A few weeks back, Virginia Tech running back David Wilson joked about how quarterback Logan Thomas used to call him up on Friday nights after high school games wondering how many yards he had rushed for. Wilson said once the two central Virginia products – Thomas is from Lynchburg, Wilson from Danville – found out they’d be coming to Blacksburg to play football together, a weekly battle developed over who would earn the local television station’s player of the week honors.
The same sort of thing seems to be playing out on the field now that Wilson and Thomas have assumed starring roles for Virginia Tech, who is 9-1 for the first time since 2005 and moved up to No. 8 in the latest BCS standings Sunday. After the two accounted for 454 of Virginia Tech’s 476 yards in last Thursday’s win over Georgia Tech, they are each on pace to shatter major school records if the Hokies make it to the ACC championship game.
Wilson currently leads the nation with 1,360 rushing yards, putting him on pace for 1,904 yards over the course of a 14-game season. That would easily break Ryan Williams’s school record of 1,655 yards set in 2009. Wilson is also averaging 6.5 yards per carry, which would be another school record. He has been named one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to college football's top running back.
Thomas, meanwhile, is in the midst of the best statistical season ever by a first-year Virginia Tech quarterback, and that’s saying something considering the phenomenon that was Michael Vick back in 1999. Currently Thomas has thrown for 2,143 yards, rushed for 355 yards and accounted for 22 total touchdowns.
If he were to remain at that pace and Virginia Tech plays 14 games, Thomas would eclipse Tyrod Taylor’s school record — set last season — of 3,402 yards of total offense. He would also become the first Hokies quarterback since Don Strock in 1972 to pass for more than 3,000 yards.
“You gotta have both,” play caller Mike O’Cain said when asked whether Wilson or Thomas was more valuable. “They are the mainstays.”
Many saw Wilson’s breakout season on the horizon after he led the Hokies in all-purpose yards and touchdowns a year ago. But he has surprised some observers with his durability and consistency.
On Friday, Virginia Tech sent an e mail out to national media pitching Wilson for various national awards after he ran for a career-high 175 yards against the Yellow Jackets. It highlighted how Wilson’s streak of seven-consecutive 100-yard rushing games is the nation’s longest active streak and a new record under Coach Frank Beamer. It also mentioned that Wilson has broken 116 tackles this season and gained 821 yards after contact. Twice he has broken 16 tackles during a single game, which is a school record, according to the coaches’ grades.
It all begs the question we asked a couple weeks ago: Does Wilson deserve to be in the Heisman conversation? He’s still not getting much love nationally — although ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit had Wilson as his No. 3 Heisman candidate Sunday night — but Wilson said Sunday he definitely thinks about the award since some of his heroes, like Barry Sanders and Bo Jackson, have won it in the past.
“Just to be mentioned in that category, it’s an honor,” Wilson said. “But I don’t think about it like, ‘Let me go out this week and prove I should win the Heisman.’ I just go out there and play and have fun and try to be the best player I can be. … For me to really get in the conversation, I would pick more touchdowns. If you look at it, I’m leading the country in rushing and I bet if I had 20-plus touchdowns, I’d definitely be in it. But that’s not the case.”
The big reason Wilson only has eight touchdowns so far is Thomas’s success in short yardage situations and around the goal line. The 6-foot-6, 254-pound signal caller has been running over defenders all season, and his eight rushing touchdowns are just one shy of tying Vick’s single-season school record for a quarterback.
Against the Yellow Jackets, Thomas had career highs in carries (18) and yards (70), but said Sunday, “this is probably the best I’ve felt after a game.”
“All over the country, you see big, huge specimen guys and then they kind of soft. But that’s not the case with Logan,” Wilson said. “He uses every inch of his body and it makes big plays and it’s kind of intimidating.”
A lot was made of Wilson’s lofty goals before the season, but Thomas also mentioned some to me back in August before training camp began. He wanted to throw for 2,500 yards and have 15-18 touchdowns, which he’s basically accomplished in 10 games this year.
O’Cain has been pleased with Thomas’s decision-making all season, and said once again Sunday that the team is putting more on his plate in terms of changing plays at the line of scrimmage than any other first-year starter he can recall. But Thomas’s biggest improvements during the season have been with his accuracy.
After Virginia Tech’s loss to Clemson, the redshirt sophomore had completed just 56.8 percent of his passes for 886 yards, while throwing four touchdowns and five interceptions through five games. In the five games since, he’s completing more than 64 percent of his passes for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has also gone without an interception in four of those five games.
“At this point in the season, did I think I’d be doing as well as I have? Probably not,” Thomas said Sunday. “All the expectations before the season were a lot higher than I had for myself. I just wanted to go out here and play well and I have played well. A 9-1 record is something to be proud of thus far, but we’re not done yet and I just want to keep getting better as the games go on.”