Dec. 10, 2004
ATLANTA--With fall semester final exams complete, the Georgia Tech football team turns its attention to preparations for the Champs Sports Bowl. Playing in its eighth straight bowl game, Tech faces Big East co-champion Syracuse, Dec. 21 at 7:45 p.m. at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
The Yellow Jackets (6-5, 4-4 ACC) practice Friday evening at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. Tech will practice in Atlanta through Dec. 16, then travel to Orlando on Dec. 17
Head coach Chan Gailey said there are pluses and minuses to playing a bowl game before Christmas.
"You get less practice time, which is a negative but the plus is that you are playing closer to your last game, so the things that you've built up during the season are still in tact," he said. "The other positive is that the guys get some time off. They can play the game, and then go home for Christmas and enjoy their families and the holidays."
While the bowl practices provide a glimpse at next year and an opportunity to work with some of the starters of tomorrow, Gailey said there is no doubt that the focus is on this year's team and this game.
"It's the last game for the seniors, and it's the first game of the senior year for the juniors," he said. "It is a reward for the players for what they've done this year, but it can build momentum for your next season.
"You've got to do everything you can to try to win the football game and let your seniors have something special to go out with, and then hopefully the freshmen, sophomores and juniors will want to have that same feeling as they start to work toward their senior years.
"That being said, at the end of every practice, some of these young guys are going to get a lot of reps and an opportunity to get better," added Gailey, whose squad loses only one senior starter on defense but six on offense, including three starting linemen.
Speaking of seniors, three Yellow Jackets will miss Saturday's practice for an exercise of another kind: commencement. Long snapper Andrew Economos, holder Andy Thomson and reserve quarterback Robby Brown will receive their degrees at the Institute's fall commencement. Economos and Brown are graduating in management, Thomson in computer engineering.
Tech begins its preparations for a Syracuse team (6-5, 4-2 Big East) that won three of its last four games, including victories of Boston College and Pittsburgh.
"They're a big, strong, physical team, I know that," said Gailey. "They can run the football, and they've got the biggest quarterback that we've seen all year, that's for sure.
"It'll be a challenge for us. They can run the football. We'll have to muscle up and try to stop their running game. They're front seven on defense is the same way, big, strong and physical, so we'll have to try to find ways to run the football on them. We've played some physical teams, but nobody that runs their schemes. Their schemes are a little bit different."
Gailey expressed his praise for Syracuse safety Diamond Ferri, who played both ways in the win over Boston College and rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns at tailback and returned an interception for another score.
"That's amazing. It says something about their offensive line, if you ask me."
Defensive end Eric Henderson is one of six Yellow Jackets named all-ACC.