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Posted: Wednesday, November 26th 2003 at 5:35am

Ball surprised hes surpassed high school teammate Lumpkin

By The Associated Press
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT

In the second game of his brief career at Georgia Tech, quarterback Reggie Ball heard a sellout crowd chanting his name after an upset of Auburn.

Fans stormed the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium, then grabbed Ball and carried him off on their shoulders. Soon after, a goal post came down.

At Georgia, tailback Kregg Lumpkin _ Balls teammate at Stephenson High School in metro Atlanta last season _ missed the first two games with an injury. Hes listed No. 3 on the depth chart heading into Saturdays game, and he still hasnt started.

This wasnt the way it was supposed to work out.

I was surprised, really, Ball said. I thought Kregg could go anywhere in the nation and start.

Lumpkin, a Parade magazine All-American as a senior in high school, got hurt early in preseason drills with the Bulldogs (9-2), pulling his hamstring before contact drills even started.

He later aggravated the injury and didnt play until the third game, a 31-7 victory over South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Ball hasnt missed a snap, and he likely will be named Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year. After 11 games, hes won the weekly award five times, including three consecutive at one point.

He had a chance to step up, and he did, Lumpkin said. Im slowly coming along. I wish I could have gotten started earlier, but the injury threw me off.

Not that everything has gone well for Ball. A season full of ups and downs for him and the Yellow Jackets (6-5) include the victory over Auburn, a close loss at Florida State, a four-game winning streak and an embarrassing loss to Duke.

Ball has completed 52 percent of his passes for 1,900 yards and 10 touchdowns, but hes also thrown 10 interceptions. Although Georgia Tech is bowl eligible for a school-record seventh straight year, a trip to Idaho for the Humanitarian Bowl isnt out of the equation.

I dont think Im having that much more success than him, Ball said. Hes got more wins on the board. Thats going to come around, though.

Now that he has recovered from his injury, Lumpkin finally is getting his chances. He ran for a team-high 55 yards in a victory over Alabama, an effort that included his first touchdown, and in the past three games, hes gained 183 yards.

He added a 16-yard touchdown on third-and-goal in a victory over Auburn, helping the Bulldogs pull away.

I think hes done well, but its been a slow development, Georgia coach Mark Richt said. Hes running with more confidence. I like how hes progressing. Hes really going to be good.

But Lumpkins inexperience showed last week against Kentucky. He missed a blocking assignment on a pass play when quarterback David Greene rolled to his left, and Greene was forced to throw the ball away.

It was one of the things Lumpkin missed while he was hurt.

He had no experience to draw from, Richt said. To expect him to do that with no live practice is tough. Hes going to continue to improve as he goes on.

This week, Ball and Lumpkin wont talk to each other, breaking a routine they followed through most of the season. They went together to a Stephenson game a couple of weeks ago, when Georgia and Georgia Tech were off, and they shared their experiences from their first year of college.

We were just joking around, having fun, reminiscing about high school, Lumpkin said. We dont talk about college football, really.

And they wont speak again until after the game.

Its just better that way, man, Ball explained. Theres going to be some trash talking if we do. They know how I feel. I wish them the best of luck and everything, no serious injuries and whatnot.

But at the same time, I want to get the win. They know how it is.


Associated Categories: Sports News

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