Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 9, 2013

Virginia Tech passing game gradually improving

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The good news for Virginia Tech fans is that quarterback Logan Thomas improved from week one to week two.

The bad news is that a fifth-year quarterback went 17 for 31 with two end-zone interceptions against an FCS team, Western Carolina, that had lost 11 games in a row.

The home opener for Frank Beamer’s squad, a 45-3 win, did not have a picture-perfect beginning.

Thomas’ first pass was an incompletion that was almost picked off when Demitri Knowles was hit hard by Bryson Jordan. A punt followed.

The next series began with completions of eight and 17 yards. The latter try was thrown slightly behind receiver Willie Byrn, who still caught the ball. The next pass was a wobbly one into the end zone, caught by WCU’s Trey Logan for a touchback.

It got better. Thomas completed six of nine passes in an 87-yard drive that led to the Hokies’ second touchdown of the day. The 16 plays in that possession were the most by Virginia Tech since the Sugar Bowl in January 2012.

A sharp 19-yard pass to D.J. Coles produced the third score. It was Thomas’ 58th touchdown pass of his collegiate career, tying him for 13th all-time among ACC quarterbacks.

Thomas passed for 200 yards, though none of his completions went for more than 19 yards. In what amounted to a receiver audition, 10 Hokies had receptions, and there were fewer drops than in the season opener, a 35-10 loss to top-ranked Alabama.

Thomas said he had “the same feeling” about his receivers on Saturday that he had had starting the season. “I’m confident in my guys,” he said. “They’ve just got to have the confidence in themselves, getting ready to go play. I think today they took a big step.”

Byrn, a junior who had one career catch prior to Saturday, led the receivers with four grabs for 58 yards. Freshmen Josh Stanford and Kalvin Cline each caught four passes for 46 yards apiece.

Byrn said, “This whole week, the coaches were preaching for us to just move on. There’s going to be a bad play. Just get over it and forget about it. And I think we definitely did a better job.”

“It was just good for us to make tougher catches. Last week, we had some that were hitting us in the hands, and we weren’t catching them. So, to make bigger ones — I think today we got a lot of confidence back.”

Asked about missing on his deep passes, Thomas said, “It’s all stuff you can clean up. It’s one-on-one coverage. Sometimes my passes need to be better; sometimes I’ve got to put it more outside ... .”

“I’ve got a lot of stuff I could have cleaned up today. Obviously, I would like not to have thrown two interceptions, but things happen. It’s stuff that we can clean up and get better.”

He was pleased to see senior D.J. Coles back in the receiving rotation.

“We’re trying to get him back healthy,” Thomas said. “His knee has kind of been on and off here for awhile. But D.J. helps us tremendously in our receiving corps just from experience-wise.”

The offense is still smarting from the loss of Ryan Malleck, a 249-pound junior expected to start at tight end until a preseason labrum tear sidelined him for this season.

Thomas said, “Ryan Malleck was a huge part of our offense. He was going to do a lot of things for us this year. He understood how to play and what we were trying to do.”

But on Saturday, the quarterback appeared to be moving on. “The guys like Kalvin (Cline) coming in, and Duwan (Perez-Means), they’ve been going at it pretty well, and getting a lot better. And that’s what we’ve got to have,” he said.

Virginia Tech’s new offensive coordinator, Scot Loeffler, said, “We have got to keep continuing with our young receivers to get Logan and that unit aligned.”

Beamer said, “I really believe that, as we get more used to each other and get to know each other and get our timing down, that’s really going to cut down on the interceptions. And I think the passing game is going to get a lot better.”

And Thomas feels a refreshing difference from last season.

“I feel pretty fresh, thus far. I haven’t got hit 35 times a game like it was last year. It’s something completely different. It feels good,” he said.

“There’s some things I can correct ... and be ready to go for next week.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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