Georgia Tech Stunned By NIU, 22-21

By Don Stone,

   When this game began, most thought the Yellow Jackets would have an easy time of it against a Mid-American Conference team that lost all of its games last season. After all, Tech was favored by 18.5 points.

   You could even sense that the Jackets weren’t that concerned after the game got underway as they left several points and opportunities on the field.

   Their first drive made it to the NIU39 as they went for it on fourth and four and failed.

   Their second drive resulted in a missed Brent Cimaglia 43 yard field goal.

   There didn’t seem to be much concern even after the Huskies drove 74 yards in 8 plays for a 7-0 lead.

   Still another missed Cimaglia field goal from 42 was contrasted by a second Northern Illinois drive that moved 66 yards in 12 plays and, unlike Tech, resulted in points again for a 14-0.

   More futility when the first turnover of the game gave the ball back to NIU at their 43 when Jeff Sims fumbled. Sims was seen on the sidelines holding his left arm in pain as they took him into the tent. He took a direct hit trying to recover the fumble and would spend the rest of the game with that arm in a sling.

   Redshirt freshman Jordan Yates took over at QB and restored order engineering an impressive 97 yard 16 play drive resulting in his first career touchdown hitting Kyric McGowan to make it 14-7 at the half.

   It was the first of 21 unanswered points. Tech, seemingly had the game in hand possessing the ball and just over four minutes remaining. But, they got conservative and went three and out on short runs that went nowhere.

   Still down by 7 with 2:42 left, the Huskies were not conservative as Rocky Lombardi hit Tyrice Ritchie for 39 yards, then 16 more. Harrison Waylee, who rushed for 144 yards on the night got a quick 11 to the 14. Clint Rakovitch made it 21-20 with a catch in the end zone.

   Again, they played aggressive. Instead of doing what the vast majority of coaches would do and settle for a game tying extra point, head coach Thomas Hammock went for a do or die two point conversion and succeeded as Ritchie dove for the game winner.

   His team swarmed the field in delirious celebration as Tech fans thought about all of the missed field goals and failed fourth down attempts.

   “Easy decision,” Hammock said. “We came here to win and we expected to win and that’s what we got done.”

   Originally, when I saw Kennesaw State on the schedule, I thought that the Yellow Jackets would have another easy win with a very good FCS level Owls team moving up in class to play its first ever Power 5 team.
   Now, it appears that KSU has a fighting chance to pull off another upset at Bobby Dodd Stadium.