The Virginia Tech Hokies at one point held the inside track to the 2013 ACC Championship. They had a favorable schedule (no Florida State Seminoles or Clemson Tigers) and opened conference play with three straight wins. But losing three of their last five down the stretch cost the Hokies the Coastal Division as they finished the year at just 8-4. Now, they have a tough matchup in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against the high-scoring UCLA Bruins. If they hope to end the 2013 season on a high note, Virginia Tech is going to need more out of quarterback Logan Thomas and the offense.
All season long, the VT defense has stood strong as one of the best units in the country. They rank No. 4 in college football in total defense and No. 8 in scoring defense, which makes their finish to the season even more disappointing. The problem has been an offense that failed to consistently produce much of anything in 2013, led by a disappointing Thomas who never seemed to live up to expectations. The Hokies finished the season ranked No. 97 in scoring offense, averaging just 23.4 points per game and were held under 20 points six times (though they went 4-2 in those games thanks to the defense).
A low-scoring offense isn’t likely to cut it, however, in the Sun Bowl against UCLA. Jim Mora has the Bruins’ offense firing on all cylinders this season thanks to quarterback Brett Hundley continuing to develop into one of the premier dual-threat quarterbacks in college football. UCLA ranked No. 23 in the country this season in scoring offense, putting up 36.5 points per game. They bring a balanced attack that can pick up the pace to press their advantage on a defense and wear them down over the course of a game.
For Virginia Tech, that means Thomas and the offense has to pick up some of the slack. Early in the season, VT suffered from poor receiver play that really sabotaged any offensive momentum the Hokies attempted to build. But Thomas showed a flash of what he’s capable of last month against the Miami Hurricanes when he completed 25-of-31 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns. That has to be the Thomas that shows up in the Sun Bowl to give VT a shot.
He’ll also need to get some help from his offensive line. Over the last two games of the season, the protection broke down for Thomas as he was sacked 11 times. Thomas might also need to use his legs a bit more than he has this season, not only to escape pressure from a very good pass-rush of UCLA, but also to jumpstart the Hokies’ rushing attack. Virginia Tech’s leading rusher Trey Edmunds is out with a broken right tibia suffered in the regular season finale, leaving a void in the running game that Thomas could be asked to fill.
It hasn’t been the career that Logan Thomas thought he would have at Virginia Tech, but he will get one last chance to show what he’s capable of as the leader of the Hokies’ offense. The pressure will be on for Thomas to step up his game and lead Virginia Tech to a bowl win to put a positive cap to the 2013 season and his career in Blacksburg.