Sorry for the delay and for the relative thinness this week. Trying to catch a plane. (figuratively speaking)
1. This will be Georgia Tech’s first prime-time game at North Carolina since 1998, when the Jackets beat the Tar Heels 43-21 behind three touchdown passes and 303 passing yards from Joe Hamilton in a 7 p.m. ESPN game. (Tech played its 2004 game at Kenan Stadium at 6 p.m., which I guess sort of counts.)
It was a monumental victory. With the beginning of their annual series in 1980, Tech failed to win at North Carolina in nine consecutive visits, the only non-loss being the tie in the 1990 national championship season. The Jackets are 6-2 since then in Chapel Hill, N.C., including the past two visits.
The rest of the story. When the game time was announced a couple weeks ago, I texted Wes Durham to see if he knew the last time Tech played a night game in Chapel Hill. Within minutes, he responded me back with the answer (1998) and his guess at the score – 42-28 – and (accurate) mention of Hamilton’s two touchdowns to Dez White. “Don’t have it in front of me though” he wrote.
I like to think I have a pretty good memory from trivia like that, but I’m not in the same area code as Wes. Probably not the same state.
2. Left guard Trey Braun had an interesting thought about Tech’s positioning after six games.
“I’ll say this: It’s not a bad record, but the opportunities we lost are pretty big,” he said. “You never know what you lose. That’s what my dad used to tell me: You never really understand what you lose when you lose. I really believe that none of us are happy with where we are after that, and hpeofully at the end of the season, we’ll be happy where we are. Right now, that’s what’s driving us.”
3. Jamal Golden has a long way to go, but he clearly has a chance to end his career as Tech’s greatest kick returner. With his two returns for a combined 119 yards against Duke, Golden’s career average improved to 29.2 yards per return, easily Tech’s career leader. At 29.2, Golden is 3.8 yards ahead of the No. 2 all-time returner, Drew Hill. In fact, Hill is closer to the 11th-place average (Lethon Flowers and Charlie Rogers, tied at 21.8) than he is to Golden.
Golden has his two kickoff returns for scores, both in 2012, and, has another year and a half, assuming he stays healthy, to get his third, which would break his four-way tie with Gary Lee, Dez White and Hill.
The ACC record is held by Clemson’s Justin Miller, who averaged 30.7 yards 2002-04.
The interesting thing about Golden’s return ability is that, while hardly slow, he doesn’t have the blinding speed associated with top return men. Miller, for instance, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at his draft combine. C.J. Spiller ran sub-4.4 in his pre-draft workouts. I don’t know Golden’s 40 time, but I feel pretty secure saying he’d finish behind Spiller and Miller. (Hey, that rhymes)
“I think Jamal, he’s got great vision, very good vision,” special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski said. “I wish he had Broderick Snoddy’s speed, but he sees the field.”
4. North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams is dangerous enough to Tech, having nearly led the Tar Heels to an upset of then-No. 6 Notre Dame. However, Williams will come into the game armed with some inside information. Williams spoke this week with Duke quarterback Anthony Boone, who led the Blue Devils to their first win over Tech sine 2003. The two are close friends, having grown up in Charlotte and attended camps and clinics, according to the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun.
“We’ve been best friends for a long time,” Williams said. “I have a lot of great friends around the country who play against different teams that we play against and I always get the inside scoop on what I need to do.”
5. A North Carolina linebacker to watch is Nathan Staub, the backup to starter Jeff Schoettmer. Staub’s grandfather was Georgia Tech legend Larry Morris, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame after his starring role on Tech’s 1952 national championship team. He later played in the NFL and was MVP of the 1963 NFL championship game.
6. Anish Shroff (play-by-play), Kelly Stouffer (analyst) and Cara Capuano (sideline) will be on the call for the ESPNU broadcast.
7. In the Sagarin ratings, Tech is the third-lowest ranked 5-1 in FBS. The Jackets are No. 51. Colorado State is No. 58 and Rutgers is No. 75. New Hampshire, an FCS team, is 5-1 and ahead of Rutgers at No. 71.
8. Tech will be wearing its “honeycomb” helmets against North Carolina. The team practiced in them this week. It’s the second time the Jackets have worn them this season, after the Miami game. I have to say, the helmets probably look their best in night games.
9. A tweet from sports communications staffer Mike DeGeorge sent from the team’s Friday walk-through at Kenan. DeAndre Smelter’s arm is apparently still pretty accurate.
10. This isn’t related to the UNC game, but I would strongly encourage you to read this Q&A with former Tech quarterback Reggie Ball, done by the blog Sporting ATL. He sounds as though he has matured a great deal and has a healthy perspective on his star-crossed career. He shared a remarkable story about a young man whom he befriended that will likely make you look at him differently.
Apologies for no Throwback Thursday or play breakdown this week. Kind of a busy week. I think they’ll be back next week. Enjoy the game Saturday.