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Georgia Tech tries to remain focused despite easy record

        ATLANTA - Chan Gailey has spent the last 32 years coaching college and professional football players, so it's safe to say he understands how to motivate a team.
        Now in his fifth season as head coach at Georgia Tech, Gailey faces a difficult task this week in preparing the 20th-ranked Yellow Jackets to visit North Carolina State.
        "I just say what's pertinent to that week and that game," Gailey said Tuesday. "Have I used anecdotes? I'm sure I have. Have I used stories of previous years where I have been? I have. You get to my age, you have a lot experience to pull from."
        Georgia Tech (6-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) can advance to the ACC title game in Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 2, no matter what other teams in the Coastal Division do if the Jackets win their next three games.
        Gailey, however wants the Jackets to focus entirely on beating the Wolfpack before closing their regular-season league schedule against two teams, North Carolina and Duke, which have a combined 0-10 ACC record.
        Though N.C. State (3-5, 2-3) has lost three straight games since upsetting Florida State last month, the Wolfpack used a 17-14 victory last year at Bobby Dodd Stadium to give Tech its second straight ACC loss.
        Defensive end Adamm Oliver, a junior who's spent the last four years in Gailey¬ís program, respects how the 54-year-old coach draws from 16 years of college experience and 16 professionally, including a two-year stay in which he led the 1998-99 Dallas Cowboys to an 18-14 record and an NFC East championship.
        "He's always got the right thing to say," said Oliver, a second-year starter. "He always says something that helps us refocus and puts our mind where it's supposed to be. That's the best thing."
        Gailey believes in the old-school approach of constructively criticizing players when they're successful and openly encouraging them when they struggle.
        Though Oliver made a crucial play against Miami by setting up the clinching touchdown with a sack and a forced fumble, he credits Gailey with instilling a team-wide mindset that holds off despair and disinterest.
        Last year's Jackets were a different group. Tech won at Auburn and at Miami but lost a Thursday night home game to N.C. State despite having 10 days to recover from a devastating 51-7 loss at Virginia Tech.
        After narrowly losing to archrival Georgia at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the Jackets collapsed in the Emerald Bowl against a Utah team that accused them of quitting.
        "When we're excited about a win, he comes in congratulates us but reminds us that we have N.C. State now," Oliver said. "He's good at waking us up and putting us in reality."
        Tech has won two straight in Raleigh and four of the last five at Carter-Finley Stadium, but this game is one that receiver James Johnson, a third-year sophomore, hopes the Jackets avoid the early-game malaise that hit them again last week.
        Johnson (no relation to star Tech receiver Calvin Johnson) caught a 46-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter that cut Miami's lead to 13-10.
        "We trust each other," said James Johnson, who finished with three catches for 69 yards. "We have playmakers like (Tashard) Choice, Calvin and Reggie that believe in each other and know that they can be doing bad at the beginning of the game and can come back and win. We click a lot better than last year."
        The composition of the team helps Gailey deliver his messages and speeches this season, partly because this senior class is the first one he's had that didn't include players recruited by George O'Leary, his predecessor.
        Gailey also benefits from having a respected defensive coordinator in Jon Tenuta and a rising offensive coordinator in Patrick Nix, each of whom joined his original staff.
        "If you hang around somebody for four years, you are going to figure it out," Gailey said. "These (players) have been around us, and what we are trying to do and what we believe in. What we said in their homes four years ago is being said the same way today. If you can maintain that consistency through the years, then I think the message does come through. If you're going into somebody's house for four years, you are going to understand what the house rules are

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