ATLANTA -- With Jonathan Dwyer watching from the sidelines during a weekend off, Anthony Allen put on a performance worthy of the former ACC offensive player of the year now with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Allen rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns as Georgia Tech gained 477 yards on the ground in a 33-21 homecoming victory over Virginia on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Paul Johnson's spread option offense hadn't been quite as hard to stop this season without Dwyer, who declared for the NFL draft a year early after rushing for 1,395 each of his last two seasons.
But Allen, a senior in his second season with the Yellow Jackets after transferring from Louisville, had a breakout game against the Cavaliers after going without a touchdown in his first five games as the starting B-back.
Running over Virginia defenders when not racing by them, Allen had touchdown runs of 6 and 18 yards in the third quarter and 8 yards in the fourth to cap a 97-yard drive as defending ACC champion Georgia Tech improved to 3-1 in the conference and 4-2 overall.
"I thought he played really well," Johnson said. "He ran through a lot of tackles."
Allen had 115 yards on 20 carries in the ACC opener at North Carolina, but he was held to 35 yards on 14 carries in the home loss to North Carolina State and had 63 yards on 10 carries in last week's comeback victory at Wake Forest.
"I didn't know what to do," Allen said of finally getting into the end zone. "That first one, I didn't know I scored a touchdown until I was up on my feet and everyone was clapping. It was good to get that first touchdown and my second and my third."
Against Virginia, Allen had nine yards on two carries in the first quarter and then took off. He had 76 yards on 10 tries in the second quarter and then 96 in eight carries in third, breaking off a 44-yard run. He finished with 25 carries, taking a seat after his last TD put the Yellow Jackets ahead by 19 points with less than five minutes left.
"I still didn't finish as many runs as I wanted to," Allen said. "There were a couple of long runs where I should have just trusted my speed and kept going. But I tried to cut back into a guy."
Georgia Tech's often-maligned defense gave up 376 yards, but 98 of them came on a late TD drive by Virginia (2-3, 0-2) after the game was decided.
Despite what became a convincing victory, the Yellow Jackets still had their up-and-down moments. Senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, hyped as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate coming into the season, fumbled four times -- losing one -- and threw an interception on a forward pitch in another uneven outing.
On the good side, Nesbitt rushed for 109 yards on 21 carries and his 67-yard run in the fourth quarter was the longest of his career.
The Yellow Jackets' 477 yards rushing was their most in an ACC game and the fifth-best total in school history. But they were down 7-6 until Nesbitt scored on a sneak with 36 seconds left before halftime.
Georgia Tech had 302 yards in the first two quarters and drove into Cavaliers territory on all six of its possessions. All the Yellow Jackets had to show for it, though, were field goals of 40 and 28 yards by Scott Blair until Nesbitt barged into the end zone from less than a yard out for a 13-7 halftime lead.
"We were our own worst enemy, fumbling the ball and bogging down in the red zone," Johnson said.
Nesbitt was charged with two first-half fumbles, losing one at the Virginia 33-yard line, and had a pass tipped and intercepted by linebacker Darnell Carter at the 8-yard line.
Georgia Tech gave up just 107 yards in the first half, with 60 of them coming on a quick-strike drive by the Cavaliers early in the second quarter after the Yellow Jackets had turned the ball over on fourth down. Virginia fullback Matt Millen went 37 yards up the middle for the touchdown.
A fumble caused and recovered by Mario Butler at the Virginia 31 on Cavaliers' first possession of the second half was quickly cashed in by the Yellow Jackets and Georgia Tech was in charge.
Keith Payne had a pair of 1-yard scores for Virginia, but the last came with just 49 seconds left in the game.
Johnson said he liked what he saw from his improving defense, although he called the late drive by Virginia "disappointing."
"I think we have played better on defense the last two games for sure," the coach said.
After a home non-league game with Middle Tennessee next Saturday, the Yellow Jackets enter the meat of their ACC season with consecutive games against Clemson, Virginia Tech and Miami. Only the game with the Hurricanes is in Atlanta.
"We still control our own fate," Johnson said.