Nov. 13, 2001
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, ranked 23rd nationally in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, visits Wake Forest in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup on Saturday afternoon at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem.
Saturday’s game will be televised regionally by Jefferson Pilot Sports (Fox Sports Net South in Atlanta) and it can be heard on the Georgia Tech/ISP radio network (flagship WQXI 790 AM in Atlanta).
The Yellow Jackets enter the game with a 6-3 overall record and a 3-3 mark in ACC play after dropping a 39-38 decision at Virginia last week. The Demon Deacons stand at 5-4 overall and 3-4 in the ACC after rallying for a 32-31 victory over North Carolina despite trailing 24-0 at halftime.
“When it’s crunch time you’ve go to make plays, and that’s what we haven’t done from a defensive standpoint,” said Yellow Jacket head coach George O’Leary of his team’s three losses by a combined seven points. “There were 24 plays in three games that if we make a play in any one of those 24 then the situation is remedied. But we didn’t get that done.”
This week Tech will face a Wake Forest team that has won three of its last four games, including back-to-back comeback victories over Virginia and North Carolina. Under first-year head coach Jim Grobe, the Demon Deacons are led by a strong ground attack and ranking second in the ACC and 10th nationally with 229.6 yards rushing per game. Tailbacks Tarence Williams (99.0 yards/game) and Fred Staton (60.3 yds/gm) pace the Demon Deacon attack, while quarterback James MacPherson directs an efficient passing game.
“Wake Forest has new blood in the coaching staff,” said O’Leary. “Offensively, they are near the top of the conference in rushing. They’ve rushed the ball well and they hold on to the ball. You don’t get a lot of possessions with them. They run a very flexible offense with great speed on the flanks and an experienced offensive line. They move the chains, which keeps their defense off the field.”
Wake Forest defense, which features a three-man front, is allowing 389.1 yards per game. Linebacker Marquis Hopkins leads the Demon Deacons and ranks among the top 10 in the ACC with 103 tackles while defensive end Nate Bolling adds 20 tackles for loss.
“They play a little different kind of defensive scheme than most people,” said O’Leary. “Most times you play them, it is the only time you’ll see it that year. You’re going to have to make plays, and they’re not going to give up the big play. They play with five defensive backs, three linebackers and three down linemen. They’ve given up yards and some points, but they haven’t broken.
“I’ve been very impressed with what Jim Grobe has done there and how he’s gotten the same players from last year to play on a whole other level.”
Tech’s defense, which ranks 13th in the nation in stopping the run (96.1 yards per game) will have the task of slowing down the Deacon ground attach. The Yellow Jackets still lead the ACC in total defense (310.2 yards per game) and rank second in scoring defense (19.4 points per game).
The Yellow Jacket offense is under the direction of senior quarterback George Godsey, the ACC’s leader in passing yards (2,364) and completion percentage (65.1%). Last week against Virginia, Godsey set Tech single-game records with 39 completions and 486 yards passing.
“George watches a ton of film,” noted O’Leary of his signalcaller. “He takes film home and he’s like a coach on the field. He knows exactly what’s going on. Very rarely does he put the ball where it’s not supposed to go.
“People are playing us deep this year. Everyone we’ve been playing has been playing a deep guy behind the coverage, so you take the underneath stuff that they give you. Godsey does a great job of taking what the defense gives him. He’s not going to just toss it up to go deep for the sake of going deep.”
The Yellow Jackets lead the ACC in total offense (448.2 yards per game) and passing offense (291.8 yds/game) while averaging 34.3 points per game. Tailback Joe Burns ranks second in the ACC in rushing (99.2 yards per game) while tying for the league lead with 10 touchdown runs.
Senior wide receiver Kelly Campbell, Tech’s career leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches, should return to the lineup this week after missing the game at Virginia with a sprained ankle. Junior wide out Will Glover (13 catches, 172 yards) and sophomore Jonathan Smith (9 catches, 161 yards) both had career days in Campbell’s absence last week.