Growing pains come for Logan Thomas in Hokies’ win

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GREENVILLE, N.C. — The growing pains were bound to arrive at some point for Virginia Tech and its new starting quarterback. Such is life for most teams who hand over their offense to a sophomore with 26 career attempts.

Logan Thomas‘ first hiccups Saturday were offset on two fronts — his success in remaining effective as a rusher and the Hokies’ ability to escape East Carolina with a 17-10 victory.

It was hardly an artistic performance from the 6-foot-6, 254-pound Thomas, who was making his second career start and first on the road. Arguably his most memorable play was steamrolling East Carolina linebacker Jeremy Grove on one of his 11 carries.

His passing performance — 8-for-20, 91 yards and an interception in the red zone — wasn’t overwhelming. The opportunity for him to grow without it costing the Hokies (2-0) was priceless.

“Oh, I’m putting all of it away for a learning experience,” Thomas said. “We came down here, and they gave us a battle. They gave us one of the hardest games I’ve ever been a part of. It’s only my first year starting in college. I’ll definitely remember this one for the books. First road win, but also the beating I took here today.”

Thomas likely woke up Sunday with some aches after rushing for 66 yards and absorbing contact on many of his option keepers. But he might wince a little more when he re-examines his work against a Pirates defense that ranked among the nation’s worst in nearly every category last season.

To be certain, East Carolina (0-2) boasted a much-improved defense over the one Maryland plowed in the Military Bowl less than nine months ago. And eventually, the Hokies opted for the same measures of attrition — namely a rushing game and a relentless defense to both erode and stifle an opponent — that helped coach Frank Beamer earn many of his previous 199 victories during his 25 years in Blacksburg.

It was nothing like the opening-week rout of Appalachian State, a game all but decided early in the second quarter. This time, the Hokies needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to survive even as they opted for Thomas to throw on only 10 of 37 snaps in the second half.

“I think he’ll look back and learn from it and be better next time,” said Beamer, whose team fell two spots to No. 13 in this week’s Associated Press poll. “And he did a lot of good things today, but he did some things he’s going to learn from, too.”

The Hokies turned to their usual strength — a power rushing attack buttressed by an efficient offensive line — and probably will do so again as Thomas continues to mature. Still, it was evident how much Virginia Tech hoped to simply wear down the Pirates; the Hokies passed on only four of 30 first- and second-down plays in the second half.

“I think where we need to get to is we run it, we throw it and we’re efficient doing both,” Beamer said. “We weren’t like that today the whole time, but we found a way to win and that’s the good thing.”

What’s also welcome for the Hokies is Thomas will likely only improve as his vault of experiences grows deeper. His statistics to date — 17 of 39, 240 yards, two touchdowns and an interception — are probably about what would be expected from most first-time starting quarterbacks.

It’s early, of course. The Hokies’ grand ambitions remain intact even as Thomas settles in. When that happens, he’s eager to see just how dangerous Virginia Tech will become.

“I need to step up in the passing game,” Thomas said. “I’ve had too many incompletions and too many bad passes, but it’s right around the corner. I think we’ll get better throughout the year and once we do, it’s going to be a tough offense to stop.”

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