- The Washington Times - Friday, September 23, 2005

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Just like the classic fisherman’s tale, Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey is still lamenting the one that got away.

Last September, his Yellow Jackets held a 20-12 lead with 5:28 left against Virginia Tech. Then the Hokies scored three touchdowns in less than five minutes.

For Virginia Tech, the 34-20 victory was the turning point of an ACC championship season.

Georgia Tech never recovered from the loss, finishing 7-5.

“We’ve talked about that game in other situations other than this week,” Gailey said.

Again this season, the two Techs will battle for conference supremacy when No. 15 Georgia Tech (3-0, 1-0 ACC) and its zone-blitz defense visit No. 4 Virginia Tech (3-0, 2-0) today.

“You read their defensive stats and they’re pretty amazing,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said.

Georgia Tech leads the nation with 10 interceptions and boasts a plus-3 turnover average. In their 27-14 win over Auburn in the season opener, the Jackets had four interceptions and one forced fumble.

Safety Dawan Landry and linebacker Philip Wheeler each have two interceptions from unlikely positions — an indication of how the Jackets defense works. Unlike the man-to-man blitz, the zone blitz prevents Landry and Wheeler from being caught in single coverage.

“They just do a phenomenal job of disguising their blitzes,” Hokies tight end Jeff King said. “They don’t give it away schematically. It’s hard to get a one-on-one matchup.”

College quarterbacks aren’t used to such sophisticated defenses. But by the late fourth quarter last season, quarterback Bryan Randall figured out how to beat the blitz.

He hit Eddie Royal on an 80-yard slant pass to tie the game. Less than two minutes later, Randall found Josh Morgan for a 51-yard touchdown, giving the Hokies their first lead.

“If we play our assignments like we were supposed to do last year,” Gailey said, “then we wouldn’t have given up those big passes and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Hokies cornerback Roland Minor had a 64-yard interception return in the last minute for the 34-20 final score.

“Since then we haven’t looked back,” Hokies cornerback Jimmy Williams said of his team’s eight-game ACC winning streak.

But it’s Gailey who claims to have learned his lesson.

“If we make the same mistakes we made last year, then no, we won’t be able to stop them,” he said.

Notes — Today’s game is a split national telecast on ABC. … Gailey on what sets the Hokies’ Williams apart in the secondary: “Other than being big, fast, athletic, and very aggressive, he’s just like everybody else.”

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