Head coach Frank Beamer said there hasn’t been even a thought of replacing Thomas with backup quarterback Mark Leal, despite ubiquitous cries from a portion of the fan base discouraged by the senior’s eight turnovers in the last two games.
“Absolutely, he’s the quarterback,” Beamer said. “He gives us a chance to win. There is no question in our mind that he’s the guy.”
Thomas epitomized his career in the Hokies’ 34-27 loss at Boston College, throwing for a career-high 391 yards and accounting for two touchdowns, but he also committed four turnovers, including a pick six in the fourth quarter that swung the game the Eagles’ direction.
That’s 33 turnovers for Thomas since the start of last season, tied for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision, according to ESPN stats and info.
Still, Beamer said he hasn’t entertained the idea of Leal, a fourth-year junior who has only played in mop-up duty, appearing in a game even for a series right now, citing Thomas’ smarts and toughness, despite the turnovers.
“Some days when you’re out there competing at a high level, some days are better than others,” Beamer said. “He had a rough outing. But as far as what he’s all about and him being our quarterback, that’s not in question.”
Thomas, who usually shrugs off criticism or pointed questions in situations with the media, was noticeably more annoyed and even defiant with his statements during Monday’s press conference.
“You can go ahead and ask anybody in this building right now, you can walk across the street to [the] Merryman [football building], ask anybody over there, you can ask anybody that’s a part of this program if they think there is any chance of me being taken out for a series and it would be a quick, ‘No,’” Thomas said.
“I feel the exact same way. So wherever that [Leal] question stood in front of me, you can just go ahead and throw that out.”
Although he’s been turnover prone the last few weeks, Thomas has still has been the vast majority of the offense. He was the team’s leading passer (391 yards) and rusher (38) against Boston College, accounting for 96 percent of the team’s yards.
The turnovers, teammates said, weren’t all his fault. His first interception Saturday was on a ball that hit Demitri Knowles’ hand and was tipped into the air. The two fumbles can at least be partially attributed to poor blocking.
“Sometimes it’s us not making the catch and then the ball gets intercepted,” receiver Josh Stanford said. “Sometimes it’s us not making a play on the ball or batting it down. Sometimes it’s us running the wrong routes. Sometimes we’re not running the routes, either we mess up or don’t get open, which forces the quarterback to make other reads that he shouldn’t have made had we run the appropriate routes.
“So I think a great deal of the interceptions fall on us as receivers.”
Still, the furor over Thomas’ play — at least by fans on message boards, blogs and Twitter — the last few days has reached its apex, typifying the love-hate relationship many Hokies fans have for a player who now owns nearly all of the of the school’s quarterback records.
“I don’t even pay attention to it. It’s pretty simple: don’t look at your [Twitter] mentions,” Thomas said. “People are going to say what they’re going to say. If they want to say something after they come and sit in the meeting room with me or come be on the practice field with me, then you can say whatever you want to. But until they do that, your opinion means nothing.”
Beamer was in lockstep with his quarterback with that.
“I don’t think smart guys listen to outside people,” Beamer said. “I think you listen to people that can change the direction, and that’s his own teammates and coaches. And us as a group, that’s what’s got to happen. If we start doing what the critics say, we’d be all over the place.”
Here are a few more notes and quotes from the press conference …
– As mentioned in the previous post, the Maryland game in Lane Stadium on Nov. 16 will be a 12:30 p.m. kickoff and be televised by the ACC Network. That means no night home games for the Hokies this year, the first time since 1998 that’s happened.
– Cody Journell was named the ACC Specialist of the Week after making a career-long 56-yard field goal at Boston College, in addition to a 47-yarder. That’s two times Journell has earned the honor in the last three games, despite his up-and-down year.
– The ‘Canes have won a few tight games recently (27-23 at UNC, 24-21 vs. Wake) before the blowout loss to Florida State, but Beamer says what’s important is what he’s seen on the video.
“And I see great players and talented kids and balanced offense,” he said. “I think they’re a very good team. It might say something about Florida State too. But I think you get in those games, sometimes it gets rolling and it will roll on you. But Florida State has got to be a very, very, VERY talented football team. Because this is a very, VERY talented football team. So I think one more ‘very’ in there for Florida State.
I think if Beamer thinks a team is bad, they still get credit for being “very good.”
– Miami star running back Duke Johnson is out for the year with a broken ankle, but Beamer thinks their backups are good too. “Generally speaking, they’ve got one waiting to become a star,” he said.
Dallas Crawford, a 5-foot-10, 196-pound sophomore who has 294 rushing yards but nine touchdowns this year, could be next in line at running back for the ‘Canes.
– Beamer credits a lot of Miami’s success to the steady hand of coach Al Golden, who has persevered through the NCAA sanction process that finally ended last month. Beamer wrote him a letter to say he thought Golden did a great job through that difficult time.
“I think he got through that and made the program better,” Beamer said. “Not just survive. He made it better. I thought he did a heck of a job. And I told him that too. And I do. I think he’s gone in there and been a very steady, solid influence on that program.”
– The Hokies have run the read option a lot with Thomas, but Beamer thinks it’s necessary, given Tech’s personnel at other positions, to continue to do that.
“We realize that our chance to win depends on, we’ve got to run our quarterback,” he said. “It’s just that’s a fact with this football team.”
– Beamer said cornerback Kyle Fuller wasn’t entirely healthy for the BC game, coming off a groin injury.
“Kyle didn’t feel like he could go 100 percent,” Beamer said. “And you need to be 100 percent.”
Facyson, who was cleared to play after a concussion during the bye week, played only sparingly, working in on the nickel.
“Hopefully I think both of those guys will be in there this week,” Beamer said.
– Stanford was asked specifically if the ball comes in too hard from Thomas on occasion. He scoffed.
“Uh no,” he said. “We’re receivers. We’re here to catch the ball. That’s what we’re supposed to do, and for me I like the ball to get there quicker instead of slower so I can catch it and turn around and see what’s going on, because it can get there too slow and then the defense has time to react. As receivers, we like it to get there quick so we can catch it and turn around and make moves and get up the field.”
– Safety Kyshoen Jarrett said he had a “little shoulder problem” that prevented him from returning punts against Boston College. He had it wrapped on the sideline and played the whole game at safety. He thinks he should be ready to return punts at Miami.
– The Hokies might have lost two straight games to teams they probably shouldn’t have, but the Coastal Division is still there for the taking with Saturday night’s Miami game. A win would hand the ‘Canes (3-1) their second loss, bringing them back to the Coastal pack with Virginia Tech (3-2), Georgia Tech (5-2) and Duke (2-2) in the loss column.
“I guess it is a little funk just because we took two losses that I personally believe we should not have taken and that’s just executing all the way around, defensively as well,” Jarrett said. “I feel like everybody’s fine.
“This is definitely an important game. Everybody’s going to be watching. I believe it’s 7 p.m. Everybody’s going to be watching and I feel like everybody’s excited. Same motor that we’ve had running since playing Alabama to Marshall to North Carolina, even playing Duke and Boston College, so the motor’s definitely still running for everybody.”