Friday, September 27, 2013
No doubting Thomas or Hokies anymore
By Edward Aschoff
ATLANTA -- Sitting with Logan Thomas after Virginia Tech's pregame meal, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler told his quarterback that he had a gut feeling about a specific play. Loeffler knew it would generate points if the Hokies were close enough to the end zone.
Less than three minutes into Thursday night's game with Georgia Tech, the Hokies were close enough.
On second-and-4 on Virginia Tech's opening drive, Thomas showed play-action to the right and then looked as a wide open D.J. Coles sprinted over the middle of the field. Thomas zipped the ball to him and watched Coles bolt to the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown to give the Hokies the early 7-0 lead.
"He's been two-for-two on his gut feelings this year," Thomas said following Virginia Tech's 17-10 win over the Yellow Jackets.
The first was a crucial fourth-down call in last week's triple-overtime win over Marshall, but this one might have meant a little more because it put the Hokies (4-1, 1-0) right back into relevancy in not only the ACC's Coastal Division race, but the ACC in general.
QB Logan Thomas accounted for 279 yards of offense in the Hokies' win over Georgia Tech.
And Virginia Tech can thank No. 3’s gritty performance for another fast start in ACC play.
Plagued by inconsistent play for more than a year, Thomas looked like the Thomas of 2011 who was viewed as a potential top NFL draft pick. That Thomas didn't take the field last year, and after four up-and-down performances to start this season, it seemed that Thomas was lost again.
But with an illuminated Atlanta skyline serving as a picturesque backdrop outside of Bobby Dodd Stadium, Thomas found rhythm early. He connected on his first nine pass attempts and went into halftime with 149 passing yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 36 yards and another score. He ended the game with 279 total yards, which was three more than the Hokies' were credited with on offense.
What made his outing that much more impressive was the fact that he was playing his second straight game with a strained abdominal. Thomas said he strained a muscle during warmups before the Marshall game. After taking a pounding last week, Thomas' first pass of the week came when he hit receiver Willie Byrn for a 6-yard gain on the Hokies' first play from scrimmage.
"He's a quality, quality quarterback, and he's tough," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "He's mentally tough, and he's physically tough the way he runs the football and bangs around people. I'm proud of that guy."
Thomas said the pain didn't bother him until late in the second quarter when Georgia Tech controlled the clock more, preventing him from getting loose. The pain intensified in the second half, as he stayed on the sideline for more than 14 minutes, thanks to prolonged Yellow Jackets drives.
"I knew I was going to have to grind this one out," Thomas said.
Grind he did and now the Hokies turn into a real contender in the ACC. The defense has been impressive all season, and it held Georgia Tech to a season-low 129 rushing yards Thursday night, but the offensive players around Thomas really stepped up. This offense was hovering around mediocrity before Thursday, but the usual protection issues and dropped passes that have held Thomas and this offense back for the last year disappeared on Grant Field.
Eight players caught passes for 221 yards. And that was the plan. Outside of Thomas, the running game was nonexistent, but Thomas said the Hokies knew from watching film that they had the advantage if he could get into a rhythm throwing the ball.
"I knew we were going to start throwing it early and often and getting whatever we can," he said. "I was just seeing the field well and took what they gave me."
This offense is far from perfect, but things slowly moved in the right direction Thursday. In order for it to consistently flow smoothly, the Hokies have to keep Logan hot. As he goes, so do the Hokies.
"We need to build that rapport with him because as you can see, when he gets into a rhythm he can be pretty deadly," Byrn said.
"We just have to get him feeling comfortable like that. Receiver and the quarterback, we're really starting to get into that rhythm and once we do that, it'll be lights out from there."
Since the ACC championship game began in 2005, either Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech has represented the Coastal Division. The Hokies know a 1-0 conference start isn't the end all for this team (just look at last season), but it showed the ACC that the Hokies aren't gone. They might just be getting started.
"We were all kind of insulted that we were counted out," Byrne said. "We've been pretty prominent in this league for a while so to hear teams saying that they're focused on their big game a couple weeks ahead is really insulting. We made statement that we're here to stay and we have our eyes on the same prize, which is to win out, go undefeated and go to the ACC championship."