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Friday, September 27, 2013
ATLANTA — The numbers say this was all about Logan Thomas and the Virginia Tech defense. The numbers are onto something, but don’t let them deceive.
Oh, Thomas was brilliant in Virginia Tech’s 17-10 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday. Outgaining the rest of the offense combined? Making the big throws, lowering the shoulder on the tough runs? Huge, all of it.
But he can’t do this alone.
That’s what they’ve all been trying to tell us: Thomas is the unquestioned leader of this offense, but leaders need followers.
He got them this time.
“He had pretty good protection,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “He didn’t have any dropped balls. You do that, it’s easier to play quarterback. … I think the people around him played better tonight, too.”
They did. Eight different players caught passes from Thomas on Thursday. Demitri Knowles, whose high-profile drops were a major part of the narrative in the Alabama game, made five grabs — some of them quite difficult.
Willie Byrn caught four. Kalvin Cline caught three. D.J. Coles caught a touchdown pass. Joshua Stanford made a pair of snags that went for first downs.
“Finally, it’s here,” Byrn said. “Finally, it’s coming all together. But I think it’s fair to say that our first quarter and a half was much more explosive than the rest of our game. We want to get all four quarters going.
“Hats off to our defense, because they’re so good and can spare us out of a few situations when we stall out. But we want to get to the point where if the defense is having a rough day — because it’ll happen eventually — we want to spare them a little bit.”
The Hokies offense will be able to if they do what they did against Georgia Tech, when the supporting cast actually supported.
The little things matter to confidence. Fullback Sam Rogers made just one catch, an 8-yarder that looks so minor in the stat book, but it might have been one of the biggest of the game. It was early during Thomas’ run of nine straight completions, and it wasn’t a great throw.
The first four weeks of the season, that’s an incompletion. People blame Thomas. Maybe the drive stalls.
This week, something different. A momentum-saver.
“Yeah,” Thomas said. “Sam caught a pass that was behind him. He’s probably got the best hands on the team.”
What’s amazing is that Virginia Tech, which has built a program with tailbacks, won a tough game as a touchdown underdog with next to nothing from its running game. Thomas’ backfield mates might as well have been mannequins on Thursday. Trey Edmunds (hip) didn’t have his usual burst, and to their credit, the Hokies’ coaches didn’t force the ball into his belly. They designed the game plan around that, replacing runs with short passes, and Thomas and his targets made it work.
“We’re going to be who we are and what we’re best suited to do,” Beamer said. “I think the offensive staff did a good job of saying, what are we capable of doing? What are our strengths right now? And let’s play to those.”
This Tech offense is far from a finished product. Balance remains elusive. But with this victory, the Hokies thrust themselves right back into the discussion of the Coastal Division race.
“I think we were all kind of insulted that we were counted out,” Byrn said. “We’ve been pretty prominent in this league for a while. To hear other teams say that they’re focused on their big game a couple weeks ahead is really insulting.
“I think we made a statement that we’re here to stay, and we have our eyes on that same prize.”
First, though, they kept their eyes on the ball. Then, at last, they caught it.
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