on October 1, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Choice steps up, refuses to let Georgia Tech lose another one

ATLANTA (AP) — Tashard Choice simply wasn’t going to accept another loss.

He spoke up before the game, then again at halftime. He lugged a sledgehammer on the field to fire up his teammates even more. Most important, he ran 32 times on an ailing hamstring to help Georgia Tech end its two-game losing streak.

“He’s a passionate player,” coach Chan Gailey said Sunday, savoring a 13-3 victory over previously unbeaten Clemson. “That’s part of who he is. I think he takes it personal every week. But he was extremely vocal (Saturday).”

Choice knew the Yellow Jackets (3-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) already were on the verge of ruining their hopes of returning to the ACC championship game with losses to Boston College and Virginia.

So he took it upon himself to make sure they avoided their first 0-3 start in conference play since 1994.

“You don’t want to get on a skid at the beginning of the year,” Choice said. “It’s good to get back on track.”

Shortly before the Yellow Jackets trotted on the field, Choice stood up in the locker room. He had something to say to his teammates.

“I told them that we work so hard, and there are so many things that we do that people don’t know about, a lot of dedication,” Choice recounted. “I really wanted them to understand that my life is based around football, and all I have is those guys in the locker room, and everything that I do out on the field is for them. It’s not about me. Once they understood that, my teammates really rallied and played for me.”

The Yellow Jackets relied on all their motivation tools.

Last season, team chaplain Derrick Moore suggested that Georgia Tech run out with a sledgehammer for its division-clinching win over North Carolina, symbolizing the need to finish the job. With the Yellow Jackets in an early tailspin, Moore felt the time was right to use it again, as if to say it was time to start the job.

Choice was the logical choice to carry the tool onto the field.

“We had to win this game for our season, to get ourselves back on track and give us another run at it,” the senior said.

When the Yellow Jackets returned to the locker room at halftime, clinging to a 7-3 lead, Choice spoke up again.

“I was really upset at halftime because I felt like we left a lot of points on the board, turned the ball over and didn’t convert some situations,” he said.

The defense certainly took his message to heart, shutting out the high-scoring Tigers over the final two quarters. The special teams capped off a brilliant day with two field goals from Travis Bell. And Choice did all the heavy lifting at the end, helping Georgia Tech run out the final 7½ minutes with its final possession.

He carried the ball six times for 45 yards on that drive, most of it coming on a 32-yard scamper when the Yellow Jackets faced third-and-13. He finished with 145 yards rushing, his third 100-yard game of the season.

“I was going to carry it as many times as we needed to win the game,” Choice said. “I could tell in my teammates’ eyes that they were looking at me to make plays.”

He didn’t tell them how bad his hamstring was hurting. He was first injured in the Boston College game, and managed only five carries against Virginia when it tightened up again. But he wasn’t coming out against Clemson.

“I lied the whole week,” he said. “I was only about 80 to 85 percent, but it was good enough to play and stay on the field.”

Gailey said he didn’t realize until it was over that Choice had 32 carries, a dozen of them in the final quarter when the Yellow Jackets were more concerned with running clock than scoring points.

“We tried to take care of him a little bit,” the coach said. “He would have told us if it was so bad he couldn’t go.”

Despite the much-needed win, Georgia Tech still has some pressing issues. Most troubling is the passing game, which hasn’t done much with first-year starter Taylor Bennett at quarterback and no one stepping up to fill the shoes of departed receiver Calvin Johnson.

Bennett has completed only 50 percent of his throws through five games, with one touchdown and two interceptions.

“It’s hard to put a finger on one thing that’s creating the problem,” Gailey said. “We’ve got to go work on it.”