No. 21 Hokies' QB knows offense has to get better
Quarterback Logan Thomas knows the pressure is on at Virginia Tech.
The No. 21 Hokies failed to score a touchdown at home for the first time in 16 seasons in last week's 23-3 loss to No. 8 Clemson, and to some, it's the same old story for the Hokies.
Thomas understands, knowing how Virginia Tech rose to national prominence.
''Special teams and defense have always been the face of this program,'' he said. ''They've always been in the top five in the nation in defense, and all these punts blocked, all these kicks blocked, and I think that's a big reason why people associate Virginia Tech with defense.''
The Hokies led the nation in defense in consecutive seasons in 2005 and 2006, and their special teams prowess - known as ''Beamerball'' - especially helped fuel their early success.
So when things don't go well, critics typically look first at the offense and the 6-foot-6, 254-pound quarterback who has been compared - fairly or unfairly - to Cam Newton. The former Auburn quarterback of similar size led the Tigers to the 2010 national championship and is now staring in the NFL.
''I think it's easy to throw a lot of the blame on the offense, which is fine with us,'' said Thomas, who completed 15 of 27 passes against Clemson, but for just 125 yards. He took the blame for an interception, saying the pass that hit Jarrett Boykin's hand and deflected was high. ''I think everybody on offense understands that we've got to do our job to get better.''
The Hokies (4-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) will have another opportunity to match up with a power on Saturday when Miami (2-2, 0-1) visits Lane Stadium in equally dire straights.
The teams are in the Coastal Division, also home to unbeaten Georgia Tech, and both sides know that a loss would devastate their championship hopes.
Thomas said he felt better about his performance, and the team's, after watching it on film, but that he continues to pick up things after games that will help him to keep improving.
''I was throwing things a little early when I could have waited and had another receiver that was open,'' the redshirt sophomore said. ''I think it's just being a little bit more patient.''
It should help that his left shoulder, which was sore after a touchdown run against Marshall two weeks ago, is feeling better. The Hokies were cautious of letting him run against Clemson. but coach Frank Beamer said he thinks Thomas is fine now.
Miami proved susceptible to a running quarterback in a 28-24 loss to Kansas State. The Wildcats' Collin Klein ran for 93 yards and a touchdown, and also threw for two scores.
''We expect to see some copy-cat runs,'' Hurricanes coach Al Golden said.
Noting that Kansas State's John Hubert ran for another 166 yards and the go-ahead score, Golden said, ''What we cannot do is let it be a two-headed monster in the running game. We have to try and stop the running backs and the quarterback and make sure to eliminate one of them.''
The Hokies, meantime, may have a plan to make that more difficult.
Quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain, who also calls the plays, said the Hokies need to think about throwing the ball downfield more, which not only would take advantage of Thomas' big arm, but soften defenses that have been mostly geared to slowing tailback David Wilson first.
Wilson still leads the ACC with an average of 128 yards on the ground, but Thomas would love to make things easier all around by incorporating more downfield paassing into the offense.
''I think it will help. I think we have the receivers that have the ability to go downfield and make a big play,'' Thomas said, ''so I think it helps us in that aspect of the game.
''And I think it'll soften up the defense's front.''
And that, in turn, might soften some of the doubt, and the comparisons to Newton.
''I appreciate it. It's a blessing,'' Thomas said. ''But I'm my own person and it's going to be a different journey for me than it was for him and hopefully I can be there at one point, but of course there are going to be bumps in the road. And I guess now is one of those points that I think it shows the man how he comes back from disappointment and how he produces from now on.''