Ross says numbers in Tech's favor


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Georgia Tech coach Bobby Ross was presenting his arguments to be the No. 1 team in the country. He saw it as nothing more than simple mathematics.

"How many points did Colorado beat Nebraska by?" he asked.

The answer was 15, Colorado having beaten the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. Neb., 27-12, Nov. 9.

"How many points did we beat Nebraska by?"

Ross knew the answer but asked anyway as if he wanted to hear the ending to a script he thought unbelievable. The answer came back: 24.

"Well, there you go."

For Georgia Tech, yesterday's 45-21 victory over Nebraska in the Florida Citrus Bowl was viewed as the end of a season of disrespect. For Ross, it was the end of a week of personal highs and lows.

At game's end, Ross said he wasn't concerned about the outcome of the Orange Bowl.

He said he wasn't going to watch the game. While his team went back to the hotel and watched the Orange Bowl, Ross flew to Williamsburg, Va., to be with his mother.

"She's in very critical health," Ross said, reflecting the first somber mood in the post-game celebration. Martha Ross, 80, suffered a stroke a week ago and has since contracted pneumonia in both lungs. She is also in a coma.

"A couple times during the game," Ross said, "I looked up and said, 'Just hold on, Mom. I'll get there as soon as I can.' "

Georgia Tech, 2-9 four years ago in Ross' first season as coach, finished this season 11-0-1 and ranked No. 2, at least until the new poll is released later today.

His team did plenty yesterday to try to convince anyone who was undecided on their national championship vote.

Shawn Jones, the game's Most Valuable Player, completed 16 of 23 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for one score.

The sophomore quarterback set the mood for Georgia Tech on the fourth play of the game when he scrambled for 46 yards to set up the first touchdown.

His two touchdown passes gave Georgia Tech a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Both followed Nebraska mistakes.

Nebraska coach Tom Osborne opened the second quarter by substituting Tom Haase for Mike Grant at quarterback. On Haase's first play, Scott Baldwin fumbled, giving Tech the ball on the Nebraska 22.

After a 5-yard completion, Jones threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Emmett Merchant in the corner of the end zone.

Nebraska could not move the ball and punted. But when Jason McGill called for a fair catch, a Nebraska player clobbered the punt returner resulting in a 15-yard penalty. Georgia Tech started its drive on the Nebraska 37 and scored six plays later.

Nebraska, which finished the season 9-3, was able to inject a bit of life into what was becoming a one-sided game. On their next possession, the Cornhuskers decided to throw the ball.

After a 32-yard pass from Haase to Johnny Mitchell and a 12-yard run by Nate Turner, Haase found Mitchell open for a 30-yard touchdown.

Anthony Rice fumbled on the Yellow Jackets' next series, and on the second play Nebraska's Derek Brown found a scarcity of people on the left sideline and ran 50 yards for a touchdown.

At last there was some life on the Nebraska sideline, especially when Georgia Tech was forced to punt.

The punt, however, was the difference. Turner, clustered with two other Nebraska players, fumbled the ball with Jay Martin of Georgia Tech recovering. It led to a 37-yard field goal by Scott Sisson and a 24-14 halftime lead.

"I thought the fumbled punt was the key to the game," Ross said. "That changed the momentum . . . Here we were with what we thought was a comfortable lead, and they came back within a matter of a minute, ready to establish momentum. Even though we only got three points out of it, that was one of the big plays we capitalized on."

Another key for Georgia Tech was its ability to stop the Nebraska running game, which was averaging 330 yards. Yesterday the Cornhuskers were held to 126 yards.

After the game, Georgia Tech partisans in the sellout crowd of 72,328 mobbed the field and both sets of goal posts, which had stood for 15 years, were torn down.

"I feel we deserve to be No. 1," Ross said. "I think people have been underrating our conference [the ACC]. But right now, we are the only undefeated team in the country and no one can take that from us."

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