Taking a closer look at Georgia Tech’s loss to Northern Illinois

Credit: ACC

Georgia Tech allowed a last-minute scoring drive by Northern Illinois to record their third-straight season opening loss.

Georgia Tech’s season started with a thud in a 22-21 loss to Northern Illinois on Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium. A closer look at how the Yellow Jackets managed to lose to the Huskies, who were 0-6 last season.

Play of the game

After scoring a touchdown to cut Tech’s lead to 21-20 with 38 seconds remaining, Northern Illinois elected to go for the win with a two-point conversion. Quarterback Rocky Lombardi found wide receiver Tyrice Richie in the back of the end zone for the score, a conversion that held up after a video review.

Stat of the game

Tech was 0-for-3 on field-goal tries, two by Brent Cimaglia (from 43 and 51 yards) and one by Gavin Stewart at game’s end from 60. Tech was 3-for-8 on field-goal tries in both of the past two seasons, and it was thought that Cimaglia’s arrival as a grad transfer from Tennessee (where he was 46-for-62 in his career) would solve the issues.

Biggest thing learned

Tech’s pursuit of a winning record this season after back-to-back three-win seasons will be even more of a grind than first thought. Northern Illinois was expected to be perhaps Tech’s second weakest opponent.

Where the game was lost

In the first half, Tech’s first four possessions reached Northern Illinois territory, but the Jackets didn’t score on any of them, allowing the Huskies to take a 14-0 lead.

Quote of the game

Wide receiver Malachi Carter: “This is a horrible feeling, to keep it real. We came in here with a lot of momentum that we kind of just brought on each other, a lot of confidence and came into the game feeling great. To come out with a loss kind of hurts. Not kind of, this definitely hurts. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, we definitely feel horrible about this.”

Collins remains confident

Coach Geoff Collins was undeterred in his comments after the game. His critics undoubtedly have grown after the loss. In his first season, Tech lost to the Citadel, an FCS school. Last year, the Jackets lost 37-20 to Syracuse in what was the Orange’s only win of the season. Collins said he was “100%” confident in his ability to lead the team.

“We’ve just got to score when we cross the 50, and we can’t have lapses in crucial times in the game,” he said. “But I still feel very confident in the direction of this program and the guys in that locker room, the coaches that are coaching these guys. So it is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, and we’re just going to keep fighting, keep building, keep working and it’s going to click, and it’s going to take over and when it does, it’s going to be really good.

What’s next

Tech will play in-state opponent Kennesaw State at noon Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Owls, coached by former Tech assistant coach Brian Bohannan, are 1-0 after a 35-25 win over Reinhardt, an NAIA school. KSU is ranked No. 20 in FCS.