ATLANTA, GA — Georgia Tech fans had every sensible reason to believe that the Yellow Jackets would walk away from their game against Northern Illinois this past weekend with a victory, after all, the Huskies hadn’t won a game in almost two years, so that made it even more of a guaranteed win, right? Well, the Huskies had other plans for the Yellow Jackets, and that plan involved handing them their first loss of the new season.
The game was close and exciting throughout, and Northern Illinois was able to squeeze out a 22-21 victory. Despite the loss, Georgia Tech did show improvement in some areas, looked bad in some, and just downright ugly in others. Let’s take a look at some of those areas:
Penalties- As a Georgia Tech fan, this area concerned me the most, especially with the youth of this team. I figured that the Yellow Jackets would continue to struggle like they did last season, which seen the Yellow Jackets ranked at 119th out of 127 teams in penalty yards per game. However, I was really impressed with the improvement here, with Georgia Tech only getting called for one penalty for five yards the entire game.
Running Backs- The running game was the backbone of the offense throughout the night, with the Yellow Jackets totaling 273 rushing yards in the game. Both Jahmyr Gibbs and Jordan Mason were stellar for the Yellow Jackets, with Gibbs rushing for 99 yards on 20 carries, and Mason rushing for 96 yards on 15 carries. Gibbs three catches were also the second on the team.
Malachi Carter- Coming into Saturday night’s game, the Yellow Jackets were looking for a true number 1 receiver to help the passing game get rolling, and Carter stepped up in the biggest way possible, hauling in six passes for 92 yards. The performance solidified that Georgia Tech now has a playmaker at wide out.
Jordan Yates- After starting quarterback Jeff Simms came out of the game with an elbow injury, Yates came in and put on quite a show in a little over two quarters of action, completing 12 of his 18 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. Yates proved in this game that he can take over the starting job while Simms’ recovers from his injury.
Run defense- The Yellow Jackets ranked 86th in the nation last year in rush defense, allowing 189 yards per game. The Yellow Jackets continued to struggle in that category, allowing 165 yards Saturday night, including a 144-yard performance by Huskies running back Harrison Waylee. It is a twenty four yard difference between last year and this year so far, but as Georgia Tech heads into their ACC schedule later this month, they will have to step up in this category to find success this season.
Jeff Simms- It sounds crazy to think, but Georgia Tech’s saving grace in this game may have been Simms getting taken out of the game just before halftime. The Yellow Jackets were down 14-0 at the time, and Simms had just fumbled the ball to give the Huskies the ball at midfield. His 2.6 QBR was absolutely atrocious, and perhaps his only saving grace was his 34 rushing yards.
Not being opportunistic- The Georgia Tech offense moved the ball in to Huskies territory multiple times in the first half, but they just couldn’t finish out drives (which I will get to later in this article). They Yellow Jacket offense had entered of opportunities to capitalize on, but they simply couldn’t. My best guess is the youth on the team.
Special Teams- Aside from some nice punts from David Shanahan, the special teams unit remains an ugly part of Georgia Tech football for now. Kicker Brent Cimaglia went 0-3 in the game, including a blocked field goal attempt as time expired. Aside from the field goal unit, the Yellow Jackets got lucky on a dropped punt that the Huskies recovered deep in Georgia Tech territory due to an illegal formation penalty.
The field goal attempt decision at the end of the game- As I stood on the sideline, waiting for the possible photo opportunity of a hail mary to win the game for the Yellow Jackets, the field goal unit trotted out onto the field to attempt a 60-yard field goal as time expired. Why in the World would a kicker that missed two previous field goals come in the game and be expected to make a 60-yarder? At that point, Yates has the arm to throw the ball 50 yards to the end zone, and it would have given us a better chance at winning the game in my opinion.