CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Now that Elijah Hood is feeling his best, it was only a matter of time before he played like it.
Hood ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns to help No. 18 North Carolina beat Georgia Tech 48-20 on Saturday.
The Tar Heels (7-2, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 21 CFP) piled up 636 total yards. They had a season-high 283 on the ground and scored the game's final 21 points.
Hood got some rest and recovery during North Carolina's open date, shaking off the effects of some nagging injuries that hampered his effectiveness the first half of the season.
"I'm just happy to be back and be able to move the way that I like to and not be worried about it," he said. "I'm having a lot more fun with it."
Hood had plenty of room to run against the Yellow Jackets (5-4, 2-4), breaking into the secondary untouched on several carries between the tackles.
He ran for 45 yards on his first carry of the game and put the Tar Heels ahead 17-7 with a 36-yard touchdown sprint on fourth-and-1.
"He ran wild," North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. "That's kind of what we expect out of him."
Trubisky passed for 329 yards and a touchdown as the Tar Heels beat Georgia Tech for the third consecutive year — the first time that's happened since 1992-94.
Justin Thomas passed for 184 yards and a touchdown for the Yellow Jackets. He also rushed for 82 yards before suffering an upper-body injury near the end of a 21-yard run late in the third quarter.
Thomas received medical attention on the bench before heading to the locker room area prior to the start of the fourth quarter. He did not return to the game.
• Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets fell behind 10-0 in the first seven minutes and couldn't get enough defensive stops to make up the deficit. Georgia Tech still needs to win one of its final three games to become bowl eligible for the 19th time in the last 20 seasons. "We played about as poorly as you can on defense and not much better on offense or special teams," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "A deadly combination."
• North Carolina: The Tar Heels had an extra week to prepare for Georgia Tech's option offense and needed every bit of it. They recovered two fumbles in the second half and kept alive their hopes of repeating as Coastal Division champions despite being gashed for 518 total yards and 7.6 yards per play.
The Tar Heels might gain a little ground; at worst they solidified their position in the top 20 with their 13th win in their last 14 ACC regular-season games.
FEAST OR FAMINE
Hood rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries in the first quarter, but he did not carry the ball in the second quarter. Teammate T.J. Logan matched Hood's total with seven carries in the first half, but he gained a total of 10 yards.
Trubisky was as effective through the air as Hood was on the ground. He helped North Carolina convert 8 of 13 third-down chances, completing 9 of 11 passes for 85 yards on third down. "He's really good," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. "I'll put him up there against anybody in the country."
North Carolina picked up a first down or a touchdown on six of its first eight plays. . Thomas averaged 54.7 yards on his three completions in the first half, including an 83-yard touchdown strike to Clinton Lynch. ... North Carolina wide receiver Bug Howard had six catches for 120 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. It was Howard's third consecutive 100-yard receiving game. ... Georgia Tech scored on only three of six trips into the red zone.
• Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets head to No. 23 Virginia Tech to play the third game of a four-game stretch against Coastal Division competition.
• North Carolina: The Tar Heels don't have to leave the state of North Carolina for the rest of the regular season, but they face a short week of preparation vs. Duke.