Georgia Tech pushes Ole Miss but misses on upset bid

AP photo by Thomas Graning / Georgia Tech quarterback Haynes King passes during Saturday's game at Ole Miss.
AP photo by Thomas Graning / Georgia Tech quarterback Haynes King passes during Saturday's game at Ole Miss.

OXFORD, Miss. — Jaxson Dart ran for two touchdowns and threw for another as No. 17 Ole Miss pulled away in the final 10 minutes to defeat Georgia Tech 48-23 on Saturday night.

Ole Miss (3-0) needed a 45-yard field goal from Caden Davis, a 68-yard touchdown reception by Jordan Watkins from Dart and a 1-yard run by Quinshon Judkins to seal the win after the Yellow Jackets pulled within 24-17 with 10:31 remaining.

"It's good to get to 3-0. It wasn't pretty at times, but all you can be after three games is 3-0, and that's great," Rebels coach Lane Kiffin said. "Jaxson did some special things running the ball, and he made a couple of explosive plays in the passing game, too."

Dart finished 10-of-18 passing for 251 yards and added 14 rushes for 136 yards. He scored on runs of 1 and 6 yards as the Rebels had 550 total yards of offense, including 341 in the second half.

"I thought we did a good job of getting back to being balanced, and that means running the ball," Dart said. "I do need to slide more at the end of my runs. My mom reminds me all the time to slide."

Georgia Tech (1-2) was led by quarterback Haynes King, who was 28-of-41 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Trailing 24-3, King had a 1-yard touchdown run and a 15-yard pass to Eric Singleton Jr. to pull the Jackets within 24-17. He added a late touchdown pass of 14 yards to Avery Boyd.

"Disappointing game. Disappointing," Tech coach Brent Key repeated. "It's disappointing any time you don't come out with the outcome you want."

The Rebels played without leading receiver Tre Harris, who sustained a knee injury in last weekend's win over Tulane. Harris, a Louisiana Tech transfer, had five touchdown receptions in two starts, including a school record four scores in the opening win over Mercer.

Judkins, who was listed as doubtful, played despite being limited during practice all week with midsection discomfort. He finished with 13 carries for 37 yards, including the fourth-quarter touchdown.

"I commend him for playing," Kiffin said. "He played physical and was out there helping us win. It's clear we've got significant major-impact injuries on offense."

Ulysses Bentley and Matt Jones scored on runs of 21 and 36 yards, respectively, for the Rebels.

Ole Miss got two big plays in the kicking game. In the first quarter, Zxavian Harris blocked a 43-yard field-goal attempt and Ole Miss followed with a touchdown drive of 34 yards, capped by a 1-yard run from Dart for a 10-0 lead.

In the third quarter, the Jackets failed on a fourth-down pass from punt formation, as Ole Miss took over at the Tech 28-yard line. Five plays later, Dart scored on a 6-yard run for a 24-3 lead.

Tech defensive tackle D'Quan Douse had nine tackles, including one for loss, and Key's rebuilding team provided a much better performance than last year's embarrassing 42-0 home loss. Despite a 1-2 start, Tech has the look of an Atlantic Coast Conference spoiler — they return to league play with next weekend's visit to Wake Forest, with the Jackets having dropped their season opener to Louisville — with realistic hopes of postseason play.

"We will take some of the positives we had and build on those," said Key, Tech's interim coach for the final eight games last season before having the interim label removed as he took charge at his alma mater. "But at the end of the day, we have some things we need to get better at."

The Rebels avoided getting caught looking ahead to next Saturday's Southeastern Conference opener at Alabama. That game is followed by consecutive home dates against LSU and Arkansas.

"We're happy to be 3-0, but now it's SEC time," Bentley said. "It's going to be a big task and challenge this week. We know it."

Earlier in the week, defensive tackle DeSanto Rollins filed a lawsuit in federal court in Oxford, accusing Kiffin and the school of racial and sexual discrimination and negligence saying his release from the team came during a mental health crisis. Rollins, who is Black, is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages.

When asked about the status of the lawsuit in the postgame news conference, Kiffin said: "We have nothing further to say at this time."

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