ATLANTA -- Back home in Florida, defensive end Tony Hargrove doesn't get much credit for playing at Georgia Tech.
He claims not many people in Georgia think much of it, either.
"You have some people who are like, 'Georgia Tech? What? You guys play Division I football?"' he said. "I guess since it's a technical school, nobody thinks much of us. They think of guys with pocket protectors."
Not Hargrove, though.
"I barely have a pencil," he said.
It's been hard not to notice Hargrove this season. The 6-foot-4, 266-pound sophomore from Punta Gorda, Fla., has three sacks and eight tackles for losses this season, among the best on the team. Perhaps more importantly, he's given the Yellow Jackets (6-3, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) a big-play threat in the absence of defensive end Greg Gathers.
Gathers, the all-time sack leader in school history, was lost for the season after three games with a kidney ailment.
"When we first lost Greg, it was kind of like a mourning period," Hargrove said. "At the same time, it helped us realize we all have to raise our level of game to play better and just really grow up faster.
"We haven't really lost a beat on defense, and we have to keep working toward our goals."
Those goals seem more attainable than ever heading into Saturday's game against No. 17 Florida State (6-3, 5-0). In back-to-back victories over Virginia and previously undefeated North Carolina State, Georgia Tech made stopping the run a priority.
The Yellow Jackets gave up more than 750 yards combined in those victories, but just 109 on the ground.
"Our first thing on defense is always to stop the run," Hargrove said. "We figure if we stop the run, teams have to beat us in the air, and not everybody in the league is that great at passing."
Surprisingly enough, that includes the Seminoles this year. They're only fifth in the ACC in passing yards per game, averaging 227, and they recently benched two-year starter Chris Rix.
Adrian McPherson led Florida State to a victory over Wake Forest, completing 28-of-42 for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted once.
Also, starting tailback Greg Jones suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Demon Deacons, moving backup Nick Maddox into the lineup.
"The one thing that I've seen is that they have a lot of speed," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "Now that they have McPherson and Maddox in the backfield, it wasn't as if they didn't give you enough problems, but those two guys are pretty electric."
Maddox is an inch shorter than Jones and weighs about 50 pounds less, so he should be easier to bring down.
"It kind of takes a little bit off of us, not having to tackle such a big back all day," Hargrove said. "With Maddox, you can't pound as much. They're going to use more speed, try to get him on the corner and try to outrun everybody."
Which is fine with Hargrove.
"My thing is, I like to run," he said. "Whenever you can just let me run around a corner or run after somebody, that's what I like to do."
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