Originally created 09/12/05

Ball putting emphasis on wins, not stats



ATLANTA - As receiver Damarius Bilbo was receiving compliments for his eight catches in Georgia Tech's win over North Carolina Saturday, he tried to shift the spotlight to the player who threw the passes.

Bilbo says quarterback Reggie Ball would be his pick as Georgia Tech's MVP after two games.

"It's a blessing to play with a guy like that, a quarterback like Reggie who has matured so much," Bilbo said. "I feel he is the MVP of our club just with his decision-making."

Ball, much-criticized last season as he struggled with interceptions and was questioned for making poor decisions as a sophomore. But after surviving a challenge for his starting job in the spring, Ball is a big reason Georgia Tech has opened his 2005 season with two wins.

Ball passed for a career-high 320 yards with two touchdowns without an interception as Georgia Tech (2-0 overall, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat North Carolina 27-21 Saturday.

Tech moved up one spot to No. 16 in The Associated Press Top 25 Sunday. The Yellow Jackets will play host to Connecticut next Saturday night.

Through two games, Ball has thrown three touchdown passes with only one interception. He finished the 2004 season with 18 interceptions and 16 touchdown passes.

"He has a great arm," said North Carolina cornerback Jacoby Watkins. "He has the Midas touch every time he throws the ball."

Asked if he can see improvement in Ball's play from last season, Watkins said "There's no doubt about it."

Tech's players also see the change.

"I first saw it in the spring, when he was making smart decisions," said receiver Calvin Johnson, who has 10 catches. "I'm looking forward to seeing what happens the rest of the year."

Tech coach Chan Gailey said Ball was in control until the final minutes of the game, when Tech could not maintain drives and run out the clock.

"For the first three and a half quarters, he engineered drives and just really played well," Gailey said. "He engineered drives and did some nice things."

Ball added a 9-yard touchdown run and even caught a 33-yard pass from Bilbo.

Tech finished with 475 total yards with 20 touchdowns.

Ball's 320 yards passing is the most for a Tech quarterback since George Godsey threw for 486 yards against Virginia in 2001.

With the exception of the final minutes, "it was what we needed to be," Gailey said.

"We hit some balls outside deep," he said. "We hit some inside over the middle. We hit some short passes. We did some things we hadn't done in a while. I give Reggie credit for making the right reads."

Even so, Ball still has not completed half of his pass attempts this season but instead is right at his 49.7 percent figure from the 2004 season. Though he has done a better job of avoiding interceptions, he has completed only 41 of 83 passes (49.4 percent), including 24 of 47 passes against the Tar Heels.

Gailey said the numbers are deceiving because Ball has been avoiding sacks by throwing the ball away when necessary.

"If you look at statistics you're going to get the wrong feeling because statistics aren't going to tell the story because he's making the right decisions," Gailey said

"There are probable 10 throwaways that have been smart plays."

Ball says he is only interested in Tech's record.

"You don't worry about stats, personally I don't around here," Ball said. "We only worry about the W."

As evidence he no longer is spending most of his time in the pocket looking only for Johnson or any one receiver, Ball completed passes to eight receivers Saturday.

"I was going through my progressions, just taking the reads and what is given to you," Ball said.

Ball was cheered as he left the playing field Saturday. Some fans were not always as warm last season, but he says he doesn't depend on applause to feel good about his play.

"I don't really pay attention, you know, to the hype with the fans," he said. "It's good to have them cheering for you, but you just only worry about the victory. I got caught up in the hype when I was younger, but I have grown up a bit."



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