It was a festive affair, all right, but only for the Yellow Jackets and their chair cushion-flinging fans, who reveled in a 31-3 Atlantic Coast Conference rout at Bobby Dodd Stadium that kept the Terps from improving on their best start in 17 years.
The game was Maryland's first on national television since 1989, and it also was witnessed by 15 NFL scouts, who Milanovich hopes will come back for another look.
A fifth-year senior from Butler, Pa., who was suspended for four games for gambling on intercollegiate athletics, Milanovich has been under intense scrutiny since April, when news of an investigation surfaced.
The attention only heightened when coach Mark Duffner broke up a winning combination by benching redshirt sophomore Brian Cummings, who had led the Terps to a 4-0 record. Maryland (4-1, 2-1) was ranked No. 17, but surely it will drop out of the Top 25.
Milanovich threw for 352 yards, belatedly breaking Boomer Esiason's school record for career yardage, and his 32 completions were the most ever against Georgia Tech, but it was a rerun of the past two years, when he piled up the statistics and the Terps were woefully deficient in other areas and on the scoreboard.
"It's not what I anticipated," said Milanovich, who was asked about second-guessing that will surround the quarterback strategy. "I can't worry about that. I've proven myself year in, year out. It's not like I played badly, but we just missed a couple of times. It's tough when all you can do is throw the ball [the Terps were held to negative rushing yardage]."
Asked if Milanovich would continue to start, Duffner said "right now, we're going to continue to look at how we can get better as a football team."
The defense allowed 411 yards and the running game that had been so effective in the first four games disappeared, but none of that seemed to matter on a night when all eyes were on Milanovich. He punted poorly, was intercepted on Maryland's second possession and fumbled away a snap on the Terps' first JTC try of the second half.
Even when things started out right for him and the Terps, they ended up all wrong. Maryland, which hasn't scored a touchdown at Grant Field since 1991, got in the end zone twice, but both plays were called back by penalties. The first mistake was by the Terps' short-yardage offense, but the second was a dubious official's call that negated an outside screen that Jermaine Lewis took 80 yards.
Instead it went for 43, as slot receiver Geroy Simon was called for an illegal block on free safety Mike Dee as Lewis was blowing by him. Instead of being within a touchdown with 2:41 to go in the third quarter, the Terps were frustrated one more time.
The Yellow Jackets (2-2, 1-1) were idle last week, and usually a step ahead of the Terps, who were playing on five days' rest. Coach George O'Leary, who already had the second-rated defense in the ACC, cooked up an extensive blitz package that befuddled Milanovich, and that as much as anything was responsible for Georgia Tech's first win over a Division I-A team after 13 straight losses.
"I thought we went after them pretty well and put pressure on them the whole game," O'Leary said. "There was constant pressure on [Milanovich]. He's a great quarterback, and when there's time, he's going to complete a lot of passes on you. We mixed it up very well between some zone and man coverage. . . . we kept him off base a little."
The Yellow Jackets sacked Milanovich six times for losses of 51 yards, and sophomore superback Buddy Rodgers, who came in with 393 yards rushing, had just four on six carries. The sacks allowed Georgia Tech to limit Maryland to minus-30 yards rushing, a school record.
Donnie Davis directed a Yellow Jackets offense that drove 91, 76, 63 and 65 yards for touchdowns, the last two in the final six minutes. The prettiest was a 25-yard pass to a diving, twisting Cedric Zachery with 50 seconds to go in the half that capped a disheartening three minutes for Maryland.
Lewis, who had 13 catches for 189 yards, turned a sideline pass from Milanovich on third-and-19 into a 33-yard gain, down to the Yellow Jackets' 1-yard line.
With Orlando Strozier, and not Cummings, operating the short-yardage offense, back Kevin Plank was called for motion on first-down-and-inches from a touchdown. When Milanovich's third-down pass was batted away at the line by defensive end Jermaine Miles, the Terps instead took Joe O'Donnell's 22-yard field goal with 3:12 left in the half.