Sunday, September 04, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas is who we thought he would be

BLACKSBURG — Nothing about Logan Thomas' performance on Saturday surprised anybody. Not his poise, not his touch, not his pocket presence, not his arm strength.

And that's probably the best thing that could have happened here for Virginia Tech: In his first game as the Hokies' starting quarterback, Thomas looked just like everybody said he would.

He stood tall. He threw accurately. He got out of harm's way when he felt pressure, stayed put when he didn't.

Thomas played a little more than a half before handing a 52-0 lead to the bullpen, then watched from the sidelines as the Hokies finished off Appalachian State, 66-13. His numbers were solid: 9-for-19 passing, 149 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions. He had three passes dropped, including two long ones. He also ran three times for 16 yards, including a 12-yard rumble up the middle during which he used every bit of his 260 pounds to flatten the Mountaineers' free safety.

The consensus in the locker room afterwards? No news here.

"I think for his first start," wide receiver Marcus Davis said, "he handled it like he was supposed to."

"I thought Logan was good," coach Frank Beamer said. "For his first complete game, I thought he was good."

"He was loud, clear and confident," right tackle Blake DeChristopher said. "He did a hell of a job."

Just like most thought he would.

Still, there was that little bit of fear, wasn't there? That back-of-the-head voice? It's the one that says: "This is major college football. Nobody just steps right in at the most demanding position on the field and sees it all click." Maybe the timing will be off, or the flow will be uneven, or the feet will get a little happy under pressure.

That didn't happen.

"I felt like I was in complete control," Thomas said. "I had 10 guys out there with me that had confidence in me. I have confidence in them. I've been sitting around watching for two years. I've seen what Tyrod [Taylor] does, and I've just tried to kind of model myself after him."

Thomas said nerves were not a factor for him Saturday. A little anxiety, maybe, but no jitters.

The significance of the day hit him when he walked toward the tunnel a few minutes before the game and "saw the sea of orange and maroon" in the stands. Still, the sight was not intimidating. It was validating.

"Yeah," he remembers thinking as he surveyed the scene. "This is what I've been waiting on the past two years."

Mike O'Cain's been waiting for it, too. As high as the quarterbacks coach has been on Thomas, and much as he believed in that potential, he never could be sure how that first game would go

It went well. O'Cain was impressed with Thomas' accuracy. More importantly, he liked how he ran the offense.

"There were no procedure penalties," O'Cain said. "There were no delay of games. He never hesitated. We signal an awful lot to him from the sideline. Formations, shifts, motions, protections, play-calling, whatever it may be. We signal all that to him, and there was never any hesitation.

"He got the play, got it called, and we were at the line of scrimmage most of the time with 12, 13 seconds left on the play clock. He was ready to play. He was ready to manage the game."

And now he's ready to manage at least 11 more.

"I think what's going to happen with Logan," Beamer said, "is he's going to get better and better and better and better and better."

Hear that? Five betters.

And like most everybody else, Beamer was right about Thomas the first time.

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