Elastic Godsey earns passing grade

Ga. Tech QB prospers even without Friedgen

October 09, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

George Godsey is doing just fine, thank you.

The senior quarterback from Georgia Tech took what observers would have called a double whammy last winter, only to come back better than ever, according to his coach, George O'Leary.

"He's played very well," O'Leary said of Godsey, who ranks eighth nationally in passing efficiency (162.8 rating points) and has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,115 yards and eight touchdowns against three interceptions.

Godsey's performance this season - heading into Thursday night's game against Maryland in Atlanta - follows a 2000 campaign in which he threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns while giving up just six interceptions.

But the man credited with Godsey's development - his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the time, Ralph Friedgen - left in November to take the head coaching job at Maryland. Then, late in the team's Peach Bowl loss against LSU, Godsey blew out his left knee.

Within a month, two questions developed that would revolve around the Tampa, Fla., native, who was expected to lead his team to national championship contention this season. How would he get along without Friedgen, and how would he recover from an injury that could limit his already limited speed?

"I've lived fine without him. I had good times and bad times when he was here," Godsey said of Friedgen. "I sleep fine at night, and I'm sure he does, too."

Friedgen said: "I feel like I had a close relationship with George. One of the toughest things was telling him I had to leave."

With last season's running backs coach, Bill O'Brien, doing Friedgen's old job, the Yellow Jackets (4-1) have averaged nearly 40 points.

Most of the main offensive weapons from last year - Godsey, tailback Joe Burns and flanker Kelly Campbell - have returned. Godsey, though appreciative of Friedgen, also relishes the input from players that O'Brien allows as a first-year coordinator.

With Friedgen, "you pretty much took what he said for granted and moved on," Godsey said. "But if Coach O'Brien does it, it's `What can we do to make it better?' "

But is Godsey better off without Friedgen? The Terps coach said: "He'd probably agree with you, though I think O'Brien probably has taken on some of my characteristics."

As for Godsey's knee, the biggest bummer for him is the brace that scratches his right leg.

He was fine to go by fall camp, and the only question was what would happen when he took a hit. He dismissed it as just another obstacle, like the time he'd spent as the low man in the quarterback hierarchy, practicing only as an emergency sub and responsible for sending signals to the quarterback.

"Honestly, I thought he would be a backup," defensive end Nick Rogers, one of those in Godsey's freshman class, said before the season began, marveling at the progress. "I guess he proved everyone wrong."

Of course, it's tough to sell short a guy who completed his industrial and systems engineering degree in less than four years. He once grabbed 20 rebounds in a high school playoff basketball game despite being 6 feet 1. And he overcame a rocky start last season in succeeding 1999 Heisman candidate Joe Hamilton, only to put himself in on the preseason short list for the 2001 Heisman.

Not surprisingly, the knee issue went away early in Georgia Tech's season opener against Syracuse.

"The first game, I scrambled the first or second play," Godsey said. "I got a couple of shots, and I was satisfied with the way I was moving."

Not everything has gone swimmingly. The showdown with Florida State - scheduled for a Sept. 15 date when the Seminoles were at their most vulnerable - was postponed until December.

After Florida State's loss to North Carolina, the Yellow Jackets were the logical heir to the Atlantic Coast Conference throne. But then they lost at home to Clemson on Sept. 29, making Thursday a must-win situation.

"It's big in that they [Maryland] have room for error and we don't," Godsey said. "The sense of urgency on this team is here."

NOTES: Three Maryland players were honored by the ACC for their performances in the Terps' 41-21 win over Virginia.

Quarterback Shaun Hill completed 22 of 35 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns in earning Back of the Week honors. He also rushed for 47 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

Guard Todd Wike, who helped spring Bruce Perry for a 143-yard rushing day, was named Offensive Lineman of the Week.

Cornerback Tony Okanlawon was named Defensive Back of the Week after making his fourth interception of the season. He also broke up four passes and made three tackles.

Godsey's numbers

Georgia Tech quarterback George Godsey's statistics in major passing categories:

Attempts 118

Completions 78

Percentage .661

Yards 1,115

Yards per game 223

Touchdowns 8

Interceptions 3

Rating points 162.8

Next for Terps

Opponent: No. 15 Georgia Tech

Site: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Georgia Tech by 10

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