When Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas came off the field after leading the Hokies to a 17-10 victory at East Carolina Saturday, he looked at his numbers and did a double take. What he read — 8 of 20 for 91 yards and an interception – just didn’t seem right.
“I thought that I played better than my stats showed,” Thomas said Tuesday. “After the game I saw my stats and I was kind of confused. I didn’t feel I played that bad in the passing game, and neither did coach. So it was good to hear that. I played better than it looked like I did.”
In fact, Thomas graded out at 85 percent after quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain went through the game film review. That comes one week after his starting debut, when he graded out at 91 percent against Appalachian State.
Now there is no exact formula to these grades, but to this reporter’s untrained eye, 85 percent seems a bit high for a quarterback that completed 40 percent of his passes and had two other surefire interceptions dropped by East Carolina defenders. O’Cain explained on Tuesday.
“I don’t think the stats are indicative at all of the way he played,” O’Cain said. “You get [four] dropped balls, three balls that are throwaways . . . and the throwaways were throwaways. That’s what he should have done. Overall has he got to get better? Yes. One of the dropped balls [to wide receiver D.J. Coles] was thrown behind him. Could’ve been caught, probably should’ve been caught. But again, you’d like to get that ball and let him catch it on the run.
“But overall I was pleased, and the same thing the week before, basically the same kind of stats and same scenario in terms of what happened over the course of the game. He just keeps coming and confidence will get better and better and better the more he plays, the more he throws the football. I’m not displeased at all with where we are.”
Not all the talk was honky dory among the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring still appeared irked by all the “self-inflicted mistakes” the Hokies made on Saturday, like penalties, turnovers and those drops. He said Virginia Tech left “at least 17 points” on the field.
“If we had just caught and fell down on our drops, we would have had about another 100 yards passing and all of a sudden Logan is gonna be 12 of 20,” Stinespring said.
But Thomas tried to deflect the blame off his receivers in regards to the passing game. His placement on throws hasn’t always been on target, and he’s shown a tendency to throw behind receivers when forced to rush his passes.
“We’re gonna face stiffer competition and I’m gonna have to be a 65 percent completion person for this offense to win those big games,” said Thomas, who is currently completing less than 44 percent of his throws and has the worst passer efficiency rating among ACC quarterbacks.
O’Cain, the team’s play-caller this year, said the team’s decision to run the ball so much on Saturday did not have to do with the ineffectiveness of the passing game. Rather, it was an indication of what the coaches felt would win the game – relying on a veteran offensive line that was getting significant push in the trenches.
O’Cain realizes, though, that down the road he won’t be able to run the ball 70 percent of the time as teams go to more eight-man fronts and force Thomas to prove he can win a game with his arm.
Stinespring said Tuesday the team’s plan all along was to “go out and really establish our run game, that we can and will run the football, and then play-action pass. In the first couple games, I think we’ve leaned heavily on that.”
But Stinespring conceded that when Thomas has thrown the ball this year, he’s been asked to complete a lot of deep routes. The Hokies will look to incorporate more timing routes and short passes for this week’s game against Arkansas State.
“I’m not really too much worried about that,” said O’Cain regarding the lack of passing yards so far. “As long as he’s making the right decisions, and that’s what he’s done so far, the physical part will come.”
O’Cain’s confidence comes from how Thomas has performed as a game manager thus far. Despite a wave of penalties Saturday, the Hokies have been called for just one delay of game penalty through two contests.
In addition, O’Cain and Stinespring have given the redshirt sophomore a limited number of audibles on about seven or eight different plays, and after two games, Thomas is a perfect six-for-six on his checks at the line.
He’s also shown off a physical running style, gaining 66 yards on 11 carries Saturday against the Pirates. O’Cain said that is “probably a little bit too much,” but he expects to have a package of designed runs for Thomas each week.
As for Thomas, he joked after the game that he’d likely be sore in the morning after taking a beating with so many running plays. He said Tuesday, “I was struggling to get out of bed” on Sunday morning. But he’s been practicing fully this week, trying to improve upon a performance that was neither perfect nor as bad as it may have looked to some.
“I’m still learning from the game on Saturday, still going back and looking at some of the things I did wrong,” Thomas said. “But like I said earlier, I am ready to get back on the field and throw the ball around a little bit more to, I guess, build confidence and also show what this offense can really bring.”