Georgia Tech might not have starting quarterback Reggie Ball for Saturday's ACC showdown at No. 4 Virginia Tech. The Hokies won't have senior guard Reggie Butler, which could put added pressure on their offensive line against the No. 15 Yellow Jackets' stingy defense.
Butler sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in last Saturday's 45-0 victory over Ohio in Lane Stadium. If he doesn't play, senior Will Montgomery will move to left guard and junior Danny McGrath will start at center.
"We've just got to go," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said. "All of those kids have played. McGrath has played and has done a good job when he's been in there."
Georgia Tech's Jon Tenuta is widely regarded among the country's top defensive coordinators and his ability to thoroughly confuse opponents with zone blitzes, coverage disguises and other stunts has helped the Yellow Jackets get off to a surprising 3-0 start.
"You've got to get things squared away early and pick them up as they come," Beamer said. "It puts a lot of stress on your quarterbacks, wide receivers and offensive linemen. We need a great week of practice."
Georgia Tech's defense is ranked in the top 20 in Division I-A in rushing defense and pass efficiency defense and has forced 10 interceptions and two lost fumbles. The Yellow Jackets opened the season by playing against two quarterbacks, Auburn's Brandon Cox and North Carolina's Matt Baker, who were making their first career starts. Cox threw four interceptions in Tech's 23-14 win and Baker threw three picks in a 27-21 loss to the Yellow Jackets.
Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick's ability to recognize zone blitzes -- when a linebacker rushes the quarterback and a defensive end drops into pass coverage -- will be a key for the Hokies. McGrath also must make the correct protection calls before the ball is snapped. Montgomery's ability to recognize schemes was one of the primary reasons he moved back to center from guard during preseason camp.
Beamer said Vick graded at 89 percent in last week's victory over the Bobcats and has done a good job of making checks and audibles at the line of scrimmage.
"I think he's played very well," Beamer said of Vick, who has completed 60.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and one interception. "I think he's gotten better each game. This past week, he was very good. I think Marcus is the real thing, he's the real deal."
Ball, who missed the Yellow Jackets' 28-13 victory over Connecticut because he was hospitalized with viral meningitis, was released from Emory Hospital in Atlanta yesterday. Georgia Tech Coach Chan Gailey said Ball could return to practice today in a limited role. Gailey said Ball indicated as early as Sunday that he would play against the Hokies, but team doctors, Gailey and Ball will make that decision. "One of the first things he said to [quarterbacks coach Patrick Nix] was, 'What did Virginia Tech look like on defense?'" Gailey said. "He sounded like he wanted to be back quickly."
Yellow Jackets defensive end Eric Henderson, a senior from New Orleans, also is questionable to play against the Hokies because of a sprained right ankle. Henderson is the most experienced of Georgia Tech's defensive linemen and the team's best pass rusher. The Yellow Jackets lost defensive tackle Darryl Richard to a season-ending knee injury he suffered during spring practice. . . .
Virginia senior Connor Hughes was named ACC special teams players of the week after his 19-yard field goal with no time left gave the Cavaliers a 27-24 victory at Syracuse. It was Virginia's first game-winning field goal at the buzzer since Jake McInerney kicked a 37-yarder to beat Louisville, 16-15, on Oct. 28, 1989. It was only the second time since 1971 that the Cavaliers have won a game on the last play of the game.
Virginia junior linebacker Kai Parham was named ACC defensive lineman of the week after he had eight tackles and a career-high three sacks against the Orange.
Virginia's Oct. 1 game at Maryland will kick off at noon in Byrd Stadium. The game will be televised by Jefferson Pilot Sports. . . .
Wake Forest, which hosts Maryland on Saturday, ran for 407 yards in last Saturday's 44-34 victory over East Carolina, the fifth-highest rushing total in school history. Chris Barclay had 210 rushing yards and Micah Andrews, son of former Atlanta Falcons tailback William Andrews, had 142. The Terrapins rank 105th among 117 Division I-A teams in rushing defense, allowing 220.3 yards per game. West Virginia had 301 rushing yards in its 30-19 victory at Maryland last Saturday. . . .
Maryland junior tight end Vernon Davis was named ACC offensive lineman of the week after catching five passes for 158 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown, against the Mountaineers. . . .
Boston College quarterback Quinton Porter is questionable to play in Saturday's game at Clemson after spraining his right ankle during the Eagles' 28-17 loss to Florida State last week. Porter was using crutches to walk after the game, but B.C. Coach Tom O'Brien said yesterday that Porter is now walking without the crutches. If he can't play against the Tigers, sophomore Matt Ryan will start at quarterback. Ryan was 5-for-7 for 78 yards on the final possession against FSU.
Against Boston College, Florida State linebacker A.J. Nicholson had 19 tackles, including 17 solo stops, and had two interceptions, including one he returned 19 yards for the game's first touchdown. . . .
Clemson tight end Cole Downer ruptured his spleen after landing on a football and had emergency surgery after the Tigers' 36-30, triple-overtime loss to Miami last Saturday. The transfer from Division II Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia will miss the rest of the season, but could return for a bowl game if the Tigers qualify for the postseason. . . .
Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford has six turnovers in the first three games. . . .
North Carolina middle linebacker Doug Justice, a senior who started 22 games, broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during last Saturday's 14-5 loss to Wisconsin, and will miss the rest of the season. Tar Heels Coach John Bunting said junior Victor Worsley will probably make his first career start at middle linebacker in Saturday's game at N.C. State.
Tar Heels quarterback Matt Baker bruised his ribs and wide receiver Mike Manson sprained his left shoulder, but both are expected to play against the Wolfpack. . . .
N.C. State Coach Chuck Amato really needs to beat the Tar Heels on Saturday night. Since losing to North Carolina last season, the Wolfpack are 3-5, beating Maryland, East Carolina and Division I-AA Eastern Kentucky.