The unlikeliest star of the Sun Bowl?
That would be Brendan Espey, the Georgia Tech cheerleader who fought gusting winds to run the gold Tech flag out of the tunnel to lead the team on the field before the game, won by the Yellow Jackets 21-7 over USC on Monday.
Leaning forward and head down, Espey carried the flag into the teeth of winds so strong that they blew him off course and almost knocked him over. He was concerned he wouldn’t make it to the end of the field, but was motivated by pride and self-preservation.
“It was either (keep going) or the team and the (Ramblin’) Wreck is coming right behind me,” said Espey, a senior in his third year on the cheerleading team.
Espey’s adventure was on the broadcast and later made the game highlights on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Espey, a former high school football player and wrestler who can bench press 295 pounds, knew he was in trouble when he thought he had run out to the 50-yard line, only to realize he was still only at the 20.
“I literally felt like I was walking,” said Espey, a business administration major. “I was a little embarrassed because people next to me were barely jogging. I was like, I’m trying, guys, I promise.”
(You can see a clip of it here.)
In the record books: Cornerback Rod Sweeting and nose tackle T.J. Barnes entered the Tech record books by playing in their 54th career games, breaking Rashaad Reid and Scott Blair’s record for most games played in a career. Sweeting and Barnes played in every game they were eligible for, starting with the 2009 season opener against Jacksonville State. Defensive end Izaan Cross played in his 52nd game, tied for fifth most, and made his 41st career start.
If Tech goes to a bowl game and the ACC Championship game next season and safety Jemea Thomas plays in every game next season, he’ll break Sweeting and Barnes’ record by playing in 55 games. Thomas played every game as a freshman in 2009, but redshirted in the 2010 season and has played every game since.
Rare play: Quarterback Vad Lee’s 3-yard touchdown pass to B-back David Sims in the second quarter marked an unusual first. It was the first touchdown pass covering less than 8 yards in coach Paul Johnson’s five seasons.
Tech has scored 119 touchdowns of 9 yards or fewer since the start of the 2008 season. Apart from three 9-yard passes and one 8-yard pass, the rest have been runs. Not surprisingly, Sims said he was surprised when the call came into the huddle. Sims snuck out of the backfield to the left, where Lee found him.
“I wanted the ball, but I didn’t know he was going to call the pass,” Sims said. “It was wide open.”
Defensive numbers: Inside linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days led Tech with 10 tackles, followed by outside linebacker Brandon Watts with nine and Cross with six. Watts also had a forced fumble and a tackle for a loss.
Tech had eight pass breakups, its most in a game under Johnson. Defensive linemen accounted for three of them, including one by Cross that forced a fourth-down incomple pass in the third quarter.
Defensive line coach David Walkosky “has been doing a good job training us and telling us when a ball comes up and you might not necessarily be able to get the sack or rattle (the quarterback), put your hands up and see what happens,” Cross said. “That’s what I did.”
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog