Georgia Tech stunned by Northern Illinois

Georgia Tech's quarterback Jeff Sims (10) leaves the football field after Georgia Tech lost during an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Georgia Tech's quarterback Jeff Sims (10) leaves the football field after Georgia Tech lost during an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Only seconds after the game ended, the Bobby Dodd Stadium scoreboards attempted to suppress the evidence, clearing out the final score.

ExploreMark Bradley: Loss casts doubt on Jackets, Geoff Collins

But the whooping Northern Illinois players and their fans provided all the information necessary. In a most ominous beginning to coach Geoff Collins’ third season, the Yellow Jackets fell to the Huskies 22-21 in the season opener for both teams Saturday night.

Tech’s last gasp was a 60-yard field-goal try with one second remaining by Gavin Stewart. The kick was blocked, Tech’s third missed field-goal attempt of the night.

Northern Illinois had appeared a useful foil for Tech’s opener. Paid $1 million for the privilege to play the Jackets, the Huskies finished last season 0-6 and were an 18-point underdog at kickoff. But they took a 14-0 first-half lead and, after falling behind 21-14 in the fourth quarter, made their game-winning touchdown drive in the final three minutes, scoring on a 3-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds left before electing to go for the win with a two-point conversion try.

On the play, Northern Illinois quarterback Rocky Lombardi found wide receiver Tyrice Richie in the back of the end zone for the score. Richie, a first-team All-MAC selection last season, was deemed by Collins to be a player that Tech had to be aware of on every play. But Richie made the catch as he went to the ground, leading to a video review.

Officials deemed it a catch after the review, giving Northern Illinois (1-0) its 22-21 lead.

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Northern Illinois blocks the final field-goal attempt by Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Northern Illinois blocks the final field-goal attempt by Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Northern Illinois blocks the final field-goal attempt by Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Quarterback Jordan Yates, playing extended snaps for the first time in his career in place of Jeff Sims (knocked out of the game with an upper-body injury), got the offense into the far reaches of field-goal range on a drive marred by poor clock management.

Questions about Collins’ fitness to lead Tech (0-1) to national prominence undoubtedly will grow with the defeat to the Huskies, who won despite getting outgained 429-301. Tech got into Northern Illinois territory on its first possessions of the game but came away with no points, as Tech lost the ball on downs, missed two field-goal attempts and lost possession with a fumble.

Tech may also have Yates as the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. Sims was knocked out of the game in the first half and retreated to the locker room, and his left arm was in a sling when he returned to the field for the second half.

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