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Back Seat Coachin’: NIU 22 - Georgia Tech 21

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The Huskies shocked the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta on Saturday night.

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

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets dropped their opener against the Northern Illinois Huskies 22-21. The Huskies finished the 2020 season a miserable 0-6 but transfer quarterback Rocky Lombardi gave NIU new life in Week One.

Geoff Collins’ team looked sluggish and underwhelming, much like in 2019 and 2020. The Jackets have started the Collins Era 1-2 in opening games, and are now 1-4 against sub-Power 5 teams.

I do believe that even if Tech only wins two or three games, Coach Collins will be back for 2022. It’s just a matter of whether or not his coaching staff will remain in tact in order to save his own hide is the question.


On the dash

The Tech defense allowed NIU QB Rocky Lombardi to finish 11-of-17 for eight yards per pass attempt and two touchdowns without an interception. The Huskies starting running back, Harrison Waylee, ran for 144 yards on 5.3 yards per carry and a touchdown on the afternoon. The Huskies also had four receivers average double-digit yards per catch compared to Tech’s two.

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

NIU’s defense sacked GT four times, including four more hurries and six TFL’s. Tech only managed one TFL and two hurries, with zero sacks against Lombardi. The Jackets came away with only a single pass break up on the evening.

Jeff Sims left early with an injury, but was only averaging 2.6 yards per attempt as it was. Jordan Yates came in and moved the offense with quick decision making and finished with 7.5 yards per attempt and a TD. Jahmyr Gibbs and Jordan Mason ran for 99 and 96 yards, respectively. While NIU lost total yards and time of possession, they won the ball game.

GT finished 9-of-18 on 3rd down and 2-of-4 on 4th down, while allowing only 5-of-12 on 3rd down to NIU. Tech also only had two penalties which is a far cry from ‘21. So improvements were made in certain areas, but the song remained the same on the scoreboard.


GT Offense

I wrote an entire piece about Jeff Sims and his mind boggling good and bad play, called “Dr. Jeff and Mr. Sims” here for FTRS. It’s truly bizarre stuff where Sims goes from All-ACC QB with one throw to fumbling the mesh exchange a couple of plays later.

Above- Sims is a turnover machine through a season and a game of play at the collegiate level. Just another fumble on an exchange between Sims and his running back, with GT already down 14-0. Sims was injured and replaced by Jordan Yates.

Under Collins, GT has struggled with fundamentals. Pre-snap, penalties, sloppy turnovers, and poor tackling as well as struggles in the kicking game.

Above- Yates checks in and throws an absolute dart for a TD at the end of the first half. He’s smaller and lacks the speed and arm strength of Sims, but manages to put together better drives. Yates almost looks like a shortstop on a routine ground ball here, safely putting away the runner before he gets to first base.

Above- Tech loves to run gap scheme plays and get tackles and guards leading the way at the point of attack. Gap schemes do help with getting numbers to the POA and eliminating linebackers from run support. This is a nice wrinkle back to the days of Madden on PS2.

Above- Yates keeps on inside zone read with a wrapping TE to lead block for the QB. The TE blocks the most dangerous man here and Yates just has to beat one defender for the score. Tech goes ahead 21-14 late in the 4th on this run play.


GT Defense

Geoff Collins’ specialty is defense. He’s a defensive coordinator and linebacker by trade. Collins had an elite defense at the University of Florida as DC, and another really good defense at Temple as head coach. So what’s happened at Georgia Tech?

Above- NIU blocks this thing up perfectly, however, the Tech defense is also blown back three yards on initial contact. Then not only did they look weak at the point of attack, the GT safety is outran in open space. You can’t win being weak and slow, especially compared to NIU.

Above- NIU saw something while breaking down Tech film inside the 10 yard line. Tech is playing man coverage and doesn’t ‘banjo’ or ‘switch’ their DB’s onto other threats after the WRs both run inside slants. The TE runs an arrow route to the flat and the LB has no chance to get to the flat, especially with traffic from the two WRs.

Above- The CB needed to make an ‘in’ call and pass off one of the slants to that LB, and break off into the flat. No one has the flat, nor jams the TE and he free releases for a TD.

Above- With the game tied 14-14 in the 4th quarter, GT’s run fits look much better versus NIU. However, the initial Tech defender misses the tackle. That might cut it against NIU but the Jackets have to get better at tackling in order to compete against their top-5 schedule. It’s a nice strip of the Huskies ball carrier for the Jackets.

Above- Tech over rushes the passer, Lombardi steps up, and even with eight dropped NIU finds an open man. Then the receiver drags Tech defenders for nearly a dozen yards in a make or break situation.

Above- Tech gets beat on slant-flat once again, this time from a traditional 90’s NFL power formation. I’m a huge fan of an offense using simple plays to out smart over coached schemes. Tech has tons of X’s and O’s in with very little fundamentals to support them.

Above- Why not use some combo of slant and flat, again, to go up 22-21 on the road? NIU went for the win, as it should as the road underdog, and once again on a ‘money down’ type of situation GT failed to cash in. I mean make a damn adjustment already and not let NIU walk into the flats every time they’re inside the 10.


In the rearview

The Jackets lost to not just a Group of 5 squad, but a bad MAC squad at that. We’ll see what NIU does in a full season and with Lombardi at QB.

Tech on the other hand now has to turn around and face Kennesaw State and the triple option. Who did Kenny head coach Brian Bohannon learn the triple option under? You guessed it- Paul Johnson. Bohannon coached under PJ at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech cut down on the penalties, but still gave up the ball too easily and missed three field goals which would’ve been the game defining nine points. Hell, even going 1-of-3 would’ve been a victory for the Jackets. Same issues, different season.