Oct. 20, 2003
It’s a Thursday night game at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field, so the Maryland Terrapins must be in town.
Tech and the Terps kick off at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
Georgia Tech and Maryland are meeting in a Thursday night ESPN game for the third straight year and the sixth time since 1995. The Terps hold a 3-2 advantage in such games, including wins the last two years.
Maryland won last year’s Thursday night affair, 34-10, and the previous year, 20-17 in overtime. The Terps also defeated Tech, 13-10, in 1996 at College Park. Tech’s Thursday night victories over Maryland were in 1995, 31-3, and 1999, 49-31, both in Atlanta.
Both teams bring winning streaks into this Atlantic Coast Conference game. The Yellow Jackets have won three in a row to improve to 4-3 overall, 2-2 in the ACC, while the Terps have rebounded from their 0-2 start with five straight wins to stand at 5-2, 2-1 in the ACC.
Tech’s resurgence has been keyed by the development of freshman quarterback Reggie Ball, steady production from wide receiver Jonathan Smith and tailback P.J. Daniels, and improved play by the offensive line, anchored by senior center Hugh Reilly.
A leading candidate for the ACC Rookie of the Year award, Ball has completed 36 of 61 passes (59 percent) for 508 yards with four touchdowns passing, one touchdown rushing and NO interceptions over the last two games. For the season, the true freshman from Stone Mountain has completed 52 percent of his passes for 1,276 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
Ball’s favorite target is the shifty Smith, who has 40 catches for 725 yards and two touchdowns. Daniels paces the ground attack with 623 yards and four scores on 146 carries.
The Tech defense has performed well, particularly in the last two games as the Jackets limited NC State and Wake Forest to season-low point totals in consecutive weeks.
Senior linebackers Keyaron Fox and Daryl Smith and sophomore defensive end Eric Henderson lead Jon Tenuta’s unit. Fox is the ACC’s leading tackler with 86, while Smith adds 72. Henderson leads the Jackets and is tied for the ACC lead with six sacks, along with 12 tackles for loss.
Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen spent nine years as offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, serving from 1987-91 under Bobby Ross and from 1997-2000 under George O’Leary. Friedgen is 2-0 against his former school, winning last year’s game, 34-10, after a 20-17 overtime victory in 2001.
Maryland assistant coaches Bill O’Brien and Dave Sollazzo also came from Tech. O’Brien is in his first year as the Terps’ running backs coach after spending the last eight years at Tech as a graduate assistant (1995-97), running backs coach (1998-2000) and offensive coordinator (2001-02). Sollazzo coached Tech’s defensive line in 1999-2000 before moving to Maryland with Friedgen in 2001.
Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta spent one year (1983) as a graduate assistant at Maryland.
THE SERIES VERSUS MARYLAND
Georgia Tech has won four of the last six meetings with Maryland and holds a 10-5 lead in the series, which only began in 1988. The Terrapins won last year’s game, 34-10, at College Park and also won the last meeting in Atlanta with a 20-17 overtime decision in 2001. Tech’s last win in the series was a 35-22 victory in 2000.
Maryland’s win in Atlanta in 2001 was its first victory ever at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field, where Tech leads 6-1.
GAILEY VS. FRIEDGEN
Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey and Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen were on opposite sides four times in the NFL when Gailey was the receivers coach and then offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Friedgen was the San Diego Chargers’ offensive coordinator.
In 1994, Friedgen’s Chargers defeated Gailey’s Steelers, 37-34, during the regular season and then won 17-13 in the AFC championship game.
The Steelers’ captured regular-season meetings the next two years, winning 31-16 in 1995 and 16-3 in 1996.
FREDDIE IS THE BEDROCK OF TECH OFFENSE
Developing into one of the ACC’s top offensive threats, wide receiver Jonathan Smith has turned in two remarkable games in Georgia Tech’s victories over Wake Forest and NC State to earn back-to-back ACC Offensive Back of the Week awards.
Against NC State, Smith had nine catches for 155 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown catch. In the first half alone, he caught eight balls for 143 yards to stake Tech to a 22-10 lead. Four of his catches resulted in third down conversions.
The senior from Argyle, Ga., followed against Wake Forest with seven receptions for a career-best 194 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown catch and a 55-yard reception down to the 11-yard line to set up another score.
Nicknamed “Freddie,” Smith leads Tech with 40 catches for 725 yards and two touchdowns. He has 17 more catches than number two receiver Nate Curry.
