Georgia Tech kicked off its 2021 football season with a Saturday night home game against the Northern Illinois Huskies. NIU pulls off a huge upset win over the Yellow Jackets, 22-21.
The Yellow Jackets saw themselves facing a 14-0 deficit early in the second quarter when their starting quarterback, Jeff Sims, went down with an injury to his non-throwing arm. Backup quarterback, Jordan Yates, took over and led a spirited comeback in the second half that fell short. Before Sims went down with his left arm injury, he wasn’t having his best outing. Sims had only completed three passes and missed several throws to end potentially good offensive drives. Sims hasn’t developed as a passer, which could hold this Yellow Jackets’ offense back this season. Yates finished the game going 12 of 18 for 135 yards passing and a passing touchdown. Yates also had eight carries for 40 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Under Yates, the Yellow Jackets’ offense moved the ball efficiently and hit on a few big plays in the passing game. In addition, the Yellow Jackets’ backfield looked as strong as it did in the 2020 season, which was led by freshman running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Gibbs had 20 carries for 99 yards and caught three passes out the backfield. Redshirt junior running back Jordan Mason also had a good game as well. Mason rushed for 15 carries and 96 yards.
Northern Illinois got the early 14-point lead but was held in check by the Yellow Jackets’ defense late in the fourth quarter. However, huskies’ junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi’s experience and toughness lifted this team. With three minutes left in the game trailing 21-14 to the Yellow Jackets, Lombardi led, which would be ultimately the game-winning drive. The Huskies got the touchdown late with about 38 seconds left in the game. Then they converted the two-point conversion both behind Lombardi’s arm. Lombardi went 11 of 17 for 136 yards passing and two passing touchdowns. Also, freshman running back Harrison Waylee had a great game. Waylee rushed for 144 yards on 27 carries and a rushing touchdown.
After a tough loss to an 18-point underdog, the Yellow Jackets head coach Geoff Collins had some encouraging and positive words for his team. Collins stated, “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The strides we’ve made, you can see them. I am proud of how hard they fought.”
It is hard to convince the Yellow Jackets fan base that the program is moving in the right direction after a tough season home-opening loss like that, but despite the loss, it was some key takeaways. For one, the defense played a pretty good game. Another, Jeff Sims’ injury might be a blessing in disguise. Finally, the offense looked much better under Yates and moved the ball at will. Yates wasn’t perfect, but his decision-making and accuracy throwing the football leave much to desire. The Yellow Jackets will look to move to pass this loss when they face off against Kennesaw State next Saturday on Sept. 11 at home back on ‘The Flats.’