7:00 PM ET, November 4, 2006
Carter-Finley Stadium, RALEIGH, NC
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- When North Carolina State tried to slow Georgia Tech's ground game, Calvin Johnson took charge. Then when the Wolfpack focused on Tech's star wideout, it was Tashard Choice's turn to torment them.
It added up to career nights for the Yellow Jackets' top receiver and rusher, and a victory in a stadium that hasn't been kind to ranked teams.
Reggie Ball matched a career high with four touchdown passes, Johnson and Choice set personal bests in yards receiving and rushing, and 20th-ranked Georgia Tech denied N.C. State its third win against a ranked team with a 31-23 victory Saturday night.
"I think it works hand in hand - the better I play, the better he can do, and vice versa," Choice said. "This was a game where that really got exploited, me and him working with each other, the offensive line blocking for me and me blocking for him, getting passes off."
Choice had a career-high 164 yards rushing on 34 carries, Ball was 13-of-35 for 215 yards with two interceptions and Johnson had nine catches for a career-best 168 yards.
"What's a boost to everybody is, the guy (Johnson) goes out and works. The guy's not a primadonna," Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "We don't have prima donnas on this football team. We got a bunch of great football players, but no prima donnas, and that's what allows us to have a good football team."
The trio helped the Yellow Jackets (7-2, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) remain on track to win the Coastal Division. They can clinch the division by beating either North Carolina - which hasn't beaten a Division I-A team all season - or winless Duke.
"I don't think any one of our guys say 'Oh, all we've got to do is win one of two," Gailey said. "They want to win this (next) one."
Ball had scoring passes covering 25 and 43 yards to Johnson, the league's leading receiver, and added touchdowns covering 25 and 7 yards to James Johnson.
North Carolina State (3-6, 2-4) briefly led 23-21 on John Deraney's third field goal of the game, a 32-yarder on the final play of the third quarter.
Behind Ball and Choice, the Yellow Jackets deliberately moved downfield. Their 16-play, 63-yard drive stalled at the Wolfpack 9, and Travis Bell kicked a 26-yard field goal with 9:09 remaining to put Georgia Tech ahead to stay.
"The offense was moving the ball, and it was a chance to get stronger," Choice said. "That's the time you want the ball, in the second half. ... Having a chance to come back and run the ball was key. I knew they were going to put the ball in my hands, get the defense honest."
The Yellow Jackets then forced a three-and-out, got the ball back and went 65 yards in nine plays, a drive capped by Ball's 7-yard scoring pass to James Johnson with 2:24 left that all but sealed it.
Daniel Evans was 21-of-53 for 270 yards for N.C. State, which has lost four straight since consecutive home upsets of nationally ranked foes. Georgia Tech avoided joining Boston College and Florida State as ranked teams to lose under the lights at Carter-Finley Stadium.
"I don't think we're frustrated. We're definitely not where we want to be," Evans said. "I don't think anybody is hanging their heads or doubting themselves. It's nothing that a win won't fix."
Ball scrambled for 28 yards midway through the quarter to set up his first touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson, which gave the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead. Then, later in the quarter, Ball found Calvin Johnson behind the secondary for his second score.
"We started to control the rush because we didn't want their quarterback running around," N.C. State coach Chuck Amato said. "We had double coverage on Calvin, but when you do that, you have to take a man out of the box. We had to decide how to make it tougher on them, and we decided to try and take out Calvin."
It was the receiver's school-record and ACC-leading 11th touchdown reception of the season and, with 24 career TDs, he shares the school's career mark with Kelly Campbell.
"I expect to do these things. Everybody else expects me to do these things," Johnson said. "I've done these things before."
Deraney also had field goals covering 34 and 25 yards for the Wolfpack, who scored on a pair of returns.
Pat Lowery intercepted Ball's pass and returned it 28 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, and Darrell Blackman returned the opening kickoff of the second half 95 yards for a TD.
Georgia Tech kept N.C. State's run game in check, allowing 58 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball fired his fourth touchdown pass with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Gameball goes to... Calvin Johnson. The all-world receiver had nine catches for a personal-best 168 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat of the game... 0. That's the number of touchdowns the Wolfpack offense tallied, NC State scoring one TD on defense and one on a kick return.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||7-17||5-19|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||1-2|
|TD||9:08||CALVIN JOHNSON 25 YD PASS FROM REGGIE BALL (TRAVIS BELL KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 90 yards.
|FG||3:13||JOHN DERANEY 34 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 29 yards.
|TD||1:26||CALVIN JOHNSON 43 YD PASS FROM REGGIE BALL (TRAVIS BELL KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 80 yards.
|FG||14:05||JOHN DERANEY 25 YD FG|
Drive info: 9 plays, 69 yards.
|TD||11:47||PATRICK LOWERY 28 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (JOHN DERANEY KICK)||14||13|
|TD||10:16||JAMES JOHNSON 25 YD PASS FROM REGGIE BALL (TRAVIS BELL KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 69 yards.
|TD||14:40||DARRELL BLACKMAN 95 YD KICK RETURN (JOHN DERANEY KICK)||21||20|
|FG||0:00||JOHN DERANEY 32 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 11 yards.
|FG||9:09||TRAVIS BELL 26 YD FG|
Drive info: 16 plays, 63 yards.
|TD||2:24||JAMES JOHNSON 7 YD PASS FROM REGGIE BALL (TRAVIS BELL KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 65 yards.