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Yellow Jackets shut out FSU buzz

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 26, 2001

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Paul Pasqualoni knows how scary it is to be touted as a national title contender. His 1992 Syracuse team was ranked No. 10 in the preseason, lost its first two games and never recovered.

Today, when the Orangemen play No. 10 Georgia Tech in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium, he'll have a good idea what coach George O'Leary has been saying to the Yellow Jackets.

"You keep telling them they can't get wrapped up in all that preseason stuff, but kids watch TV, read the papers, listen to everything," said Pasqualoni, entering his 11th season coaching the Orangemen. "They say they aren't paying attention, but believe me, they are. All you can do as a coach is tell them to stay focused."

O'Leary swears his team is ready for Syracuse, but most talk about Tech centers on its Sept. 15 game at No. 6 Florida State, which has won the ACC title every year since joining the league in 1992. The Seminoles, who replace 15 starters and just lost three receivers to injury, might be susceptible.

"At every practice and in every meeting, I haven't once heard the players talk about anything else other than Syracuse," O'Leary said. "But I'm not with them all the time."

Says Tech defensive end Nick Rogers: "There's a lot of discussion about Florida State and how good they're going to be. But Syracuse is on the players' minds. If we lose to Syracuse, Florida State won't mean anything."

With 17 starters returning, including Tampa Jesuit graduate George Godsey at quarterback, wide receiver Kelly Campbell, and defensive ends Greg Gathers and Rogers, it's not too tough to see why Georgia Tech is a national title threat.

The Yellow Jackets should give Syracuse fits with their offense, which averaged 435.4 yards and 33.8 points in going 9-3 last season. Godsey, replacing '99 Heisman runner-up Joe Hamilton, threw for 2,906 yards and 23 TDs with just six interceptions, and Campbell caught 59 passes for 963 yards and 10 TDs. Add Joe Burns' 908 yards and 12 TDs and a seasoned bunch of blockers, and Georgia Tech is a seven-point favorite.

"We're expected to do bad," Syracuse defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "We're just going to have to sneak up on everybody."

PITTSBURGH: Jovonny Ward, a highly recruited defensive back who planned to attend Miami before running into academic problems, has enrolled and will be eligible this season. Ward was released from his scholarship last week. Pitt coach Walt Harris has not said if he will redshirt Ward, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound safety from Miami's Northwestern High. Ward lost his Miami scholarship when he did not complete his high school course work in time.

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