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Yellow Jackets Must Regroup at North Carolina

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech will try to earn its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory as the Yellow Jackets (2-2 overall, 0-2 ACC) travel to North Carolina (3-1, 1-1 ACC) for a 3:30 p.m. contest at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The ABC regional telecast features Sean McDonough and Ed Cunningham in the announcers’ booth and Leslie Gudel on the sideline. The radio broadcast on the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network, including Atlanta flagship WGST 640 AM, has Wes Durham as the play-by-play voice and former Tech quarterback Kim King as the color analyst.

Tech is coming off a disappointing 30-23 overtime loss at NC State last Thursday night. The Tar Heels defeated Marshall, 20-15, Saturday.

After facing the pass-oriented offenses of NC State, Florida State and Central Florida, sandwiched around Navy’s run-based offense, Tech now must stop North Carolina’s balanced attack, featuring quarterback Ronald Curry.

Curry, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last year against Tech, has completed 57 of 104 passes for 862 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. His favorite target is wide receiver Kory Bailey with 17 catches for 238 yards and one touchdown.

Freshman tailback Brandon Russell is the Tar Heels’ leading rusher with 178 yards on 50 attempts, while fullback Anthony Saunders has added 116 yards on just 21 carries.

“Defensively, we have to control their very good skilled athletes on offense, Ronald Curry number one,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. “When he’s got the ball in his hands, he does a lot of things that you’d like you’re quarterback to do, whether throwing or running.”

The Tar Heel defense is led by linebacker Brandon Spoon with 44 tackles and four tackles for loss.

Both teams have been strong in defending the run. North Carolina ranks 11th in the nation at 75.3 yards allowed per game, while Tech is 14th at 78.0.

“North Carolina is playing the run extremely well, and you can see the experience they have in their front seven,” said O’Leary. “Getting Brandon Spoon back has been a big plus for them, and they’re playing well defensively.”

Tech quarterback George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.) has completed 71 of 125 passes for 770 yards and eight touchdowns with just one interception.

Sophomore Will Glover (Tampa, Fla.) leads a balanced receiving corps with 20 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns, while junior Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.) has 16 receptions for 203 yards and two scores and ranks 13th in the nation with a 27.7-yard average on kickoff returns.

“George Godsey is giving us the opportunity to win games, and we’re getting better up front,” said O’Leary. “I’m more concerned about us not making enough big plays, especially at wide receiver, and we’ve got to continue to work on that.”

After a 100-yard rushing effort against the Wolfpack, Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) is Tech’s top rusher with 257 yards and two touchdowns on 61 carries, along with 13 catches for 133 yards. Backup Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.) has 101 yards on 30 attempts.

Sophomore linebacker Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.) is Tech’s top tackler with 42 hits and 10 tackles for loss. Sophomore defensive end Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.) has 27 tackles and a team-leading four sacks.

THE SERIES VS. NORTH CAROLINA
Georgia Tech has won two in a row and three of the last five meetings in the series with North Carolina, which is knotted at 16-16-3. Tech won last year’s game, 31-24 in overtime, and also won the last meeting in Chapel Hill, 43-21 in 1998. The Tar Heels’ last win in the series was a 16-13 victory in Atlanta in 1997, while its last home win was a 16-0 shutout in 1996.

Tech has not enjoyed much success at North Carolina. The Jackets’ 43-21 win at Kenan Stadium in 1998 was their first win in Chapel Hill since 1945, ending a nine-game winless streak. The Jackets are 5-9-3 on UNC’s home field.

LAST MEETING WITH NORTH CAROLINA
In 1999 in Atlanta, all-America quarterback Joe Hamilton drove the Yellow Jackets in position for the last-second tying field goal and then scored on a six-yard run in the first overtime to give Georgia Tech a 31-24 victory over North Carolina in the first overtime game in school history. After a fourth-down stop by the Tech defense, the Jackets took over on their own two-yard line with 1:10 left. Hamilton, who was 14-for-26 for 273 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 77 yards and one score, engineered a 79-yard, 10-play drive to set up Luke Manget’s 36-yard field goal with just five seconds left. Kelly Campbell, who caught passes of 32 and 35 yards on the tying drive, finished with seven catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

In 1998, Tech earned its first win in Chapel Hill since 1945 behind Hamilton, who passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns.

INTERCEPTION-LESS STREAK ENDS AT 120
George Godsey threw his first interception of the season against NC State on his 117th pass attempt. Counting his last four passes of 1999, Godsey’s string of 120 consecutive passes without an interception is the third-longest in school history.

161   Joe Hamilton    UNC 1997 - Boston Col.      1998122   Shawn Jones     Stanford 1991 - NC State    1998120   George Godsey   NC State 1999 - NC State    2000103   Joe Hamilton    Boston Col. 1998 - NC State 1998

RUN DEFENSE IMPROVED
Georgia Tech ranks 14th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 78.0 yards rushing per game. Three of the Yellow Jackets’ four opponents have been held to 73 yards or fewer, with only Navy’s option attack (165 yards) topping the 100-yard mark. Tech’s opponents are averaging 2.2 yards per rush.

DAN THE MAN
Georgia Tech punter Dan Dyke ranks fourth in the nation with a 45.3-yard average. A preseason nominee for the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter, Dyke has put six punts inside the 20-yard line and has helped Tech rank second nationally with a net of 43.2 yards per kick.

CAMPBELL EYES TD RECORD
With his next touchdown catch, junior flanker Kelly Campbell will tie the Georgia Tech career record. Campbell caught his 13th career touchdown with a 50-yard score last week against Navy. The Tech record of 14 is shared by Dez White, Gary Lee and Buck Martin.

Campbell also ranks 9th in Rambling Wreck annals in career receptions (96) and 8th in yardage (1,439).

COOL HAND LUKE
Sophomore placekicker Luke Manget is a perfect 63-for-63 on extra points in his career. The school record for consecutive extra points is 70 by Sisson over the 1989-91 seasons.

After just 15 games, Manget, who is 16-for-23 on field goals, ranks 9th in Tech history in career points by kicking with 111.

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