For Virginia Tech offensive play caller Mike O’Cain, performances like Logan Thomas’ don’t come around too often.
O’Cain has developed and coached some stars at the position, including Tyrod Taylor.
So, when O’Cain said this week that Saturday’s 23-of-25 passing performance by Thomas — who finished with 310 yards and three touchdowns via the air — ranks tops among any he’s coached, well that’s saying something.
“Probably the best overall, from a pass completion standpoint,” O’Cain said. “Because of what we asked him to do, and his play overall, and some of the throws that he had to make — they weren’t all easy throws.”
The offensive outburst, all 482 yards and five touchdowns, came a week after failing to find the end zone in a 23-3 loss to Clemson on national television.
Thomas struggled so much in the three-point effort there were people that wanted a change at the quarterback position. Fans in Lane Stadium booed during the final minutes of the loss.
“Can’t help but hear (the boos), but I did use it as motivation,” Thomas said. “It didn’t really bother me too much.”
In that loss, Thomas was given very little help from his teammates on offense. Receivers dropped passes, linemen missed blocks and the coaching staff took a lot of the blame.
So what is to be made of the sudden change in offensive productivity? A few things happened that took pressure off Thomas and put it on the defense:
1. Thomas was a weapon in the running game
In the first three games of the season, Thomas was healthy enough to keep the defense honest with his legs. The 6-foot, 6-inch, 254-pound quarterback rumbled his way for 114 yards on 24 carries.
However, in his first quarter touchdown run against Marshall, Thomas injured his left shoulder as he plowed over a defender. The injury forced Thomas to hand the ball off exclusively with his right hand, and limited O’Cain’s playcalling.
The injury was still bothering Thomas in the Clemson game, which affected the offense immensely.
“We were worried about him getting banged on,” O’Cain said. “We ran it a good bit against East Carolina. It was something (against Miami) that Logan was healthy now and we felt like it puts a lot of pressure on the defense. It gets Logan’s hands on the football — a big, strong guy that we feel like can move the pile.”
Thomas rushed for two touchdowns against the Hurricanes, a sign that his shoulder is good to go moving forward.
2. Passes got completed
Against Clemson, Thomas’ longest passing play was 16 yards. Saturday against Miami, he completed six passes of 16 or more yards, including touchdowns of 40 and 60 yards.
Not every play was a downfield pass whistling through the air. The plays are designed so that if receivers downfield aren’t open, check down throws are available.
“Where to go with the ball, I think he was better this week,” Beamer said. “He’ll learn every week. He’s just a guy that he’ll keep improving.”
If Thomas keeps progressing at the rate fans saw after one game, there is reason for a lot of excitement in Blacksburg. The throws down the middle of the field are also a nice sign for his coach.
“He had a couple where he had to hit people down the middle of the field, which is not an easy throw,” O’Cain said. “The long ball to Jarrett (Boykin), that ball was put right there, and the throw to Chris (Drager) on third down, those are thrown about as well as you can throw them.”
A couple of throws came when Thomas was moving outside the pocket, a situation that he looked very good in.