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Tech Takes Two-Game Streak to Wake Forest

Oct. 5, 2003

ATLANTA –

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Georgia Tech looks to build on the momentum of an impressive win over NC State as the Yellow Jackets travel to Wake Forest for an Atlantic Coast Conference test Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Groves Stadium.

The Jackets take a modest two-game winning streak into this week’s game, which will not be televised. Tech defeated the Wolfpack, 29-21, to improve to 3-3 overall, 1-2 in the ACC. Wake Forest, whose last game was a 27-24 loss to Virginia on Sept. 27, has a record of 3-2, 1-1 in the ACC.

True freshman quarterback Reggie Ball played the best game of his young career against the Wolfpack as he passed for 283 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for one score to back an excellent performance by the Tech defense. The Jackets held NC State to more than 20 points below their scoring average and limited the Wolfpack to minus-8 yards rushing.

Ball’s season statistics are fairly modest (89-for-170, 1,051 yards, 4 TD, 5 Int), but he continues to show poise and play-making ability well beyond his years.

Ball is Tech’s second-leading rusher with 150 yards and two touchdowns on 67 attempts. Sophomore tailback P.J. Daniels leads the Jackets and ranks third in the ACC in rushing with 448 yards and three touchdowns on 113 carries.

Ball’s favorite target is senior wideout Jonathan Smith, who has 33 catches for 531 yards, while junior Nate Curry adds 22 catches for 250 yards. Each has one touchdown catch.

The Tech defense is led by senior linebackers Keyaron Fox and Daryl Smith and sophomore defensive end Eric Henderson.

Fox and Smith are one-two on the team in tackles with 69 and 56, respectively, while Henderson leads the Jackets with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. The Tech secondary is second in the ACC with seven interceptions.

Senior placekicker Dan Burnett has been reliable, making 10 of 13 field goal attempts, while senior punter Hal Higgins averages 38.8 yards per kick.

One week after facing NC State’s high-powered passing attack, Tech now must prepare for the multiple looks of Wake Forest, which averages 157 yards rushing and 171.8 yards passing per game.

“Wake Forest is very unique,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey. “They combine a good north-south power running game with a very good option, east-west running game, and then they’re able to do some drop-back passing. When you’re able to combine those three things into one offense, it puts a great deal of pressure on your defense.

“We have to play very disciplined, assignment football on defense.”

THE SERIES VERSUS WAKE FOREST

Georgia Tech has won six of the last eight meetings with Wake Forest and holds an 18-7 lead in the series, which began in 1917 with a 33-0 Tech victory. Wake Forest won last year’s game, 24-21 in Atlanta, while the Jackets captured the last meeting in Winston-Salem, 38-33 in 2001.

The Yellow Jackets hold a 7-3 advantage in Winston-Salem, including five of the last six, but the last four games at Groves Stadium have been decided by a total of 11 points. Tech won 38-33 in 2001, 28-26 in 1997 and 24-33 in 1995, while the Deacons earned a 26-23 victory in 1999.

LAST MEETING WITH WAKE FOREST

In 2002 in Atlanta, Tarence Williams’ 10-yard scoring run with 5:29 to play lifted Wake Forest to a 24-21 victory over Georgia Tech. Tech had taken a 21-16 lead when backup quarterback Damarius Bilbo threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Kerry Watkins with 10 minutes left. The Jackets crossed midfield twice in the last five minutes but couldn’t get close enough to attempt a field goal. The Demon Deacons finished with a 447-332 yard advantage in total offense, including 209 yards rushing, and dominated time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 38 minutes and running 92 plays to Tech’s 51.

NO ROOM TO RUN

Georgia Tech leads the ACC and ranks 17th nationally in rushing defense, allowing 86.2 yards per game on the ground.

Tech has held all four of its six opponents this season to fewer than 100 yards rushing. In nine of 19 games under defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta the last two years, the Jackets have allowed fewer than 100 yards rushing

In Tech’s win over NC State, the Yellow Jackets turned in the fifth best performance in school history against the run as the Wolfpack netted minus-8 yards on 19 attempts. Tech held Auburn to just 40 yards rushing, BYU to 86 yards and Florida State to 91.

FEWEST YARDS RUSHING BY A TECH OPPONENT-30     Maryland, 1995 (24 att.)-20     Maryland, 1990 (25 att.)-11     Navy, 1970 (36 att.)-9      Florida, 1963 (42 att.)-8      NC State, 2003 (19 att.)

IMPROVEMENT ON THIRD DOWN

One of the keys to Georgia Tech’s offensive success against NC State was improvement on third down. Entering the game, the Jackets had struggled to convert on third downs (22 percent success rate), but against the Wolfpack, Tech was 8-for-17, easily its best percentage of the season.

Quarterback Reggie Ball was 8-for-11 for 106 yards on third down plays, including successful conversions on five occasions when Tech faced third and seven or more yards.

ON THE RECEIVING END

Georgia Tech’s most experienced and versatile skill player on offense is wide receiver Jonathan Smith, a preseason all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection by several publications.

Smith leads Tech with 33 catches for 531 yards, averaging 16.1 yards per catch. He has 11 more catches than number two receiver Nate Curry.

The senior from Argyle, Ga., is second in the ACC in receiving yards with 88.5 per game and fifth in the conference in receptions at 5.5 per outing.

Smith also returns punts for the Yellow Jackets, and he averages 114.0 all-purpose yards per game (third in the ACC).

SMITH CLIMBS RECEIVING LISTS

Senior wide receiver Jonathan Smith has moved into fourth place on the Yellow Jackets’ career receiving list with 129 catches. However, he is 36 catches behind third-place Harvey Middleton.

Smith ranks 10th in career. receiving yards with 1,631. He needs just nine yards to jump into seventh place and 51 yards to reach the sixth spot.

TECH CAREER RECEPTIONS       Years   Rec1.      Kelly Campbell     1998-01 1952.      Kerry Watkins       1999-02 1713.      Harvey Middleton        1994-97 1654.      Jonathan Smith     2000-   129

TECH CAREER RECEIVING YARDS Years Yds 1. Kelly Campbell 1998-01 2,907 2. Kerry Watkins 1999-02 2,680 3. Harvey Middleton 1994-97 2,291 4. Dez White 1997-99 1,833 5. John Sias 1966-68 1,727 6. Bobby Rodriguez 1989-92 1,681 7. Derrick Steagall 1993-97 1,639 8. Jimmy Robinson 1972-74 1,633 9. Greg Lester 1987-91 1,633 10. Jonathan Smith 2000- 1,631

PAT STREAK SNAPPED

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but a Georgia Tech kicker finally missed an extra point. Dan Burnett’s miss against NC State snapped a string of 209 consecutive extra points made by Yellow Jackets kickers. Tech actually had a team miss last season on a bad hold, but no Yellow Jacket kicker had swung and missed since Brad Chambers against North Carolina in 1998.

The 209 in a row include Luke Manget’s perfect career of 160 PAT in a row from 1999-2002, one shy of the NCAA record for an individual.

MORE BIG PLAYS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

Georgia Tech, which has had two successful fake punts, a blocked punt for a touchdown and a blocked field goal already this season, added a few more big plays on special teams against NC State. Freshman Kenny Scott had a 90-yard kickoff return to the 10-yard line to set up a field goal. That was Tech’s longest return since 1998.

Sophomore Chris Reis recovered a Wolfpack fumble at the NC State 32-yard line on a pooch kickoff. That was Tech’s second fumble recovery on a kickoff in as many weeks. Nathan Burton recovered a fumble on a squib kickoff against Vanderbilt.

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