NIU Shocks Georgia Tech In Final Seconds

Photo Credit: Enka Lawson

ATLANTA – Trailing Georgia Tech 21-14 with 42 seconds left to play, the NIU Huskies faced a 1st and goal at the 3-yard line. Quarterback Rocky Lombardi Jr. lined up under center to take the snap. He looked left, then back to center, took the snap, rolled back left looked to running back Harrison Waylee.

Lombardi Jr. faked the handoff to Waylee, pulled the ball back up center to his chest, had his sight shift focus on the right side towards the endzone. Just five steps from taking it from under center, Lombardi Jr. locked his eyes on his target, set his feet, and ripped off a spiral rocket towards the right goal line. Waylee picked up a block from the tech D-Line to prevent a knockdown as the ball sailed past the two.

Awaiting that pass was senior tailback Chris Ratkovick, who stretched out his hands and haled in the completion. Once securing it, Ratkovick turned counterclockwise toward the right sideline and then locked his eyes on the corner goal-line pylon. He took three steps towards the pylon and was in the endzone, having cut the deficit to just one, with the score reading 20-21, in favor of Georgia Tech.

The Huskies would soon convert the two-point conversion as Lombardi Jr. connected with senior receiver Thyce Richie over the middle to the back of the endzone to take a 22-21 lead over the Yellow Jackets. However, all hope was not lost.

Tech had one last shot with the ball. Jahmyr Gibbs received the kickoff at the 11-yard line and looked upfield, and made his way to the 25-yard line.

On first down, Jordan Yates took a roughing the passer penalty and the ball immediately moved to the 40-yard line. After an incompletion from Yates, he would connect with Gibbs for 9 yards and then with Azdene Rey for 8-yards to put the ball at the NIU 43.

Geoff Collins then made the call to send out graduate transfer kicker from Tennessee Brent Cimaglia to attempt a 60-yard field goal. The kick didn’t even get a chance to liftoff, as Michael Kennedy blocked it and put an end to this one at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

The Huskies had finished the way they started, after taking the early lead over Tech in the first quarter. The score came on a 35 yard TD rush from Waylee.

In the 2nd quarter, Lombardi connected with Miles Joyner to make it 14-0 Huskies with 10:17 left in the half.

It wouldn’t be until the 1st half was nearing a close that the Jackets would get on the board. It came on a 1st and 10 from the NIU 22 yard line, as Yates connected with Kyric McGowan for Georgia Tech’s first TD of 2021.

The 3rd quarter went scoreless for both squads. Then midway through the fourth quarter, the Jackets were capping off a five-play 77-yard drive. This time they did it on the ground, with a Dontae Smith 15-yard score to tie things up at 14.

On the NIU ensuing possession, they would fumble, and Tech took over at the Huskies 25-yard line. Three plays later and all of a sudden a seven-point deficit had turned into a seven-point lead for the Jackets within a minute and twelve seconds.

Following consecutive punts, NIU took over trailing with 2:42 left to play and would be able to drive it down to a goal-to-go situation. And… Well, you know the rest.

The win catapults the season for NIU, who head back home to host Wyoming next Saturday, September 11th. Meanwhile, the Jackets will look to regroup and continue building as they play host to Kennesaw St. on Saturday, September 11th.

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