CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina displayed the means to just about keep up with Georgia Tech in the rushing department and that had the Tar Heels running off to another victory.
Running back Elijah Hood ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns as No. 21 North Carolina drilled Georgia Tech 48-20 on Saturday at Kenan Stadium, winning for the third game in a row.
“Really everything worked,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “There were some plays that we thought we could out-scheme them on.”
Hood’s big outing contributed to North Carolina’s season-high 283 rushing yards and a suddenly balanced offense.
The Tar Heels (7-2, 5-1 in the ACC) entered the game tied with Virginia Tech, which played later at Duke, for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division, although the Hokies own the tiebreaker.
“We have to win out to even have that shot,” North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky said of advancing to the ACC title game. “You want to see it work out in our favor so we have a shot at the ACC championship. (We’re) trying to take care of our business.”
Hood, who carried only 12 times, rushed for first-quarter touchdowns of 1 and 36 yards, the latter coming on a fourth-and-1 play. He had 114 yards on the ground by the end of the first quarter.
Hood tacked on a 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter before teammate T.J. Logan’s 20-yard touchdown run sent the Tar Heels to a 41-20 advantage.
Trubisky completed 20 of 32 passes for 329 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for an 18-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Yet some of the most encouraging work for North Carolina came on defense against a team that it often has troubling containing.
“We held them to 20 points and created extra possessions by stopping them on fourth down, blocking a field goal and creating two turnovers,” Fedora said.
“A couple of big plays that they shouldn’t have had, but really proud of the way those kids played on defense.”
Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas ran for 82 yards and passed for 184, but he left because of an undisclosed upper-body injury late in the third quarter and didn’t return. He was shaken up on a 21-yard run.
Freshman running back Dedrick Mills racked up a season-high 132 rushing yards on 19 carries for the Yellow Jackets (5-4, 2-4).
The Yellow Jackets, though, were erratic on offense and managed only three second-half points.
“For us to be successful on offense, we have to run the ball well,” said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, whose team stalled at inopportune times despite compiling 518 yards of offense. “That is who we are.”
Perhaps more troubling for the Yellow Jackets was a defense that surrendered large chunks of yardage.
“When it starts going, it seems like it steamrolls and no one can make a play that gets you off the field,” Johnson said. ” … We should be able to play better.”
Fedora said the Tar Heels, who were coming off an open week, looked refreshed and energized. That was evident right way.
The first half had its share of wild moments, with the teams combining for 698 yards of total offense.
The Tar Heels led 27-17 at the break after Georgia Tech’s Harrison Butker had a 37-yard field goal blocked by D.J. Ford in the final minute.
However, the Yellow Jackets were within 27-20 midway through the third quarter after Butker’s 42-yarder.
North Carolina scored on the game’s first possession, going 75 yards in under two minutes. The first of Nick Weiler’s two first-half field goals pushed the lead to 10-0. Weiler connected from 37 and 50 yards.
Georgia Tech stayed in it, partly because of big plays.
Thomas, a senior, connected with Norcross grad Clinton Lynch for an 83-yard catch-and-run play. It was the longest touchdown pass in Thomas’ career and the longest play from scrimmage for the Yellow Jackets in five years.
Mills scored on a 4-yard run for Georgia Tech with 3:06 to go before halftime, but the Tar Heels responded less than a minute later.
Trubisky hooked up with receiver Bug Howard for a 68-yard touchdown pass play with 2:24 left in the half.
Notes: Big point totals are nothing new for these teams. In the previous four Georgia Tech-North Carolina games, the teams combined to average 81.5 points. … North Carolina has its first three-game winning streak in the series with Georgia Tech since 1992-94. … North Carolina’s defense is without an interception this season. … After going 8 for 13 on third-down conversions against Georgia Tech, The Tar Heels have converted 27 of 48 third downs across their last three games. … North Carolina won’t travel more than 10 miles for four November games, including a road assignment Thursday night at Duke. … Georgia Tech visits the other Coastal Division co-leader, Virginia Tech, next week.