Sept. 17, 2002
While many may view Georgia Tech’s (2-1, 0-1 ACC) Saturday meeting with Brigham Young (2-1) at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field as a display of two traditionally strong aerial offenses, the Jackets’ Tony Hollings and the Cougars’ Marcus Whalen will have something to say about that.
The 3:30 p.m. tilt will be televised regionally by ABC (WSB Channel 2 in Atlanta).
Running backs Hollings and Whalen are off to tremendous starts, as each ranks among the nation’s top six in rushing yards per game. Hollings stands fifth (148.0 ypg), while Whalen is sixth at 138.7 yards per outing. Hollings also leads the nation in scoring with eight touchdowns in three games. Whalen has found the end zone on four occasions this season.
Tech head coach Chan Gailey is well aware of the problems on the ground that BYU can present.
“BYU had a great runner (Luke Staley) last year, and they do a great job of running the football with Marcus Whalen this year,” said Gailey. “All you hear about is the pass, and then you get so pass conscious that you don’t stop the run. You still have to stop the run against this team.”
Despite scoring 105 points and averaging 455 yards of offense in the first three games of the season, the Cougars are coming off a 31-28 loss to Nevada.
“They are a very confident football team, they always have been,” Gailey said. “They did have a tough loss last week. Some very unusual things happened in their game last week to get the score to 31-14, and they could just not make a comeback. Watching the tape, Nevada did a great job of controlling the ball against them, and that’s one of the best ways to beat BYU – controlling the football.”
Gailey also knows he has an important tool to control the ball against the Cougars – a standout runner like Hollings.
“Tony went out there against Clemson and he made the big plays, the big yards and the tough yards,” said Gailey. “He stretched the perimeter and he ran inside. He did the things that you have to do to be a very good running back. Right now he is playing as good as anybody. We are walking a fine line of making sure that he touches the ball enough times and not working him to death. We are trying to make sure that we have enough things in the gameplan where he is touching the ball, but at the same time we are being diverse with our good receivers that can help us move the ball as well.”
Leading the Tech receivers is senior Kerry Watkins, who has amassed 14 catches and 298 yards in Tech’s three outings. He teams with classmate Will Glover to give the Jackets a pair of veteran starters. Tossing the ball for Tech is redshirt junior A.J. Suggs, who has tallied 469 yards passing on 36-of-58. He has thrown for four scores versus just one interception.
In addition to controlling the ball on offense, Tech will also have to contain a potent passing attack in addition to Whalen. BYU quarterback Bret Engemann has 741 yards of total offense and is responsible for six scores, five coming through the air. Lance Pendleton has also seen time under center in each of the Cougars’ outings.
Tech’s defensive line, which struggled against Clemson will have to get pressure on the BYU backfield in order to have a successful afternoon.
“We have to be able to put some pressure on these guys,” says Gailey of BYU’s quarterbacks. “If you can’t do it with four man straight up rushes, then you have to use some smoke and mirrors. There will be some other ways that we will try to get that done. But we still have to try to it done with just our front four rushing the passer.”
“You can’t give the quarterback extra time to throw. There is no coverage out there that can cover guys for that long. We have to make sure that we keep the quarterback in the pocket and put pressure on him. Pressure means bringing the pressure but not letting him out of the pocket.”