1 overall, 0-1 ACC) is coming off a 28-19 win over Brigham Young, while North Carolina (1-2 overall), which is playing its first ACC contest, had an open date following a 52-21 loss to Texas on Sept. 14.
The Yellow Jackets’ win over BYU was a costly one, however, as sensational tailback Tony Hollings (Jeffersonville, Ga.), who leads the nation in rushing and ranks second in scoring, sustained an injury to his right knee late in the game. He will not play this week against North Carolina, and an MRI on Monday will determine the extent of the injury.
“We tell our players all the time that you have to handle adversity,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey. “It’s not a matter of whether or not you’re going to have adversity. You’re going to have adversity; it’s how you handle it that counts.
“Everytime you have a situation where someone is out, it opens up an opportunity for someones else to step up, and that’s how you have to approach it. As much as we hurt for those people who have been injured, the game is going to on. They’re going to have the game next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Chapel Hill, and Georgia Tech is going to go there with the mindset to win the football game.”
Suggs struggled against BYU but has completed 56 percent of his passes (47-for-84) for 586 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions.
Watkins is Tech’s leading receiver with 17 catches for 353 yards (20.8-yard average) and one touchdown, while Glover adds six receptions for 58 yards and two scores.
With Hollings out and his backup, Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.), still sidelined by a concussion, the tailback position is uncertain. True freshman Ajenavi Eziemefe (New Orleans, La.), who scored a touchdown against BYU, appears to be the likely starter, but Gailey said wait and see.
“We’re going to have to wait and see how we handle the tailback situation,” said Gailey. “In the next two days, we are going to evaluate exactly where we are at the running back position and what we need to do. I think we’ll have a better feel Tuesday. I would not rule anything out.”
After a strong performance by the Tech defense against BYU, the Jackets lead the ACC in scoring defense, allowing just 15.0 points per game.
The Jackets’ leading tacklers are its trio of outstanding linebackers: senior Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.) with 27 tackles and two fumble recoveries, junior Keyaron Fox (Atlanta, Ga.), 24 tackles, four tackles for loss, and junior Daryl Smith (Albany, Ga.), 24 tackles, five tackles for loss and one interception. All-ACC free safety Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.) has 15 tackles and two interceptions.
Tech’s kicking game is solid with Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.), a two-time all-conference placekicker who has extended his ACC record streak of consecutive extra points to 146 in a row. He has 11 touchbacks on 21 kickoffs.
SERIES VS. NORTH CAROLINA
Georgia Tech has won four in a row over North Carolina to take an 18-16-3 lead in the series, which began in 1915. The Yellow Jackets captured last year’s game with a 28-21 decision in a Thursday night game in Atlanta and also won the last meeting in Chapel Hill with a 42-28 win in 2000. UNC’s last win in the series was in 1997, when the then fifth-ranked Tar Heels defeated Tech, 16-13.
Tech has won two in a row at Chapel Hill to end a nine-game winless streak on the Tar Heels’ home field that dated back to 1945.
LAST MEETING WITH THE TAR HEELS
In 2001 in Atlanta, Georgia Tech’s Joe Burns rushed for a career-high 198 yards and the Yellow Jackets held North Carolina to just 13 yards rushing as Tech won 28-21 in a Thursday night game at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. Kelley Rhino had a career-best night with 111 yards on four punt returns, including three returns that set up Tech scores.
In his four games at tailback, Tony Hollings has been nothing short of terrific, rushing 92 times for 633 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns. Averaging 158.2 yards and 16.5 points per game, he leads the nation in rushing this week and is second in scoring.
Hollings’ latest effort was 189 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries in Tech’s win over BYU, in which he injured his right knee late in the game.
The junior from Jeffersonville, Ga., rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries against Clemson, including a 72-yard touchdown run that was the longest by a Yellow Jacket since 1992.
The former defensive back made an impressive debut in Tech’s 45-3 victory over Vanderbilt. He rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, scoring on runs of two and 56 yards, becoming the first Tech player to top 100 yards in his first game at running back.
He was just as effective against Connecticut, rushing for 144 yards and a school record-tying four touchdowns on 16 carries, all in the first half.
DEFENSE STEPS UP
Georgia Tech’s defense turned in a strong performance in the Yellow Jackets’ 28-19 victory over Brigham Young. Tech held the Cougars’ high-powered offense, which entered the game averaging 35 points and 455 yards per game, to 19 points and 353 yards, including just 79 yards rushing. The defensive effort against BYU was highlighted by four forced turnovers (three interceptions and one fumble recovery) and four sacks.
Tech leads the ACC and ranks 17th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 15.0 points per game. The Jackets are also 18th in the nation in pass efficiency defense (94.3), 27th in total defense (299.5 yards per game) and 37th in rushing defense (111.8 yards per game).
The Jackets also lead the ACC in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert on just 21.3 percent of third down opportunities.
FRESHMEN MAKE IMPACT ON VETERAN DEFENSE
Georgia Tech’s defense is experienced, with six seniors and three juniors in the starting lineup, but three redshirt freshmen have made an impact, especially in the Yellow Jackets’ victory over BYU.
With senior defensive end Greg Gathers sidelined, redshirt freshman Eric Henderson saw extensive action against the Cougars, especially in nickel packages. The New Orleans, La., native responded with five tackles, two sacks, one tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
Defensive tackle Travis Parker had five tackles and a pass breakup against BYU. Cornerback Reuben Houston, playing as the nickel back, made eight tackles, a key sack for an 11-yard loss on third down, and a pass breakup.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS FACE FORMER TEAMS
Jon Tenuta, Georgia Tech’s first-year defensive coordinator, faces the team with whom he spent the 2001 season. Tenuta served as North Carolina’s defensive coordinator last fall, coaching a unit that led the ACC in total defense (305.3 yards per game) and pass efficiency defense (98.9) while ranking third in rushing defense (124.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (21.8 points per game).
Meanwhile, UNC’s current defensive coordinator, Dave Huxtable, spent six seasons (1992-97) on the defensive staff at Georgia Tech, including the last two years as defensive coordinator.
WATKINS ON THE RECEPTION
Senior wideout Kerry Watkins has started his senior season with a bang. The LaPlace, La., native is Georgia Tech’s leading receiver with 17 catches for 353 yards (20.8-yard average) and one touchdown. He is second in the ACC in receiving yards per game and third in receptions per game.
Watkins has raised his career totals to 117 receptions, 1,983 yards and 18 touchdowns. He ranks second in Tech history in career touchdown receptions, third in receiving yards and third in receptions.
IN A ZONE IN THE RED ZONE
The Georgia Tech offense is a perfect 14-for-14 on red zone possessions, scoring 13 touchdowns and one field goal.
On defense, Tech has allowed eight scores (five touchdowns and three field goals) on 10 red zone possessions.