In the three games leading up to last Saturday’s loss to the Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas passed for five touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Against the Blue Devils, Thomas threw four interceptions, leaving many, including coaches, surprised.
“I thought he would (stop the struggles),” said offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
Under previous coaches, the Hokies offense often ran routes at similar depths, which created few progressions for the quarterback to go through. Either the quarterback’s pre-snap read was correct and the pass was made or they went into a scramble drill.
Under Loeffler, the passing game has become much more layered. Routes take more advantage of splitting zone coverage and Thomas often has multiple progressions he can go through if his primary read isn’t open.
After multiple years under the previous system, this is something Thomas is still adjusting to. At times, he will still hold onto his first read too long, sometimes missing open receivers.
“What I mean by that is maybe break a progression rule, break a footwork rule, have his eyes in the wrong spot in a particular scenario. Those are hard to overcome, I don’t care who you’re playing,” Loeffler said.
Occasionally, as was the case against Duke, those broken rules add up and cause miscues by the offense.
“In the pass game, they’ll halt a drive at any time, especially there, it’s even more minute, so you’ve just got to make the plays when they present themselves,” Thomas said.
Unlike quick-strike offenses like the ones run by Baylor, Oregon or Florida State, Tech relies on building a methodical drive and holding onto the football.
Brian Fremeau’s Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) is an advanced analysis of a team’s ability to score points on a drive, based on the expected point totals from where the drive started, the quality of the opponent and other factors.
In particular, part of the calculations for offensive FEI include the percentage of explosive and methodical drives a team has, which describe drives that average ten yards per play and drives over 10 plays long respectively.
The Hokies are 114th in the nation in explosive drive percentage and 28th in the nation in methodical drives. They intentionally avoid the "home run ball," preferring to go for high percentage passes, moving up the field at a slower pace and keeping control of the ball.
“The number one objective was to take care of the ball and we didn’t. We have to take care of the ball,” Loeffler said. “We have one of the best defenses in the country and if we just take care of the ball, we’ll have a chance to win."
Against Duke, that did not happen. Thomas threw four interceptions and the Hokies offense became stagnant.
“The first one was an overthrow, the second one I was scrambling and I probably should’ve thrown it away. The third one got tipped, the fourth one got tipped,” Thomas said. “Obviously, it’s frustrating. We did a lot on offense well, but didn’t do as well as we could’ve.”
To have success the rest of the season, the Hokies will need the Logan Thomas who threw zero interceptions against three straight ACC opponents, not the one fans saw last Saturday.
“It’s just time to bounce back and come out of it even stronger. We’ve got to practice smarter, just got to get back to the grind,” Thomas said.