Greg Gathers and Tony Hollings were lost. Wake Forest and Maryland were defeats. Georgia Tech was done.
Or so we thought.
Georgia Tech recovered from seemingly devastating injuries and losses to not only make itself bowl eligible, but to affect change at the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.
The Yellow Jackets (6-3, 3-3 ACC) dropped North Carolina State from the unbeaten ranks with a stunning 24-17 victory in Raleigh, N.C.
Now with the only undefeated team in conference play coming to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, the Jackets are a legitimate threat to Florida State's quest to win back the ACC title and receive a BCS bowl invitation.
What's the secret to their successful reversal?
"If I knew exactly what it was that keyed it, I could bottle it and sell it for millions," first-year coach Chan Gailey said. "People in business want to know that. People in politics want to know that. People everywhere want to know that answer."
Florida State could use the recipe. The 6-3 Seminoles enter the stretch run without leading rusher Greg Jones and with quarterback Adrian McPherson making his second career start. They were forced to rally from a 14-point deficit to win at Wake Forest last Saturday.
"Georgia Tech has amazed me," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "They lost a tailback and another tailback and a defensive end, and they just move people up. To me, they look better now than they did the first of the year. Now we're going to have to do the same thing."
Gailey didn't wait until his best defensive and offensive players went down with injuries to prepare the Jackets for the worst. He laid that groundwork in August with a discussion about football reality.
"I didn't wait til it happened," he said. "I told them it's not if you have adversity, it's when you have adversity, how are you going to handle it. Adversity comes in all shapes, sizes and forms. Sometimes it's injuries, sometimes it's a bad half, sometimes it's a bad stretch. How you handle adversity is something we talked about a lot."
The Jackets' rebirth began with a win over Virginia that showed a modestly revamped offense could get them back on track. Gailey said the recovery is fairly simple.
"I didn't think we needed to change a lot," Gailey said. "We just needed to go back out and keep working. Our guys practiced hard and worked hard. That's the only thing I know as a football coach is to stay with what's right and work hard at it. Hopefully it will pay dividends and that's what it's done."
Suddenly, Georgia Tech believes it can play with the big boys like Florida State and Georgia.
"I'm sure there's some confidence lying there somewhere, but I see the same attitude going into this week as I did two weeks ago and as I did five weeks ago," Gailey said. "Getting emotionally ready to play has never been an issue with these guys."
PRESS BRIEF: How far has Clemson's 2002 season fallen from the radar screen?
On the weekly teleconference with the conference media, Tiger coach Tommy Bowden got on the line after Duke coach Carl Franks. In a hurry to speak to a booster club, Franks kept his comments to just a few questions.
Bowden, on the other hand, answered one question from the conference mediator.
"Any more questions for Coach Bowden?"
"That was quick," Bowden said.
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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