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Tech's Choice running for yards, wins

ATLANTA - The more Tashard Choice runs, the more Georgia Tech wins - and the more lobbying power the junior earns with coach Chan Gailey.

Choice rushed for a career-best 164 yards to lead Tech to a 31-23 win over North Carolina State last week, giving him his fourth 100-yard total in his last five games.

Choice leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with his average of 107.5 yards rushing in ACC games. The run balance provided by Choice successfully complements Calvin Johnson's Tech-record 11 touchdown receptions.

Choice is a big reason the Yellow Jackets are one win away from clinching the league's Coastal Division title and their first berth in the ACC championship game in Jacksonville. If Tech wins at North Carolina on Saturday, they will clinch the division championship.

If so, Gailey can expect another office visit from Choice, who will no doubt lobby the coach for another uniform change for next week's home game against Duke.

''This is a constant,'' Gailey said of Choice and other players making uniform suggestions.

''They lobbied for the black shoes, and I said, 'OK, we'll wear the black shoes as long as you win,' and they kept winning,'' Gailey said. ''They then lobbied for the black socks, and I allowed that.''

Added Gailey: ''I guess that I am getting soft in my old age.''

Soft? Choice has a different opinion of his coach.

''I think coach Gailey is getting real cool,'' Choice said. ''He's getting real hip for his team. He is letting us wear black socks now. Everybody likes that. Coach Gailey is opening up. He is showing his leadership besides just calling plays.''

Gailey gave the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Patrick Nix this season, creating more free time - and with that came the opening for more office visits from Choice and other would-be fashion experts.

''I actually talk to Coach Gailey a lot about uniforms and what we can wear,'' Choice said. ''He laughs. Coach Gailey, I think he's just really having a great time. He loves the game of football and he loves winning. Nobody likes to lose.''

Choice likes the black socks, but he dreams of a more dramatic fashion statement, if only for a game.

''If I could design the uniforms it would be blue jerseys or all-white,'' he said. ''That's what we like. We tried to get Coach Gailey to squeeze one of those two uniforms in, the all-white or the blue throwback jerseys, because we really like those.''

Apparently the blue jerseys have a better chance of winning Gailey's approval.

''The last time they won a national championship (in 1990) they had blue jerseys, but the last time they wore white jerseys I think they got beat pretty bad, so I think he doesn't like that at all,'' Choice said.

''I think the blue jerseys probably have a better chance. If he lets us wear those, hopefully it'll be for the Duke game.''

For now, Gailey is not entertaining questions about the Nov. 18 home game against Duke. All thoughts are on maintaining focus on North Carolina.

Based on his recent efforts, Choice is sure to be a big part of Tech's game plan against the Tar Heels, who rank last in the ACC in rushing defense.

Choice has rushed for 821 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games. The encouraging news for Gailey and Tech is the junior is gaining momentum late in games and late in the season.

''He gets stronger as he goes,'' Gailey said. ''Between him, the line and everybody involved in the running game, we keep wearing them down.''

Choice rushed for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of Tech's 27-23 win over Maryland.

His 24-yard touchdown run, again in the fourth quarter, also was the difference in Tech's 30-23 win over

Maryland.

Choice ran the ball 26 times, setting a season high, in the win over Miami on Oct. 28 before setting a career high with 34 carries in last week's win over N.C. State.

''I really couldn't tell,'' Choice said of the 34-carry game. ''I actually get stronger as the game goes on.

''Coach Nix has really emphasized running the ball when they're putting two (defenders) on Calvin. It works hand-in-hand in the offense. If they bring one down in the box it opens him up. If they put two on him it gives me room to run the ball.''