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September 15, 2005Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey, wide receiver Damarius Bilbo and defensive tackle Joe Anoai recently addressed the media in preparation for its game against UConn this weekend.
The UConn-Georgia Tech kickoff is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey
Do you think Connecticut is a better team this year even though they've lost two good starting linebackers and (quarterback) Dan Orlovsky?
"You can't just replace Dan Orlovsky, but I think that they are a better football team this year. They are faster, have a lot more experience, and are a very good football team, better than I had anticipated them being even with the loss from those role players last year."
Can you learn some of their tendencies from watching them play two games this year?
"You can learn their tendencies. Their game plan is to win those ball games and they've got to play the game until it gets out of hand. You can learn a great deal from the first part of each game."
Do you think they've kept some of their playbook hidden from you?
"They probably have, and they're smart enough to know that those first two games will probably not be as tough as the next game. We've held some stuff back too."
How do you feel about playing another out of conference game after having played your conference opener?
"To be honest with you, that's really not a big deal one way or the other. Each game is important. Auburn was a big game, and so is North Carolina, Connecticut, and the next game."
With Connecticut's storied history in basketball and their football program coming around, do you care or worry about telling your players about the history of the Connecticut program?
"I think you can get caught up in that a little too much and I think our guys are more interested in what (Connecticut) is doing this year. If you look too far back, you can find positives and negatives on both sides. You can't fool our guys. They're pretty knowledgeable, and they just want to know what needs to be done to win this game and beat this team."
Have you talked to your players about the fact that Connecticut has scored 97 points and not allowed any in their first two games?
"Statistics are what they are. Scoring that many points and not allowing any is hard to do against any team."
What have you learned about your team after two games that you maybe didn't know about them coming into the season?
"To be honest with you, I'm not sure that I've learned anything new. I think that we have to get better in some phases of our running game and pass defense. We're still not where we want to be in regards to our kickoff coverage, but other than that, I've had a good feel for where we were and where we are before and after every game. With every football team, there are little things here and there that you pick up on as the season goes on."
There have been two games for your offensive line: one where they were able to make some headway in the running game, and the next one where it was more of a struggle. Do you think it will be more of a work in progress?
"I think it will. We're going to have some ups and downs, but I hope that's a difference between 175 and 130 yards, not 200 and 38 yards. To me, it wasn't the fact that we couldn't run the ball last week. P.J. (Daniels) still had over 100 yards rushing, but there are times where we need to be able to run when we're trying to control the ball at the end of a game.
We're not blowing people off the ball and we're not a strong line. We may be there a year from now, but we're not there yet. That's not our forte. Right now, our strengths are scheming and using angles to block people. It gets a little tougher at the end of a game when the other team is crowding the line and they know you're going to try and run it. It's easier in the middle of the game when you have the passing game to rely on a little more."
How much did losing Nate (McManus) impact your ability to run the ball?
"I don't think we had a giant drop-off. Salih (Besirevic) is a very good guy that can walk into a ball game and fill in for us."
Because of the youth on the kick-off coverage team, do you anticipate putting in some veteran guys to have more experience out on the field?
"There was improvement from week one to week two. If we continue to have improvement from week to week, that is how those younger guys will be able to go out on the field and learn to play the game. We've been fortunate enough to win two games without them being responsible for a big play that affects the outcome of the game. They have to continue to learn and experience the speed and intensity of the game."
How do you think Connecticut was able to get over 600 yards of offense last week?
"I think they're second in the nation running the football right now with three backs running up and down the field. Their offensive line is very good, and they're efficient in their passing game. They're not putting up giant numbers in the air like they have in the past, but they don't have to this year because of their running game. They're controlling the clock, keeping the opposing offense off the field, and getting a turnover here and there. Their kick-off and punt returning game has been excellent, which allows them to work with a short field."
How do you make sure that the emotion is there for this game since it's taking place in between two huge conference games?
"There is no way I can guarantee that the emotion is where it's supposed to be. What you do is explain the situation and make sure they understand how we have to play the game. You've heard me say this a hundred times before, it's not about who's on the other sideline, it's about who we are and where we want to be. We have to play the game with passion and we have to be smart every week. That's a mistake in life if you wait for some outside motivation to make you be the best you can be. You'd better have that motivation inside of you because otherwise, you won't be a successful person."
You said that in August, you felt good about the senior leadership on this team. Does this type of game serve as a good measuring stick?
"The seniors have been great leaders and this will be challenge for them to grab some of the younger guys and get them in line. It's a challenge for everyone on the football team, including me."
Do you hope to get Djay Jones back?
"Yes, he will practice today, and we'll see if he's healthy enough to go by Saturday."
Georgia Tech wide receiver Damarius Bilbo
Coach Gailey said that he'd hoped that you'd have one big game to get you started; did you feel the same way? Was this the game?
"To me, a big game is not always defined by how many catches or how many yards you have. I went back and watched the film from the Auburn game, and I thought that game was a better game, all-around, for me because I got a lot of blocks upfield that sprang P.J (Daniels) some extra yards and we did a lot of things from a receiving standpoint that didn't necessarily show up in the public eye.
