Milton runs for 156 yards and 2 TDs, No. 1 Georgia holds off Georgia Tech 31-23

ATLANTA (AP) — Kendall Milton wasn’t surprised by Georgia’s ability to overcome a depleted offense to continue its dominance of rival Georgia Tech.

Milton ran for a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns and No. 1 Georgia held off the Yellow Jackets 31-23 on Saturday night to cap its third consecutive undefeated regular season with its sixth straight victory in the state rivalry.

Georgia was missing three of its top five receivers and a starting offensive lineman. Tight end Brock Bowers (ankle) and wide receivers Ladd McConkey (ankle) and Rara Thomas (foot sprain) did not play. Right guard Tate Ratledge (knee) also was held out.

“That’s what this team is built on,” Milton said. “I felt we never had a week with everyone on the field.”

Milton set a season high for a Georgia running back.

“Kendall stepped up all year,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “He did a great job with yards after contact.”

Georgia (12-0, No. 1 College Football Playoff) extended its school-record winning streak to 29 games. The Bulldogs have won 19 of the last 22 against Georgia Tech (6-6), but this was more competitive than most recent battles for the Governor’s Cup Trophy.

“This game is not measured by stats and rushing yards and first downs,” Smart said. “It is measured by heart and our guys have to have a lot of heart to show up like they have, week after week after week.”

Georgia protected its hopes of becoming the first team to win three straight national championships in The Associated Press poll era.

The Bulldogs will play No. 8 Alabama next week in the Southeastern Conference Championship game in Atlanta. Georgia players maintained their focus on taking care of bragging rights in the state before shifting their attention to Alabama.

Even Smart said he didn’t know details of Alabama’s last-minute 27-24 win over Auburn on Saturday.

“They made sure we knew how personal it was,” Milton said of Georgia coaches. “They really put it in perspective of how important it is. This game was a game to make history, to finish it out the right way.”

Quarterback Haynes King had two touchdown runs and Jamal Haynes also ran for a score. Eric Singleton Jr. had four catches for 96 yards as the Yellow Jackets gained 363 yards, including 205 on the ground.

“There are no moral victories,” said Georgia Tech coach Brent Key. “We came up short today.”

King’s 5-yard scoring run with 3:46 remaining cut Georgia’s lead to 31-23. Georgia recovered an onside kick and relied on its running game, led by Milton and Daijun Edwards, to run out the clock.

Georgia Tech led 7-0 in the first quarter and 10-7 in the second before the Bulldogs answered with 24 consecutive points to lead 31-13 late in the third.

The Bulldogs committed a turnover on their first snap. Edwards fumbled when hit by linebacker Kyle Efford. Kenan Johnson recovered for the Yellow Jackets at the Georgia 37. Following King’s 28-yard pass to Brett Seither, King’s 9-yard scoring run gave Georgia Tech a 7-0 lead.

Carson Beck’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Lovett tied it. Milton and Edwards had 3-yard scoring runs to give Georgia a 21-13 halftime lead.

KEY TO IMPROVEMENT

The Bulldogs outscored the Yellow Jackets 134-21 the last three years, including a 45-0 rout in 2021 and a 37-14 win last season. This game was more competitive in the Yellow Jackets’ first full season with Key.

“Credit to Georgia Tech,” Smart said.

“You see across the country in these rivalry games what happens. I know better than anybody that it can go either way in these type games. Very emotional. Very different.”

TOO MANY FIELD GOALS

Georgia Tech had to settle for three field goals by Aidan Birr.

“Anytime you don’t convert touchdowns when you get in the red area, those windows get tighter,” Key said.

THE TAKEAWAY

Georgia: The Bulldogs compiled 437 yards despite missing some of their top receivers and committing two turnovers, including fourth-quarter interception thrown by Carson Beck from the Georgia Tech 6. The ball, intended for Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, was picked off by K.J. Wallace.

Georgia Tech: Offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner, the former Georgia’s offensive quality control assistant for quarterbacks, had an impressive plan. The Yellow Jackets were effective in mixing runs by King, Dontae Smith and Jamal Haynes with passes to speedy wide receiver Eric Singleton. Haynes ran for 81 yards. Singleton had four catches for 96 yards.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Georgia’s lead in The AP Top 25 poll could shrink as it tries to extend its streak of 23 consecutive weeks atop the poll, the longest streak in SEC history. The Bulldogs also will be looking to retain their No. 1 spot in the CFP.

UP NEXT

Georgia: Faces No. 8 Alabama in the SEC championship game next Saturday in Atlanta.

Georgia Tech: Awaits its first bowl invitation since 2018.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

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