By Times staff and wire reports
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 27, 2001
Ga. Tech sputters in 13-7 win
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A run at the national title is a long way off for No. 10 Georgia Tech -- but don't count out the Yellow Jackets.
A sputtering 13-7 victory over Syracuse in the Kickoff Classic on Sunday did nothing to dissuade quarterback George Godsey from believing his team is championship caliber. Just look at Florida State's opening game in 1998, he said.
"It wasn't pretty, but look in the past," said Godsey, from Tampa Jesuit. "Florida State made it to the national championship game and they only won 23-14. It's hard to judge a season by the first game."
The Seminoles beat Texas A&M in the '98 Kickoff Classic and reached the national title game, losing to Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl.
But before Georgia Tech thinks national title, it has to deal with dethroning annual Atlantic Coast Conference champion Florida State on Sept. 15. Tech warms up for the sixth-ranked Seminoles the next two weeks against The Citadel and Navy.
"Obviously, we have a lot of improvement to do," Tech coach George O'Leary said. "We have to play better in a lot of facets of the game, but I'm thinking when you can walk away from a tight game with a win in your first game, it says a lot about your team."
Against the Orangemen, Godsey hooked up with Kelly Campbell 10 times for 193 yards, and Joe Burns ran for 113 yards and a touchdown in the lowest-scoring Kickoff Classic.
Godsey, who completed 64 percent of his passes last season, was 15-of-26 for 224 yards, and cornerback Marvious Hester intercepted a pass at the Syracuse 6 to set up Burns' 1-yard touchdown with 8:27 left in the half for a 10-0 lead. Luke Manget had field goals of 22 and 20 yards -- one in each half. Campbell broke the school record for receiving yards on a 72-yard hookup with Godsey early in the second quarter. The reception pushed him past Harvey Middleton, who had 2,291 yards from 1994-97. Campbell has 2,392 yards. The catch was the longest ever in the Kickoff Classic, topping the 67-yarder from Miami's Kenny Kelly to Santana Moss in 1999.
"They were letting me open underneath, something we didn't expect," Campbell said. "I was kind of surprised. We figured they were going to double up on me with the safety, but I think the coaches just wanted to continue to get beat on down the field."
Burns carried a Kickoff Classic-record tying 34 times. He gained 55 of his 113 yards on three runs late in the game.
USF: The numbing repetition of preseason practice has given way to focusing on the first game of the season. Things are more urgent than during the usual game week for the Bulls, because they open the season Thursday night at Northern Illinois. Sunday's 21/2-hour late-afternoon practice concentrated on preparing for the Huskies. "The guys have really got to zero in now," coach Jim Leavitt said. "We've got a mental time clock now. We know we're going to hit it on Thursday night. ... We're really, really focusing in now." Northern Illinois, a member of the Mid-American Conference, is the first of eight Division I opponents USF faces. The Huskies were 6-5 last season, including a 40-20 win over Central Florida. "The MAC's a good conference, it really is, and they're right in the hunt in the MAC," Leavitt said of Northern Illinois.
NORTH CAROLINA: There is no quarterback controversy brewing -- for now. Coach John Bunting said Ronald Curry will remain his starter this weekend against Maryland despite the senior's poor showing in a 41-27 loss Saturday night to No. 3 Oklahoma. Curry finished with 74 yards passing in about three quarters.
- Times Staff Writer Pete Young contributed to this report.