Lombardi lifts Northern Illinois past Georgia Tech, 22-21

Northern Illinois quarterback Rocky Lombardi (12), wide receiver Mohamed Toure (9), tight end...
Northern Illinois quarterback Rocky Lombardi (12), wide receiver Mohamed Toure (9), tight end Liam Soraghan (83) and tight end Miles Joiner (80) celebrate a touchdown by running back Harrison Waylee (30) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Tech on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Atlanta.(AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 5:48 PM CDT
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ATLANTA (AP) — Thomas Hammock had no interest in his underdog Northern Illinois team settling for an overtime against Georgia Tech.

Once Rocky Lombardi’s second touchdown pass in the final minute brought the Huskies to within one point, Hammock didn’t hesitate to keep his offense on the field. The coach ordered a 2-point play for the win.

Lombardi’s 2-point pass to Tyrice Richie with 38 seconds remaining survived an officials review and lifted Northern Illinois to a stunning 22-21 upset win over Georgia Tech on Saturday night.

Hammock said a potential tying kick wasn’t an appealing option after Lombardi’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Clint Ratkovich cut Georgia Tech’s lead to 21-20.

“Easy decision,” Hammock said. “We came here to win and we expected to win and that’s what we got done.”

Georgia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference was favored by 18 1/2 points over Northern Illinois, of the Mid-American Conference.

Northern Illinois led 14-0 but had a regroup after backup quarterback Jordan Yates, playing after Jeff Sims suffered an arm injury, rallied the Yellow Jackets with three unanswered touchdowns. Seeing his team rally but then lose in the final minute was a crushing start to Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins’ third season.

“Obviously, it hurts,” Collins said. “There’s a lot of guys in that locker room who are hurt.”

Lombardi, the Michigan State transfer, was given one final possession with 2:42 remaining. He made his debut for Northern Illinois (1-0) one to remember by directing the go-ahead drive that started with a 38-yard completion to Richie.

On the 2-point play, Lombardi rolled right before passing to Richie, whose leaping catch had to be reviewed. He landed with his hands outstretched and the ball took a small bounce as he hit the field. The replay indicated he kept his left hand under the ball, preventing the ball from hitting the field.

Gavin Stewart’s last-second, 60-yard field goal attempt for Georgia Tech (0-1) was blocked. The block triggered a celebration by North Illinois players, who bounced onto the field from the sideline.


Northern Illinois: The Huskies will play Wyoming in their home opener next Saturday.

Georgia Tech: Kennesaw State, which opened with a 35-25 win over NAIA school Reinhardt University on Thursday, visits the Yellow Jackets next Saturday.


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