Georgia Tech: From gloom and doom to four-game winning streak

Updated: October 24, 2003, 3:23 PM ET

ATLANTA -- Chan Gailey could barely contain himself. The Georgia Tech coach transformed the interview room into a revival tent, and he was the preacher.

With eyes bugging out, he sermonized about his players' character. Can you give me an Amen?

With voice rising to a feverish pitch, he lectured the faithful on defense, Reggie Ball and all the other reasons for being thankful. Hallelujah!

"Yeah, I'm pretty excited," Gailey said. "When everything goes perfect ... it's still hard to win. These guys are amazing."

Indeed, Georgia Tech has pulled itself from the abyss -- embarrassing losses, academic woes, a projected eighth-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference -- to become one of the country's most surprising teams.

The Yellow Jackets (5-3, 3-2 ACC) won their fourth in a row Thursday night, stifling Maryland and Ralph Friedgen's bulky playbook for a 7-3 victory.

Suddenly, Georgia Tech finds itself second in the ACC, a jumbled mess of a league where everyone is jockeying for bowl position behind champ-to-be Florida State.

The Yellow Jackets have pulled off some startling victories with a young, seemingly undermanned roster. Auburn went down. So did North Carolina State. And now Maryland, a team that had won five in a row until it came to Atlanta.

"We believed in each other," said cornerback Jonathan Cox, whose wacky fumble recovery led to the game's only touchdown early in the fourth quarter. "We knew we could do it."

In the past year, this program has gone through tumultuous times. Gailey's debut season ended with a 44-point loss to rival Georgia and an embarrassing performance against suspension-depleted Fresno State in the Silicon Valley bowl.

During the offseason, 10 players -- including three starters and several others on the verge of cracking the lineup -- were declared academically ineligible.

The grumbling reached such ferocity that athletic director Dave Braine sent a letter to the fans, expressing confidence in Gailey and his ability to turn things around.

Even so, Georgia Tech was predicted to finish next to last in the ACC, just ahead of woebegone Duke.

"Anyone who's a competitor accepts the challenge," Gailey said.

The defense certainly did. Coordinator Jon Tenuta came up with a scheme that shut down North Carolina State quarterback Phillip Rivers, surrendered only one touchdown to Wake Forest and kept the Terrapins out of the end zone altogether.

"Unbelievable," Gailey said. "They have played great and you would say it would be hard for them to play better. But they played better this week than they played before."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index