Sept. 25, 2001
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, ranked ninth in the nation by the Associated Press, resumes the 2001 season on Saturday Clemson after a 21-day layoff, the longest such regular season break in more than 60 years.
The game will be regionally televised on ABC (WSB, channel 2 in Atlanta), and live radio coverage will be available on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network (Flagship WQXI 790 AM).
Tech enters the game with a 3-0 record after picking up non-conference victories over Syracuse (13-7), The Citadel (35-7) and Navy (70-7), but the Yellow Jackets have not played since the win over the Midshipmen on Sept. 8. The layoff is the longest since breaking for 28 days before a Dec. 28 matchup against California in 1940. The Golden Tornado and Golden Bears actually played six regular season games between the famous 1929 Rose Bowl matchup and 1940, and the long break was presumably to allow the teams time to travel across the country via rail.
Clemson, ranked 25th in the USA Today coaches’ poll, enters this week’s contest with a record of 2-1, 0-1 in ACC play after dropping a 26-24 decision to Virginia last week.
“Our players are ready to hit somebody besides themselves,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary. ” That wasn’t the case when you play game after game. We’ve banged each other around a little bit and they’re anxious to play a game and compete.
“We have to practice at full speed,” continued O’Leary, referring to the team’s preparations during the long layoff. “I changed the tempo of practice. But I also gave our kids some time off, which we needed. We’ve got a lot of young kids that think the season is going to be over in a week. We gave them some time to get their feet back on the ground, get back to academics. Other than that, we scrimmaged a lot and got back to a lot of fundamentals. I thought we improved in some areas, and there are some areas we need to improve on.”
This week’s game also marks the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for the Yellow Jackets, who have been practicing as a full team for nearly eight weeks. September 29 represents the latest starting date for an ACC opener since Tech became eligible for the ACC title in 1983.
“This is a big game for us because we haven’t played an ACC game yet, which is unbelievable this late into the season,” said O’Leary. “We need to get into the ACC and see where we stand, take each game one at a time and see how things unfold.
“Back in the summer I thought the ACC was going to be better competitively from top to bottom. You see a lot of good coaching going on and a lot of adjustments are right. I think the ACC is going to be a tough conference. You’ve got to come ready to play every week.”
The Tigers are led offensively by multi-talented quarterback Woodrow Dantzler, who leads the ACC with an average of 260 yards of total offense per game, including more than 50 yards on the ground.
“Woody Dantzler is an exceptional quarterback” said O’Leary. “What’s noticeable about him is he is a great, great competitor. He’s a strong-legged runner that is tough to tackle. He can avoid a rush and I think he has an extremely accurate arm. All the talk about him is well deserved.”
Dantzler leads a Clemson attack that features a spread offense that often operates without a huddle. Clemson ranks second in the ACC to only Georgia Tech in passing offense (229.3 per game) while averaging nearly 30 points per contest.
“I think that Clemson’s offense is unique as far as the tempo of it and what they do,” noted O’Leary, who owns a 4-3 record against the Tigers. “They have some outstanding players. They have a great quarterback, an offensive line that’s back and an All-ACC tailback. They have the players where they need them and they have some great skill athletes to throw to. Offensively they have some great weapons and they cover the field with all of them.”
Meanwhile, Tech leads the ACC and ranks 15th nationally in total offense (461.0 yards per game) and scoring (39.3 points per game). Quarterback George Godsey, who has played sparingly in the last two games against The Citadel and Navy, leads the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 197.9, a mark that is currently well ahead of the Tech single season record of 175.0 set by Heisman Trophy runner-up Joe Hamilton in 1999.
On the other side of the ball, the Tech defense has been a much improved unit in 2001. The Yellow Jackets lead the ACC and rank fifth nationally in total defense (220.3 yards per game) and scoring defense (7.0 points per game).