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Georgia Tech hopes for better ending in repeat trip to Jacksonville
Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball and his teammates are looking to gain respect and positive momentum heading into the offseason with a win in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1. - photo by Associated Press
ATLANTA — Georgia Tech’s 9-6 loss to Wake Forest in the Dec. 2 ACC championship game in Jacksonville was so disappointing tailback Tashard Choice can hardly talk about it, much less bring himself to look at the game film.
    ‘‘I probably won’t watch that game until I leave college,’’ Choice, a junior, said Monday.
    Choice hopes the Yellow Jackets’ repeat trip to Jacksonville — the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl game against West Virginia — will be more worthy of video review.
    Certainly, Tech’s season is in need of positive punctuation.
    Georgia Tech (9-4) has failed twice to win its 10th game, losing by three points to Georgia and Wake Forest. Now comes the much-anticipated New Year’s Day bowl game in a warm setting.
    Tech players now say they weren’t excited about last year’s bowl trip to San Francisco, and the lack of enthusiasm showed in the 38-10 Emerald Bowl loss to Utah. Tech had a 2004 trip to Orlando for the Champs Sports Bowl, but otherwise it has been shipped west for such bowl destinations as the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, the Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., and the Seattle Bowl in the last five years.
    ‘‘We weren’t really that pleased to be out in San Francisco across the country,’’ said fullback Mike Cox. ‘‘This is a great bowl, a January 1 bowl. It’s going to be on national television on a day when people want to watch football. Jacksonville is a great area, and we’ll have a lot of support.’’
    Tech players wanted to earn an Orange Bowl trip by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, also played in Jacksonville. Still, winning the ACC’s Coastal Division sent the Yellow Jackets to a challenging matchup against West Virginia’s explosive offense, led by tailback Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White.
    ‘‘We want to send the seniors off right,’’ Cox said. ‘‘We won our division in the ACC, which is a good step. Winning this bowl game will get us off on the right foot for next season. Last year, losing the bowl game put a bad taste in our mouths. Winning this one would mean a lot for us and for our seniors.’’
    A win over No. 13 West Virginia (10-2) would give Tech its first 10-win season since 1998 and it would save players from having to spend the offseason hearing about three straight losses. A win also would provide momentum for the 2007 season.
    ‘‘Personally, and I think I speak on behalf of the rest of the team, this is really big to get back on track for the offseason,’’ said defensive end Adamm Oliver.
    ‘‘It’s real important to get that confidence back. It’s real important to get some kind of respect back, too.’’
    Added Choice: ‘‘It’s big. I have a sick taste in my mouth after the Wake Forest game. ... You don’t want to look to the future, but you understand what’s ahead. Winning this game could be key.’’
    Tech will be playing in a bowl for the 10th straight season. The only other schools that can make that claim are Florida State, Florida, Virginia Tech, Georgia and Michigan.
    Tech coach Chan Gailey said he is happy with the first year of having quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Patrick Nix call the plays, a job formerly held by Gailey.
    Gailey gave a firm approval of Nix in the role Monday even though the Tech offense and quarterback Reggie Ball faltered late in the season, scoring no more than 12 points in three of the last four games. Tech overcame a poor offensive showing to beat North Carolina 7-0 on Nov. 11 before losing to Georgia 15-12 and then losing the battle of field goals to Wake Forest.
    ‘‘I feel very confident in that, where it is now and where I think it will be in the future,’’ Gailey said when asked about the play-calling arrangement.
    Ball, a senior, completed only 6 of 22 passes for 42 yards with two interceptions against Georgia. He was 9-for-29 passing for 129 yards with two interceptions against Wake Forest. For the year, Ball completed a career-low 44.4 percent of his pass attempts, leaving him under 50 percent for the third straight season.