After the Virginia Tech Hokies' season opener against the Alabama Crimson Tide, in which running back Trey Edmunds ran for 132 yards while quarterback Logan Thomas completed just 19 percent of his passes, the common sentiment was that the Hokies would need to rely on their running game this season.
As the season has worn on, however, the veracity of that statement has diminished. Since the Hokies began ACC play, Thomas has been the offense.
The Hokies have utilized a quicker passing game, focused on shorter routes that lead to high percentage throws, to take pressure off of Thomas while simultaneously putting more of the offensive burden on the senior.
And the strategy has worked. In the Hokies' last three games, Thomas has either passed or carried the ball on 69 percent of plays, while playing his best games of the season.
Thomas was the leading rusher in two of the Hokies' last three games, while also throwing for three of his four highest completion percentages on the season.
Thomas has also not thrown an interception over the same stretch, while accounting for six touchdowns.
With injuries on the offensive line affecting their ability, especially in the interior, to fire off the line quickly and get under the pads of the defense, the traditional running game has struggled.
“It looked like we’d been in war or the battlefield out there in practice with some of our guys,” said running backs coach Shane Beamer.
With the new emphasis on running Thomas on the inverted veer and quicker developing plays in the passing game, the amount of work required of the offensive line has been reduced, allowing the Hokies to get the same, or better, production.
“We got to do what (we've) got to do to win games,” said Beamer.
The new play calling isn’t better for everyone though. Edmunds has seen his role gradually decrease; he has had less than ten carries in two of the last three games.
Even when he has gotten the ball, Edmunds has averaged just 1.41 yards per carry. Edmunds isn’t letting that discourage him, though.
“Football isn’t all positive," Edmunds said. "You have to take the negatives with the positives. So I mean you have to just stay in there and stick with it and keep working and hopefully it will come around again."
The coaching staff isn't worried about Edmunds either.
“Surely, Trey would have liked to put together more games, more successful games, since that Alabama game. But I’m not worried about him,” Beamer said.
And Edmunds and the other running backs haven’t been completely removed from the game plan; when up by a comfortable margin, Tech has turned to their traditional running game to eat up the clock.
Against North Carolina, the Hokies took possession of the ball with 13:13 left to go in the game up by 11 points.
After a 10 play drive - half runs by either Edmunds or fellow running back J.C. Coleman - Tech punted the ball, having drained 6:47 from the clock.
When the Tar Heels muffed the punt, the Hokies took over at the Tar Heels’ 17 and proceeded to call six straight rushes for Edmunds. He ultimately scored the game-icing touchdown, while running the clock down to just 4:06.
Edmunds believes that the time where Tech relies on the running backs for a full game is right around the corner.
“I feel like we’re getting closer and closer to that breakout game from a running back standpoint,” Edmunds said.
For now though, the Hokies will just keep doing whatever brings them success on the offensive side of the ball.
“We just have to figure out what they’re going to try to do to us and after that just take what they give us. That’s what offense is, just taking what the defense gives us,” Thomas said.
This is the new reality for the Hokies, it may not be pretty or show up in the stat sheet, but with their shutdown defense it’s all they need; in their last three games the Hokies have scored enough points in the first half to win the game.
In any case, there’s no doubt that the Hokies offense runs through Logan Thomas.