But at one recent practice, Loeffler was spotted wearing a “Lunchpail D” T-shirt as he barked out instructions to quarterback Logan Thomas and the rest of the team’s signal-callers, a nod to the symbol of the Hokies’ defense that has been forged by defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s unit. Though he has been on Virginia Tech’s coaching staff for less than a year, Loeffler has already begun to embrace a familiar program tenet.
“We have one of the best defenses in the country, and if we just take care of the ball, we’ll have a chance to win,” he said this week.
The first two months of the season have forced Loeffler and the Hokies to adjust their offensive expectations after an offseason spent overhauling that side of the ball.
Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1 ACC) ranks outside of the top 100 in the country in total offense, rushing offense, red-zone efficiency and total first downs and is the lowest-scoring team in the ACC entering Saturday’s game at Boston College (3-4, 1-3). Perhaps more significantly, the Hokies have seen their ranking fall in all of those categories since last year’s campaign, the worst Coach Frank Beamer had experienced in 20 years.
During their 6-1 start, the Hokies got just enough out of Thomas and didn’t allow turnovers to derail them, but the issues came to a head against Duke when Thomas threw four interceptions and any margin of error evaporated.
Thomas called the experience “eye-opening.” Loeffler had a different take.
“At times, it’s been ugly,” he conceded this week.
For all the warts, though, Thomas had shown noticeable progress before last week’s setback. He had gone 116 straight passes without an interception, and his footwork and vision appeared to be more consistent. He had consecutive games in which he completed better than 60 percent of his passes for the first time since 2011.
“I was never coached to the point of how to use my body when I was throwing it,” Thomas said recently. “Everything up to the point when Loeffler started teaching me was going out there and throwing from how I taught myself, I guess.”
Loeffler said Wednesday that Thomas tried to go “outside the box” and shoulder too much of the offensive load against the Blue Devils, a flaw that got the best of him last year when he threw 16 interceptions. In this case, Loeffler noted Thomas’s footwork and how progressions broke down, and he missed several open receivers. Given Virginia Tech’s lack of scoring, Loeffler was particularly peeved by the interception Thomas threw in the red zone near the end of the second quarter.