BLACKSBURG, VA. — Last week, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas was compelled to address the criticisms he’d heard from outside the program about the Hokies’ perfect record this season.
Thomas brought up the perception that the team’s nonconference slate, which featured four non-BCS conference schools that boast a combined record of 7-8, is weak. He then did his best television analyst impression, sarcastically wondering aloud, “What are they trying to hide?”
But on Tuesday, with his team’s first true test of the season — No. 13 Clemson — looming on Saturday, Thomas reiterated what he said during the preseason: That the team’s bland schedule perhaps was the best way to mask his own inevitable growing pains as a first-year starter.
“The first two games were kind of a feeling-out process, and the last two I’ve felt extremely comfortable,” Thomas said. “I know where I need to go with the ball and I think that’s kind of what I wanted to get out of the first four games. Just get a confidence level and an ease about it, and I think I’ve succeeded thus far.”
His statistics, especially since a shaky 8-of-20, 91-yard, two-interception showing at East Carolina on Sept. 10, back up what he’s saying. He has completed more than 65 percent of his passes since then, and this past weekend at Marshall, Thomas received a season-high 94 percent grade after quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain went over the film. He was even a perfect 12 for 12 on his pre-snap checks, which came just a week after he set career highs in completions and yards in a win over Arkansas State.
Teams have been daring the Hokies to throw the ball more often, bringing an extra defender to the line of scrimmage to slow down running back David Wilson, who currently ranks sixth in the country with 530 rushing yards through four games.
But the 6-foot-6, 254-pound Thomas has also shown off his own physical running style, which was on full display this past weekend when he lowered his left shoulder and barreled over Marshall strong safety Devin Arrington for his first career touchdown run. He currently has 119 yards on 26 carries.
Thomas ended up spraining his shoulder on the play and couldn’t even hand off with the affected arm because it caused too much pain. But he stayed in the game and remained effective, the sort of poise that has shone through in the huddle during the entire season.
“He wasn’t shaken, timid, nothing,” Wilson said in reference to the East Carolina win, the only game this year in which Virginia Tech has trailed. “He didn’t change at all, and that was good to see.”
But there have been some negatives, such as Thomas’s tendency to throw behind receivers. He also has just as many interceptions as touchdowns (four), and if defenders had caught errant passes that hit them in the hands there would be even more turnovers. Thomas has been able to get away with such mistakes, but any grace period he enjoyed is now over.
Clemson is averaging close to 38 points per game after consecutive wins over Auburn and Florida State, and Thomas says it’s in the back of his mind that the Hokies might need to put up a lot of points Saturday. But “I don’t want to go out there and be anything that I’m not,” he said.
Who he is now, though, seems just fine with Coach Frank Beamer.
On Tuesday, he faced questions regarding Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, a Hampton, Va., native who the Hokies offered a scholarship to at the same time they were recruiting Thomas. But as Beamer talked about all the quarterback talent matriculating through the state of Virginia these days, he stopped himself short.
“Nothing against any of those,” he said. “but we like the guy we’ve got.”