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Thursday Night TV Returns to Bobby Dodd Stadium

Oct. 24, 2004

ATLANTA– Georgia Tech makes its annual appearance on “Thursday Night TV” as the Yellow Jackets host 22nd-ranked Virginia Tech in a nationally-televised battle on ESPN Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.

Both teams enter this Atlantic Coast Conference matchup with some momentum. Tech (4-2, 3-2 ACC) is coming off back- to-back victories over 23rd-ranked Maryland and Duke in which the Rambling Wreck defense turned in stellar efforts.

Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-1 ACC) makes its first ACC trip to Atlanta with a three-game winning streak following victories over West Virginia, Wake Forest and Florida A&M.

The Hokies will be the fourth nationally-ranked team that Georgia Tech has faced this season. The Yellow Jackets defeated then No. 18 Clemson and No. 23 Maryland while falling to fourth-ranked Miami.

“They’re good. They’re really good,” Tech head coach Chan Gailey said of the Hokies. “They don’t have any weaknesses. They’re solid everywhere — offense, defense and kicking game. They’ll be one of the fastest teams we see this year.”

The two Techs have met just once before, a 6-3 Rambling Wreck victory on Nov. 10, 1990 at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. Scott Sisson kicked two field goals, including the game-winner from 38 yards out with just eight seconds left to preserve Tech’s unbeaten season, one week after the Jackets had won at No. 1 Virginia.

Tech and Tech were scheduled to play in the BCA Bowl on Aug. 27, 2000 at Blacksburg, but the game was cancelled by lightning.

Tech’s defense has been the story of the recent success for the Jackets, who have held their last two opponents, Maryland and Duke, to a combined 265 yards of total offense. All-star free safety James Butler is Tech’s only senior starter on defense and the unquestioned leader of the unit. He is Tech’s third-leading tackler with 43, along with one interception, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Junior linebackers Gerris Wilkinson and Chris Reis are Tech’s top tacklers. Wilkinson has 60 hits to rank second in the ACC, while Reis boasts 45 tackles and an ACC-leading seven sacks.

Offensively, Tech has received a boost with the return to health of junior tailback P.J. Daniels, who leads the ACC with 105.8 rushing yards per game.

Sophomore quarterback Reggie Ball rebounded from a two-game slump with solid performances in the Maryland and Duke victories. Ball is second in the ACC in total offense with 213.2 yards per game, including 169.2 yards passing and 33.8 yards rushing. He has thrown nine touchdown passes but also has 10 interceptions.

Sensational freshman Calvin Johnson is the Jackets’ leading receiver with 23 catches for 395 yards and five touchdowns. The trio of Johnson and seniors Levon Thomas (19-338-2) and Nate Curry (11-135-2) have accounted for two-thirds of Tech’s completions and nearly 85 percent of the Jackets’ passing yards.

A CASE FOR THE DEFENSE

The Georgia Tech defense has allowed just 265 yards of total offense in its last two games against Maryland and Duke, recording the best and the seventh-best defensive performances against an ACC opponent in school history.

Tech ranks 18th in the nation in total defense, allowing 288.0 yards per game. The Jackets are 10th in passing yards allowed (164.0), 20th in pass efficiency defense, 27th in scoring defense (17.67 ppg) and 40th in rushing defense (124.0).

Tech's Top Defensive Performances in ACC Games81      Maryland, 2004 (7 rushing, 84 passing)129     North Carolina, 1985137     Duke, 1986149     Wake Forest, 1991151     North Carolina, 1990162     Wake Forest, 1984184     Duke, 2004 (84 rushing, 100 passing)195     North Carolina, 1989

THURSDAY NIGHT LIVE

For the 12th year in a row, Georgia Tech is part of ESPN’s Thursday night, national television package. The Yellow Jackets are making their 17th appearance, more than any other school in the nation.

Tech had two Thursday night games last fall, falling at Brigham Young and then defeating Maryland at home.

Tech has an 8-8 record when playing in ESPN’s Thursday night games, and all but five of the games have been in Atlanta. The Jackets are 7-4 in home Thursday night games.

ESPN THURSDAY NIGHT GAMESYear    Opponent                Result1991    #20 Virginia    hW      24-211993    #25 Virginia    hL      35-141994    #7 Arizona      hL      19-141995    #16 Maryland    hW      31-31996    Duke    hW      48-221996    at Maryland     aL      13-101997    #5 North Carolina       hL      16-131998    at Clemson      aW      24-211999    Maryland        hW      49-312000    at NC State      (ot) aL        30-232000    Virginia        hW      35-02001    Maryland        (ot) hL 20-172001    North Carolina  hW      28-212002    at Maryland     aL      34-102003    at Brigham Young        aL      13-242003    Maryland        hW      7-3

P.J. THE QUARTERBACK?