So I think that was a big game for me, and that was my first start, and it really broke me in and got me a lot more comfortable. Playing a team like Auburn, coming into the season undefeated and 15-0, was a big plus for me to go out there and do some good things. And then to come back to the Carolina game, that's when I finally started getting some catches. So I wouldn't really call it a breakout game because you don't always define it as catches and yardage."
What there a time in the game where you said, "Hey, this is fun."?
"Football has always been fun, as long as I'm on the field. I mean, you can't have too much fun on the sideline. You have to know your roles, and when you're called upon, you have to go and take advantage of it. That's something that I haven't done in the past: I haven't taken advantage when I was called on."
Coming into the season, there were several questions about Reggie (Ball) throwing to Calvin (Johnson) too much and about needing to find other guys to throw to.
"The only response that I have to that is, wouldn't you? If you were a quarterback, wouldn't you? I can't say what I would and wouldn't do if I was at quarterback, but look at the guy. It's hard not to. I'm at practice sometimes and there's not a day that I go out where I'm not in awe of him.
You just can't keep the ball out of this guy's hands. Even when (North) Carolina thought that they had him shut down, he comes back and makes catches. I think the best ball that was caught Saturday was the one he made out of bounds when he dove, stretching like 10 yards to catch the ball. I mean, Reggie is a smart guy, and even smarter for throwing to Calvin, so I don't blame him."
The team is 10-for-10 in the red zone, with five field goals. Is that a double-edged sword? Is it a mindset?
"Anytime you have a kicker like Travis Bell, the whole field is a red-zone for him. He's an excellent kicker. But anytime you're scoring points, it's a plus. But I'm sure that anytime you get in the red-zone, you want to have the touchdown outlet.
We have a lot of weapons down there, especially with Reggie being the type of athlete that he is. I'm sure everyone saw his spinning touchdown this past week, and that's the type of stuff that I think that Coach Gailey likes to see, getting him outside of the pocket, giving him the run-throw option.
I'm sure that we can be a lot more improved, but it's still a plus that we're scoring points down there. It's more of a mindset than anything. But we have to be hungry and have to want to get the points. When you drive, and we've had a couple of long drives in the past two games, when you get down there, you have to make it count for something. When you learn all those plays and get down there and can't score, it's a disappointment. So it's just a mindset. It's not a play-calling thing or an execution thing, it's more of a mindset."
What do you remember about the UConn defenders?
"I remember last year. I remember one number: 11. I don't know the guys name, but he was probably one of the best, it doesn't matter, ACC, SEC, Big East, whatever. He was probably the best linebacker that I saw. I think he graduated, but I remember that he was big and fast and could move. He was in that slot, so I remember that he knocked me around a couple of times. I just remember them being a quick, never-give-up defense. A lot of people say basketball, but I think that their football team is on the map now, and the way that they compete means that it's always going to be a hard game."
How has being on the outside helped you more than being in the slot?
"I think the slot helped me more with the outside because the slot is so much more physical. You go up against those linebackers. That's why I commend those guys like Pat Clark and JJ (James Johnson) because those guys are a lot smaller than me. Pat had six catches against Auburn, and to go down and do what he did, that's a tough position to be in. You're in there between the tackles or just outside, and with any play, you have to go down and block linemen. So that helped me prepare for the outside, and I now have a lot more space to work with. And I like the space."
Is it extra incentive going against a defense (UConn) that hasn't given up any points this season?
"I don't think that we'll go out worried about a streak. All we can do is control what we do on the offensive side of the ball. You can look on the film and kind of get the personnel views and what kind of plays that they run and call, but we're not the two teams that they've played before, and I'm sure that they don't look at us like those two teams. Not from a talent aspect, but as a team. We're Georgia Tech, and they are going to prepare for us the same way that they prepare for any other big game, and we're going to do the same."
Georgia Tech defensive tackle Joe Anoai
What do you do to get ready for a game?
"I just try to mainly focus and tune out everything. I get into a zone where I can concentrate, where I know all of my assignments, and I know what my opponent is doing. So I do nothing too special other than getting into the training room because I like to sit in there as long as possible to get away from everybody, get taped up and just get ready for the game. I'm usually in there anywhere to an hour or an hour and 15 minutes."
Have you talked to your cousin (Afa Anoai) about the game? How close are you?
"When we were growing up, we were actually pretty close. I used to always go fishing with him when we were young. They lived in Pensacola with us for a while but then they moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he ended up going to high school and playing ball. We kind of got separated a little bit then. I try to talk to them every once in a while. I haven't talked to him this season so far, but I need to give him a call and see how he's doing."
What do you remember about the UConn offense?
"I actually just watched some film on them yesterday. They scored 97 points in two games. I don't know the competition level that they were playing against, but obviously if you're scoring that many points, you have weapons. We have to take them very seriously. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with, and we can't take them lightly."
What is their new quarterback like?
"He looked good. This guy can run, he's definitely a threat with his legs. He can move pretty well and I believe that he's a big guy, so we'll have to get after him."
Brandon Helwig of JacketsOnline.com contributed to this report.
Adam Gorney covers UConn sports for Rivals.com and can be reached at