ATLANTA - The Northern Illinois football team scored a late touchdown and two-point conversion to come back and knock off Georgia Tech, 22-21, on Saturday.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday night’s contest at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the first win at a Power Five school in three years for NIU.
Rocky Start, solid finish
Rocky Lombardi struggled early in the game, going just 5-for-8 for 48 yards passing in the first half. The transfer from Michigan State ended strong, leading a game-winning, 75-yard drive and two-point conversion for the Huskies with 0:30 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
On the final drive, Lombardi connected with Messiah Travis on the first play to get the Huskies into Georgia Tech territory.
Lombardi then showed off his mental awareness and leadership by rushing out of bounds. He connected with Ratkovich to score a TD before hitting Tyrice Richie for the game-winning two-point conversion.
“I caught it,” Richie said, as the play was reviewed before being upheld as a catch. “I told my teammates and coach I caught it. I take pride in catching the ball. I know I’m going to get hit a lot, but I’m going to catch the ball.”
Leading the charge
After going three-and-out on their first two drives and a missed Georgia Tech field goal, NIU was able to strike first with a 35-yard run by Harrison Waylee to put the Huskies up 7-0 in the first quarter.
It is the first time the Huskies held a lead against a Power Five conference team since leading Utah 7-0 in the first quarter on Sept. 9, 2019. The Utes took a 21-17 lead at the half and pulled away to win that game 35-17.
It is the first time NIU has held a halftime lead on a Power Five team since Sept. 8, 2018 when the Huskies lead the Utes in DeKalb after thirty minutes 3-0. The Utes went on to win that game as well by a score of 17-6.
And it was the first win against a Power Five since a 7-6 win at BYU on October 27, 2018.
Both team’s QBs were under pressure early and often. Rocky Lombardi took a hard hit on the second play of the game for the NIU offense, altering the trajectory of his pass. On Georgia Tech’s first drive, Jeff Sims took an early sack from a pack of Huskies, lead by Devonte O’Malley. On an early fourth down attempt, Sims was pressured by Nick Rattin just enough to force an incomplete pass.
In Jordan Yates’ first play at quarterback for the Yellowjackets after Sims was knocked out unsuccessfully trying to recover a fumble, he narrowly avoided a sack in the endzone.
Later in the drive, Yates had a wide-open receiver but missed him as three Huskies chased him out of the pocket. NIU finished the first half with three sacks.
Lafayette carted off
With under 2 minutes left in the first half Huskie safety Devin Lafayette was injured after taking a block from a Georgia Tech offensive lineman on a rollout pass. Lafayette had to be taken out of the game in an ambulance to a local hospital. Lafayette had been a force on defense for the Huskies before his injury, recording four total tackles, the second-most in the first half.
His status was unknown after the game.
Run Waylee, run
Harrison Waylee put the Huskies on his back, accounting for over 100 yards and a TD. It is the third straight game that Waylee has had at least 100 yards rushing dating back to last season.
Waylee finished with 27 carries for a career-best 144 yards, and was one of only three Huskies to run the ball Saturday. Clint Ratkovich had seven carries for 13 yards, and Lombardi carried five times for 23 yards.