Thomas, Hokies look for turnaround at No. 14 Miami
Thomas has turned the ball over four times in each of the Hokies' last two games, a home loss against Duke and a road setback at Boston College. The redshirt senior threw four interceptions against the Blue Devils and two more, along with two fumbles, last week. Stanford, a redshirt freshman wide receiver, said Thomas is not all to blame.
''A great deal of the interceptions fall on us as receivers,'' he said.
''Sometimes it's us not making the catch and then the ball gets intercepted,'' he said. ''Sometimes it's us not making a play on the ball or batting it down. Sometimes it's us running the wrong routes.''
The Hokies (6-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) hope to get those things corrected on Saturday when they play at No. 14 Miami (7-1, 3-1) with a chance to get back into the Coastal Division title chase.
Thomas and the Hokies have been hampered all season on offense by having an unreliable running game and a young receiving corps, and the scrutiny of his play has, at times, bordered on the ridiculous.
One of the interceptions against Boston College came when Thomas threw the ball to Willie Byrn, perhaps his most reliable receiver, and the ball glanced off Byrn's fingers and was picked off.
Thomas laughed at the suggestion this week that he threw the ball too hard, saying he was confident that Byrn would have said he was to blame, and Stanford spared nothing in defending his quarterback.
''Uh, no,'' he scoffed when asked if the ball sometimes arrives too quickly. ''We're receivers. We're here to catch the ball. That's what we're supposed to do, and ... I like the ball to get there quicker.''
The scrutiny is nothing new for Thomas. The Hokies offense struggled all last season, too, and led coach Frank Beamer to clean house on his coaching staff, bringing in four new offensive coaches.
The offense, and Thomas' performances, have been better than people think, new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said, and all it takes is a few mistakes to turn a good performance into a losing one.
''The fact of the matter is if you eliminated two or three plays, all you guys would be talking about is how great he played,'' Loeffler told reporters, defending Thomas after practice on Wednesday night.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have seen both sides of the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder.
Two years ago, he completed 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns in a victory against the Hurricanes. Last year, he was 19 for 37 for 199 yards and scored on a 73-yard run, but Miami prevailed.
''We're 1-1 against him right now, with the first year a spectacular game,'' Miami coach Al Golden said. ''Last year we were fortunate to win but he made some really big plays in the game. Obviously the quarterback draw was a phenomenal play, so we know what type of talent that he and the offense brings.''
Miami is coming off a much-hyped 41-14 loss to No. 3 Florida State and its sensational freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, and facing Thomas and the Hokies next made getting back to work imperative.
''He's a heck of a player. He's got a big arm. He's a run threat, he's hard to tackle. Very experienced,'' defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said. ''... It's going to be a tremendous challenge.''
Thomas hopes to challenge the Hurricanes plenty, and get the Hokies back to winning.
''The frustrating part about of the past two games is they've ended in losses, really, for me,'' he said. ''Yeah, of course you want to correct the interceptions, the fumbles, whatever. Turnovers in general. We've just got to keep playing.''
AP sports writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.
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