Smith leads the ACC and ranks eghth in the nation in receiving yards (103.6 per game), while his average of 18.1 yards per catch also leads the league. He is fourth in the ACC in receptions with 5.7 per game. Smith also returns punts for the Yellow Jackets, and he leads the ACC with 128.0 all-purpose yards per game.
DANIELS WALKS INTO OPPORTUNITY
Sophomore tailback P.J. Daniels ranks second in the ACC in rushing, averaging 89.0 yards per game, just behind Virginia’s Wali Lundy (89.7).
Daniels rushed for a career-best 175 yards on 33 carries in Tech’s win over Wake Forest, the best rushing effort by an ACC back this season.
That was the third 100-yard game of the season for Daniels, who has averaged 126.3 yards per game in Tech’s current three-game winning streak. He also topped 100 yards against Florida State (113) and Vanderbilt (105) and just missed the century mark against NC State (99).
Daniels, whose given name is Prince, is a former walk-on who was Tech’s seventh-string tailback early last season. He was placed on scholarship in January, 2003.
NO ROOM TO RUN
Georgia Tech is second in the ACC and 19th nationally in rushing defense, allowing 94.6 yards per game on the ground.
Tech has held four of its seven opponents this season to fewer than 100 yards rushing. In nine of 20 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.
BALL EARNS FOURTH ROOKIE AWARD
True freshman quarterback Reggie Ball has been named Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Week four times already this season, including each of the last three weeks as he has led the Yellow Jackets to three straight victories.
Most recently, Ball led Tech to a win at Wake Forest as he completed 12 of 24 passes for 225 yards while rushing for 22 yards. He threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Smith and a 10-yard scoring pass to John Paul Foschi.
Against NC State, Ball passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another score, completing 24 of 37 passes for a career-high 283 yards with no interceptions. He threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Smith, and then threw a perfect fade pass to a diving Nate Curry in the end zone for a five yard touchdown pass with just 15 seconds left in the first half. His four-yard touchdown run with 12 minutes left sealed the win.
IMPROVEMENT ON THIRD DOWN
One of the storylines in Georgia Tech’s offensive development is improved production on third down. In the last two games, Tech has converted better than 50 percent of its third down opportunities (17-33, 51.5 percent). Contrast that with the first five games, when Tech managed just 22 percent (15-67).
CENTER OF ATTENTION
The anchor of the Georgia Tech offense is senior center Hugh Reilly, who was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week after leading Tech to a 24-7 win at Wake Forest.
Reilly paved the way for a season-high 441 yards of total offense by the Yellow Jackets, including 175 yards rushing by P.J. Daniels. Tech sealed the win by grinding out an eight-minute touchdown drive in the fourth quarter; every play on the 16-play, 78-yard drive was on the ground.
A preseason nominee for the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center, Reilly has played every snap in Tech’s first seven games (457 offensive plays). He has started every game the last three seasons (33 straight games), starting at right guard in 2001 before moving to center in 2002
THURSDAY NIGHT LIVE
For the 11th year in a row, Georgia Tech is participating in ESPN’s Thursday night, national television package. This fall, the Yellow Jackets have two Thursday night games. Tech opened the season at Brigham Young on Thursday, Aug. 28, and the Jackets now host Maryland on Thursday, Oct. 23.
Georgia Tech has been selected to play in more ESPN Thursday night games-16-than any other school in the nation.
Tech has a 7-8 record when playing in ESPN’s Thursday night games, and all but four of the games have been in Atlanta.
Maryland has been Tech’s most frequent Thursday night opponent as this year’s game will be the sixth such affair between the two schools since 1995. Maryland has won the last two Thursday night contests to take a 3-2 lead.
In addition to the 16 ESPN dates, the Jackets have also played two other Thursday prime-time games in recent years, defeating Virginia, 31-27, in 1983 on TBS and falling to Arizona, 20-19, in 1995 on Prime. Counting Thanksgiving, Tech’s record on Thursday is 28-19-2.
SMITH CLIMBS RECEIVING LISTS
Senior wide receiver Jonathan Smith ranks fourth on the Yellow Jackets’ career receiving list with 136 catches, and with 194 yards receiving against Wake Forest, he vaulted from 10th place to fifth place in career receiving yards. Smith now has 1,825 career receiving yards, just eight yards behind fourth place Dez White.
TECH CAREER RECEPTIONS1. Kelly Campbell, 1998-01 1952. Kerry Watkins, 1999-02 1713. Harvey Middleton, 1994-97 1654. Jonathan Smith, 2000- 136