Friday, November 11, 2011
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas stepped up and kept moving forward

ATLANTA -- What's that old saying about character? It's about what you do when nobody's watching?

Well, we weren't watching too closely at the end of that play. There wasn't much point. Logan Thomas was sacked. The play was dead.

But something big happened at that moment, something that changed everything in Virginia Tech's 37-26 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday night, something that might alter this year's ACC champion: Thomas refused to go down.

Through sheer size and will, the Virginia Tech quarterback stayed upright. He wasn't really moving forward. He remained in the clutches of the Georgia Tech defense. He had zippo chance of reaching the chains some 20 yards away.

But Thomas kept trying anyway, and this frustrated the Yellow Jackets. They swiped at the ball and couldn't get it.

And then, stunningly, in-explicably, Jeremiah Attaochu simply gave up trying to make a tackle - and threw a punch at Thomas' head.

A lot of times, in back-and-forth games, it's hard to identify a true turning point. This was it. Not only did that personal-foul penalty extend the drive, which the Hokies would use to score their go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, but it altered Thomas for the rest of the game.

This was Logan as we had not seen him: ferociously determined, high on adrenaline.

Unstoppable.

The last play of that touchdown drive was a 12-yard quarterback sneak.

Yep, you read that right - 12 yards. Thomas finished his romp through the center of the defense with his full arm extending over the goal line as if to say, "You want this ball? Tough."

His final stats were quite nice: 7-for-13 passing, 209 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, 70 rushing yards, two rushing scores.

But this was more about an attitude than numbers.

After all, Thomas may never top the staggering efficiency that he had against Miami earlier this year. But he assumed a new level of leadership in this one, churning for the tough yards when the Hokies needed them most.

At one point in the second half, Thomas gained a combined 27 yards on three quarterback sneaks. Not keepers around the end. Up-the-gut, short-yardage, we-know-you're-coming sneaks. And he simply put his head down and bashed.

The confidence radiated. It was almost like he was back in high school again, having his way with some Seminole District opponent.

Did Thomas win this game on his own? Of course not. Virginia Tech's defense made several enormous stops, including a fourth-and-1 play on Georgia Tech's own 31. David Wilson had another big game, running for 175 yards on 23 carries.

And several of Thomas' completions - to Danny Coale, to D.J. Coles, to Chris Drager - were as much or more about the receiver's technique and concentration than the throws themselves.

But the way Thomas handled himself seemed to make everyone better in the second half. You didn't have to be in that huddle to sense the control he'd taken.

Late in the fourth quarter, with the margin still just one possession, the Hokies faced a fourth-and-2 from the Georgia Tech 6. The way Thomas had been dominating those sneaks, coach Frank Beamer had to be just a little tempted to go for it and watch another blast from his quarterback.

Beamer did the wise thing, though, pulling the offense off the field and sending on the field goal unit. Thomas knelt briefly on the sidelines before watching Cody Journell split the uprights to all but clinch the victory.

Thomas turned and pumped his fist toward the stands.

In all likelihood, not many were watching him at that moment. And we know now that this does not matter.

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