Originally created 09/22/03

Yellow Jackets fall apart after encouraging start



ATLANTA -- Reggie Ball will learn.

He's only a freshman, prone to get a bit carried away in the heat of the moment. Maybe next time, he won't make any guarantees about Georgia Tech winning the rest of its games.

Ball's bold prediction held up for all of a week - or as long as it took for the Yellow Jackets to play another game. They were blown out 39-3 by Clemson, a humbling performance for the first-year quarterback.

"I said it and now I've got to eat it," a downcast Ball said after Saturday night's game. "When I made that statement, I didn't think we were going to play like this."

The 5-foot-11 Ball made his prognostication in the locker room after the Yellow Jackets gave up two late touchdowns and lost at then-No. 10 Florida State 14-13. "We won't lose again. I'll tell you that," the quarterback had said.

Clemson certainly took note.

"I told him on the field, 'That was a big statement from such a small man,"' defensive end J.J. Howard said with great satisfaction. "To make a statement like that, we told him from the first play that we were going to get after him all game and make him eat his words."

Ball completed only 19-of-42 for 248 yards, got sacked five times and was troubled by poor footwork. A bunch of his passes were overthrown. A bunch of his passes were underthrown.

"His technique got sloppy during the course of the ballgame," coach Chan Gailey said Sunday. "That's something we'll point out to him. I think he was pressing."

Don't expect any more predictions from Ball, either.

"He'll probably measure his comments from here on," Gailey said, who doesn't think he'll have to remind Ball to tone things down. "If I've got to say something after that, he's not as smart as I think he is."

This is Ball's first serious case of college adversity. Winning the job right out of high school, he played solid in a season-opening loss to BYU, guided the Yellow Jackets to a stunning victory over Auburn and had his team on the brink of a major upset at Tallahassee.

Georgia Tech (1-3, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) was never in the game against the Tigers, who came out wearing purple jerseys for the first time in 11 years. Clemson built a 23-3 lead at halftime and rolled to its largest margin over the Yellow Jackets since a 73-0 victory in 1903.

"There were some positives to look at, but they were few and far between," Gailey said. "This week is an opportunity for everybody to get better."

Ball got no help from his running game, which managed only 45 yards on 33 carries. Clemson (3-1, 1-0) loaded up on the line and put the game in the hands of a freshman quarterback. When he struggled, the Yellow Jackets had no chance.

The defense didn't have anything to brag about, either. The secondary gave up a 33-yard touchdown to Airese Curry, not to mention completions of 47 yards to Derrick Hamilton and 44 yards to Kevin Youngblood. Duane Coleman ripped off a 25-yard touchdown run, the longest rushing play by Clemson this season.

"I don't know what happened, but I think we might have lost a little bit of focus as the game got closer," cornerback Jonathan Cox said. "We know we're better than that."

Notes: Third-string quarterback Patrick Carter didn't dress against Clemson because of a knee problem. Gailey said the injury isn't serious. ... Backup FB Michael Matthews wasn't in uniform, either, but Gailey wouldn't say why. "He just didn't dress out," the coach said tersely. ... One bit of good news for the Yellow Jackets: They didn't have any serious injuries in the game.