Huskies Get Boneyard Win Over Georgia Tech – Northern Illinois University Athletics

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ATLANTA, Ga. – Tyrice Richie made a diving catch of a two-point conversion pass with 38 seconds to play to give the Northern Illinois University Huskies (1-0) a 22-21 win over Georgia Tech (0-1) Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
 
The catch, made official after a review that seemed much longer than the two minutes in actual time, followed a three-yard touchdown pass from Rocky Lombardi to Clint Ratkovich that pulled NIU within one at 21-20.  Ratkovich’s catch capped a textbook two-minute drive executed nearly perfectly by Lombardi and the Huskie offense as they drove 80 yards in nine plays and 2:04 for the winning score.
 
NIU Head Coach Thomas Hammock was not surprised that the Huskies were able to make the plays when it counted in the end and said the decision to go for two to win the game in that situation was made on Friday night in game management planning.  
 
“I know the toughness of our team, and the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender,” Hammock said. “We were not gonna quit, we were not gonna give up, we were going to find a way to make a play and those kids did that.
 
“I’m proud of our kids and proud of our coaches. The commitment it takes to go through a season like we did last year with every adversity, nobody made an excuse, nobody got down, everyone still believed and today it was good to see their belief rewarded.  I thought we played well in all three phases and gave ourselves a chance.”
 
Lombardi completed 11-of-17 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Senior linebacker Lance Deveaux Jr. led the NIU defense with 12 tackles, eight solo and the Huskies collected four sacks on the night.  NIU
 
After Georgia Tech took its first lead of the game with 6:32 to play on a four-yard run by quarterback Jordan Yates that followed a Huskie fumble at the 25-yard line, Lombardi and company began the game-winning drive with a 39-yard completion to Richie.  After a pair of incompletions, the junior transfer hit tailback Harrison Waylee for 16 yards on third-and-10, and Waylee ran for 11 yards to the Georgia Tech 14 on the next play. Runs by Waylee and Lombardi gained five yards and a six-yard completion gave the Huskies a first down at the Tech three, setting up the final plays.
 
The Huskie defense held one final time in the last 38 seconds as the Yellow Jackets drove from their 25 to the NIU 43 before a 60-yard field goal attempt was blocked by NIU’s Michael Kennedy, giving NIU its first “Boneyard” Victory since 2018 and its 17th all-time. Boneyard Wins are collected over prominent opponents or teams from leagues now designated as “Power 5”.  The Huskies earned their third win over an ACC opponent all-time and first since defeating Maryland in 2003.
 
Waylee ran for a career high 144 yards on 27 carries and opened the scoring with a 35-yard touchdown run at 3:42 of the first quarter to give NIU a 7-0 lead.  The Johnston, Iowa product accounted for 63 of the Huskies’ 74 yards on the drive.
 
“Harrison is twice the player he was last year,” Hammock said. “He put the work in.  We went into this game determined to make it a four-quarter game.”   
 
NIU took a 14-0 lead on its next possession. With 10:14 to play in the half, Lombardi hit tight end Miles Joiner with a five-yard pass to complete a 12-play, 66-yard drive.
 
Cornerback Eric Rogers recovered a Georgia Tech fumble on the Jackets’ next possession. After the NIU drive stalled, punter Matt Ference pinned Georgia Tech on its own three-yard line. From there, the Jackets drove 97 yards in 17 plays behind back-up quarterback Jordan Yates and converted four third-downs to keep the drive alive. Yates connected with wide receiver Kyric McGowan on a 22-yard completion for the touchdown as the half ended with NIU leading Georgia Tech 14-7.
 
Neither team dented the scoreboard in the third quarter although Georgia Tech appeared to have scored when Yates found McGowan in the corner of the end zone with 7:49 on the clock, but review showed that McGowan’s foot was out of bounds when he caught the ball and NIU took over at its two-yard line.
 
The next three possessions ended in punts before Georgia Tech put together a five-play, 77-yard scoring drive that started with a 53-yard completion from Yates to Malachi Carter to the NIU 24-yard line. On fourth and one, Dontae Smith went in from 15 yards out for the touchdown with Brent Cimaglia’s PAT tying the score at 14 with 7:44 to play.
 
Yates and the Jackets then took advantage of Waylee fumble on the second play of NIU’s next possession as the quarterback scored from four yards out to give Georgia Tech the lead.
 
The teams traded punts again with Tech’s punt sailing into the end zone with 2:42 left, giving NIU time to mount its game-winning drive.
 
In honor of NIU’s 17th Boneyard Victory all-time, tickets to the Huskies home opener versus Wyoming next Saturday, Sept. 11, are on sale for $17 using this link: https://bit.ly/NIUBoneYard.
 
For all the ticket options, including season tickets, Family Packs, mini-plans and more, including premium area seating, go online to NIUHuskies.com/tickets.
 
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