There’s no chance that Georgia Tech’s all-ACC tailback will be changing positions any time soon, but P.J. Daniels got a taste of life as a quarterback when he threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson in Tech’s win over Duke.

Daniels also rushed for 114 yards and one touchdown in the game, his third 100-yard game of the season and the ninth of his career.

ANOTHER BIG PERFORMANCE FOR JOHNSON

True freshman wide receiver Calvin Johnson earned his second ACC Rookie of the Week Award after catching two touchdown passes in Georgia Tech’s victory over Duke. The 6-4, 225-pounder hauled in a 20-yard touchdown from Reggie Ball and then a 13-yard scoring pass from tailback P.J. Daniels. He totalled six receptions for 92 yards.

Johnson is Tech’s leading receiver with 23 catches for 395 yards and five touchdowns. He leads all ACC freshmen in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns and also ranks among the nation’s top freshmen receivers.

The Tyrone, Ga., native is on pace to record one of the top receiving seasons ever by a Tech freshman.

TOP RECEIVING SEASONS BY TECH FRESHMENRECEPTIONSRobert Lavette (rb), 1981       45Greg Lester (wr), 1987  33Kerry Watkins (wr), 1999 (Fr.-R)    33Derrick Steagall (wr), 1993      24Calvin Johnson (wr), 2004  23

RECEIVING YARDS Greg Lester (wr), 1987 593 Kerry Watkins (wr), 1999 (Fr.-R) 476 Calvin Johnson (wr), 2004 395 DerrickSteagall (wr), 1999 385 Robert Lavette (rb), 1981 307

TOUCHDOWN RECEPTIONS Kerry Watkins, 1999 (Fr.-R) 6 Calvin Johnson, 2004 5

REIS’ PIECES

Junior linebacker Chris Reis has made a smooth transition to linebacker, moving there this season after two years at safety.

The 6-1, 218-pounder leads the ACC in sacks with seven and is second with 10 tackles for loss. He also has 45 tackles (second on team), three pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

He has had very productive games the last two weeks, helping Tech hold Maryland and Duke to a combined 265 yards of total offense.

Against Maryland, Reis had three tackles for minus-32 yards, including 2.5 sacks. Then against Duke, Reis had three tackles for loss, including two sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.

JB QUARTERBACKS DEFENSE

Georgia Tech’s “quarterback” on defense is free safety James Butler, the only senior on the Tech defense.

An all-America candidate who is rated one of the top defensive prospects for the 2005 NFL draft, Butler is Tech’s third-leading tackler with 43 hits. He also has one interception, three pass breakups, a forced fumbled and a blocked field goal.

But defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will you that Butler’s role in Tech’s defensive success goes far beyond statistics. The 6-3, 215-pounder from Climax, Ga., is invaluable as a “coach on the field,” making calls and adjustments and providing leadership. Not surprisingly, he earned Academic All-ACC honors last fall in addition to all-ACC accolades on the field.

“JB” is one of Tech’s three team captains for 2004, along with center Andy Tidwell-Neal and wide receiver Nate Curry.

YOUNG LINEMEN STEP IN

Georgia Tech has won its last two games, including a road victory at then No. 23 Maryland, despite injuries to two starting offensive linemen.

Starting left guard Brad Brezina missed both games and was replaced by redshirt freshman Matt Rhodes. Senior center Andy Tidwell-Neal also did not play against Maryland and was hobbled against Duke. In his place was another redshirt freshman, Kevin Tuminello.

Tech allowed just one sack in the two games.

ANSWERING THE BELL

Entering the season, placekicking was a question mark for Georgia Tech, but redshirt freshmen Travis Bell has stepped forward. After missing his first field goal attempt from 46 yards in the season opener, he has made six straight three-pointers, including a season-best 47-yard field goal against Duke. He ha also been perfect on extra points (14-14).

GOLD RUSH

P.J. Daniels leads the ACC and ranks 22nd in nation in rushing, averaging 105.8 yards per game.

Daniels gained 324 yards in Tech’s first three games, and then did not play against Miami. He returned against Maryland and gained 91 yards, and then added 114 vs. Duke.

The junior from Houston, Texas has raised his career total to 2,231 yards, good for seventh place on Tech’s career rushing list. His next target is sixth place David Sims with 2,274 yards.

Daniels gained 1,447 yards last fall, the second-best season total in Tech history (Eddie Lee Ivery, 1,562 in 1978) and fourth-best in ACC annals.

Tech's Career Rushing Leaders        Years   Att.    TD      Yards1. Robert Lavette       1981-84 914     45      4,0662. Jerry Mays   1985-89 695     18      3,6993. Eddie Lee Ivery      1975-78 609     22      3,5174. Joe Burns    1998-01 614     31      2,6345. C.J. Williams        1994-96 539     20      2,3656. David Sims   1974-76 379     21      2,2747. P.J. Daniels        2002-   466     16      2,231

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