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Ball, Johnson trigger big win by Georgia Tech

Sep 30, 2006 - 11:39 PM BLACKSBURG, Virginia (Ticker) -- Georgia Tech did not get off to a good start this season. But it sure did against Virginia Tech.

Reggie Ball hooked up with Calvin Johnson on a pair of early touchdown passes as No. 24 Georgia Tech raced to an early 21-point lead and cruised to a convincing 38-27 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over No. 11 Virginia Tech.

Tashard Choice ran for 105 yards and a pair of scores for Georgia Tech (4-1, 2-0 ACC Coastal), which was the better team in all three facets of the game - including special teams, usually an asset for Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-1 Coastal) and coach Frank Beamer.

"I challenged our guys to go win the special teams," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "I thought there were a lot of positive things. ... I thought our guys accepted the challenge."

"The things we did tonight, we'd have a hard time beating a bad football team," Beamer said. "And that wasn't a bad football team; it was a good football team."

The Yellow Jackets began their season by blowing a 10-point lead in a 14-10 loss to Notre Dame. But they have not lost since and - with no meeting with Florida State this season - are looking like they may challenge for the ACC title.

Ball completed 9-of-16 passes for 176 yards and ran 13 times for 34 yards. He had a rough spot in the second quarter, throwing interceptions on consecutive possessions, but otherwise directed a balanced offense.

Johnson caught six passes for 115 yards as he shredded the secondary. Choice carried 18 times, including TD runs of five and 28 yards.

"No. 21 (Johnson) makes them different and Reggie, he threw a couple interceptions, but when they take care of the ball, they're tough," Beamer said.

In the first seven-plus minutes, Ball and Johnson hooked up on a three-yard fade route and a 53-yard catch-and-run off a rollout screen, giving Georgia Tech a 14-0 lead just over seven minutes into the contest.

"If you can hit some big plays on them, it loosens them up a little bit," Gailey said. "(We) went in and were going to try to throw the ball deep and get them a little bit softer to begin with because they are so physical up front."

Shortly thereafter, the Yellow Jackets gave the Hokies a taste of their own "Beamer Ball." Troy Garside broke through the protection and blocked Nic Schmitt's punt, which caromed out of bounds at the Virginia Tech 25-yard line.

Under Beamer, the Hokies have blocked 57 punts - including three this season - and had not allowed a blocked punt since 2004 vs. Miami.

"Things like that shouldn't happen to us," Beamer said.

Ball ran for 17 and three yards before Choice scored on a five-yard TD run for a 21-0 lead with 4:12 left in the first quarter, silencing the crowd at Lane Stadium.

Late in the period, Virginia Tech responded with a 26-yard TD run by Branden Ore, who had 59 yards on 14 carries. That seemed to spark the defense, which came up with interceptions by Brenden Hill and Victor "Macho" Harris.

But Georgia Tech allowed only field goals of 41 and 25 yards by Brandon Pace, then answered with a 74-yard drive capped by Travis Bell's 22-yard kick for a 24-13 lead just before the gun.

"They did an unbelievable job of holding them in check," Gailey said. "And I thought that driving down and getting a field goal just before half was tremendously big. That really made a difference in the game."

What also made a difference was the Yellow Jackets' coming out for the second half in the same manner they came out for the first half.

On the first possession, Philip Wheeler blindsided Sean Glennon and caused a fumble that was picked up by fellow linebacker Gay Guyton, who raced 38 yards for a touchdown that again silenced the crowd.

With 3:02 left in the third quarter, Choice broke through the line and fumbled but picked up the bouncing ball and went into the end zone for a 10-yard TD and a 38-13 bulge.

Glennon directed a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives but it was not nearly enough. He was 27-of-53 for 339 yards but was sacked four times, fumbling twice.

"Until it got to the end when they were throwing it every snap, I thought we created different reads for Glennon and it helped us keep them off balance," Gailey said.

Eddie Royal caught seven passes for 102 yards and Justin Harper added four for 109 for the Hokies, who surrendered their most points at home since allowing 42 to Virginia in 1994.

"This is one of those deals where you're not quite as good as some people think you are when you win and you're not quite as bad as some people think you are when you lose," Beamer said. "I don't think we're a bad football team; I think we're a football team that has to do things a lot better."

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