By STAN AWTREY
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
ATLANTA -- Chris Milton continues to shine on special teams. The redshirt sophomore blocked his second punt in as many weeks on Saturday.
Milton came rushing in from the left side and consumed the punt by Riley Dixon with his arms. The ball bounced away, was touched by a Tech player and recovered by Syracuse. But since the punt never crossed the line of scrimmage before it was touched, Tech retained possession.
"It was one of those plays we practice all week," said Milton, who also blocked a punt last week against BYU. "It's just about beating your man and being there."
Milton's time at safety has been limited because of a tight hamstring, but his special team skills continue to shine through.
"Any play like that can help the team change the game around," he said.
When the pass came his way, it looked like Quayshawn Nealy was just trying to bat down the ball. He instead tipped it up and it landed right back in his arms for his second interception of the season. Tech scored nine plays later to take a 14-0 lead and the momentum was never slowed.
"I read the quarterback," Nealy said. "His eyes told me the right place to be and make a play. I didn't think I had it, but it fell in my lap."
Nealy, a junior from Lakeland, Fla., now has six career interceptions. He intercepted a pass against Miami earlier this season.
Nealy also had two tackles, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble in what he called his best game at Georgia Tech.
Smelter's role shift
DeAndre Smelter was involved with the passing game again Saturday but not in the way most expected and not in a good way. Smelter turned the momentum Tech's way early with a 23-yard punt return but doused the drive minutes later. Smelter took a pitch against the flow of the play to throw an option pass. The right side of the field was clear, thanks to a couple of blocks by the Tech linemen, but Smelter opted instead to throw the ball downfield toward Darren Waller. The pass was well short and Syracuse cornerback R'shard Anderson stole it for an interception at the 6.
"He threw it to the only guy who was covered," coach Paul Johnson said. Smelter was not targeted as a receiver; Tech threw only four other passes. But he did finish with 46 yards on four punt returns.
In honor of the military, the Tech coaches wore camouflaged shirts and hats. The players wore their regular white jerseys. There were several changes in the starting lineup: Micheal Summers at wide receivers ahead of DeAndre Smelter, Anthony Harrell at inside linebacker in place of Jabari Hunt-Days, and Synjyn Days at A-back ahead of Deon Hill. It was the first career start for Harrell and Days. The honorary captain was Thomas Winingder, a three-year letterman and captain of the 1962 team.