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Monday (Afternoon) Report Card - NIU

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Georgia Tech Jenn Finch-USA TODAY Sports

Typically these report cards will be posted in the morning but... To quote our fearless leader, “that one hurt” and it’s taken a little extra time for me to recover.

After each game this year, we’ll be grading position groups (and the coaching staff) as we navigate what has become an even more uphill climb now that the Jackets have started off 0-1. As I do my best to eliminate emotion from the analysis, I’m going to request you put on your rose-colored glasses for at least a portion of this installment. Then please feel free to go back to your regularly scheduled skepticism. Onward.

Running Backs: B+

  • Jahmyr Gibbs - 20 carries for 99 yards
  • Jordan Mason - 15 carries for 96 yards

Our top two backs averaged 5.6 yards/carry and had to fight for most of it. A 15-yard TD by Dontae Smith was the group’s only score, but no turnovers and over 5 yards/carry is more than you can ask for most weeks. That being said, this week we were playing a team that went 0-6 last year and finished the 2020 season 120th out of 128 teams in opposing pts/game. For those keeping score, that isn’t very good.

Quarterbacks: F/B

This is where things start to go downhill.

Jeff Sims finished the night 3/8 for 21 yards in a disappointing start to what was supposed to be a breakout year. Two of the five misses should have been touchdowns. He had some good runs, but I spent most of that time holding my breath because of ya know... all the fumbles. Well, our reoccurring nightmares came true when he fumbled an exchange in the second quarter and would return to the sideline in the second half wearing a sling. We all hope for a speedy recovery and obviously wish him the best.

Jordan Yates entered the game and might be the only reason we even had a chance at winning. His throws were on target and he made some really gutsy plays on the ground, including a go-ahead TD in the 4th quarter. The potential is definitely there.

Wide Receivers/TE: D-

The numbers through the air almost positively would have been better had Yates been playing the whole game, but 48% of the team’s receiving yards were on two plays. Hard to beat up this unit too badly, but dropped passes in the second half and an inability to consistently get open against what might be the 11th best defense we’ll face all year warrants concern.

Downfield blocking was the group’s highlight of the night.

Offensive Line: F

Cohesive units don’t give up 4 sacks to Northern Illinois. Clemson? Sure. Northern Illinois. Nope.

Defensive Line: F+

Remember how about 5 seconds ago I said that Northern Illinois had 4 sacks on Saturday night? The Yellow Jacket DL had 0 sacks and 0 TFL. The only TFL came from the secondary.

We looked relatively small inside compared to a team from the MAC. For reference, the MAC ranks 10th in average weight per starting OL. The ACC? 2nd.

Northern Illinois was held to under 200 yards rushing so that’s cool...

Secondary: C-

For one of the most experienced units on the field, overall performance left a lot to be desired. That being said, when the defensive line is getting zero pressure, it makes things pretty difficult for the back end.

Northern Illinois had a 20-yard completion out of their own end zone early in the second half, but what hurt the most was giving up completions of 39, 16, and 6 before allowing Northern Illinois to take the lead on a pass play to the flat, an area exploited earlier in the game when the Huskies took a 14-0 lead.

Linebackers: B

Outside of the RB corps, this was the most impressive unit on the field for GT. Eley and Quez are arguably the most athletic LB combo the Jackets have had in a decade. Eley led the team in tackles (11 total, 8 solo) and Quez wasn’t too far behind (7 total, 4 solo).

There appears to be some depth here, as well, as Charlie Thomas came in and made some good plays (7 total tackles, 3 solo).

Special Teams: F+

Only reason this is an F+ is because our punter is Top 5 in average distance at 52.7 yards.

Tennessee transfer Brent Cimaglia was 0/2. The last miss, a 60-yard prayer kicked by freshman Gavin Stewart, was more of a formality than an actual attempt at winning the game.

Coaching: See me after class


See you all next week. Go Jackets!