Hokies QB Thomas won't be easy pickings for Pitt

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Early this season, it might have been easy to write off Virginia Tech's quarterback as "the same old Logan Thomas."

In the Hokies' season opener, the oft-maligned senior completed just 5 of 26 passes for 59 yards and an interception in a 35-10 loss against Alabama.

The next week, the Hokies blew out an overmatched Western Carolina team but Thomas still completed just 54.8 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions.

The knock on Thomas had always been the interceptions, of which he threw 16 last season. If he couldn't even keep the ball safe against a Division I-AA school, how far could Virginia Tech go this year?

Over the past few games, though, Thomas has suddenly morphed from the interception-throwing quarterback to a much more confident and comfortable signal-caller.

In Virginia Tech's past two games, wins against Georgia Tech and North Carolina, Thomas completed 71.7 percent of his passes for 514 yards, four touchdowns and, most important, no interceptions.

"He's more sure of his decisions," Pitt safety Jason Hendricks said of what he has seen on Thomas' game film. "He's not forcing throws."

Hendricks had two of Pitt's three interceptions in the Panthers' upset victory last season against the then-No. 13 Hokies. In that game, Thomas was 14 of 31 for 265 yards and one touchdown, but the three interceptions allowed Pitt to ride a wave of momentum to the win.

Pitt defensive coordinator Matt House doesn't expect it to be as easy Saturday.

"I think their [offensive] unit as a group has improved," House said. "It's night and day different from last year's team. Not that last year's team wasn't good, because they were. But this year's offense, they're doing a really nice job and they seem like they're getting better every week."

One of the biggest reasons for Thomas' improvement was the hiring of Scot Loeffler to take the reins as offensive coordinator from Bryan Stinespring. As the season has progressed, Thomas has gotten more comfortable in Loeffler's offense.

"I'm starting to understand it pretty well," Thomas said. "The things that we're doing kind of fit into my game. I'm able to go through my progressions a lot faster and get to the open guys. The more I do it, the better I'll be at it."

Under Loeffler, Thomas and the offense has focused on moving the ball in short chunks, and that in turn has resulted in Thomas taking fewer chances down the field.

In the win against the Tar Heels last week, the Hokies were also able to hit on some big plays, including a 45-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Demitri Knowles and an 83-yard pass to Willie Byrn.

"That's just something we saw on the game plan that we knew we were going to be able to take advantage of against North Carolina," Thomas said. "Not saying it's something every week that we're going to be able to find. Just last week, we knew we had a couple of chances to make plays."

As a result of those big plays, Thomas was also able to etch his name into the Virginia Tech record book. With his 5-yard pass to Knowles on the Hokies' first possession, he broke Tyrod Taylor's career record for passing yards.

"He's just been such a great player for Virginia Tech," coach Frank Beamer said. "Not only what he does on the field, but what he is and who he is and how he represents Virginia Tech, what he means to the football team. I really appreciate everything he's done for Virginia Tech."


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published October 10, 2013 8:00 PM


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