There's no doubting talented Virginia Tech QB Thomas for Pitt

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 10:30 p.m.

If Pitt's players know what's good for them, they won't crow too much about their three interceptions of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas last year.

“New game, new year, new offensive coordinator, new offense,” Pitt defensive coordinator Matt House said. “It's night and day from last year's team.”

Which will make Pitt's game against No. 24 Virginia Tech (5-1, 2-0 ACC) at Lane Stadium on Saturday its toughest since the Florida State opener and perhaps the most challenging before the finale Nov. 29 against Miami.

House, whose defense is 11th in the 14-team ACC in turnover margin (0.5 per game) and sacks (nine), will match players — and wits — with new Hokies offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler, who is with his third school in three years. But after leaving Temple and Auburn, Loeffler has turned Thomas into an efficient playmaker.

“They are doing a good job of putting stress on the defense with multiple formations,” House said.

Thomas' improvement has been evident in the past two conference victories against Georgia Tech and North Carolina. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Thomas completed 71.6 percent of his passes (38 for 53) in those games for 514 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

“There's a third down where he's on the left hash and he throws the ball across the field on a line,” House said. “He plays in front of a very good offensive line, too.”

The key for Pitt (3-1, 2-1) will be to keep pressure on Thomas, but so far defensive tackle Aaron Donald (six sacks) has been the only Panther who has shown a consistent ability to do that.

House saw good signs in Pitt's most recent game Sept. 28 against Virginia, which managed only a field goal.

“I thought the guys were relentless,” House said. “I thought there were a bunch of different times we may not have sacked the quarterback, but we definitely hurried the throw and compressed the pocket.”

Strong safety Jason Hendricks credited the pass rush for his two interceptions of Thomas last year, but Pitt's veteran secondary — three starters returned from 2012 — has gone without one in three of the first four games.

Duplicating its year-old performance against Thomas won't be easy.

“He knows what to do with the ball,” Hendricks said. “He knows what throws to make. He's not just forcing throws.

“If he doesn't see what he likes, he takes off and runs.”

Notes: Pitt coach Paul Chryst said middle linebacker Shane Gordon (ribs) and defensive end Bryan Murphy (ankle) should be ready to go Saturday after missing the Virginia game. ... Cornerback Trenton Coles and center Shane Johnson, both backups, are hurt and may not play. ... Gabe Roberts, the backup to starting center Artie Rowell, may have shoulder surgery for the second year in a row and miss the rest of the season. ... Chryst refused to name Rowell's new backup if Johnson can't play. “We've been working someone,” he said. “We're good.” ... Reserve defensive end Devin Cook, out for the season, had knee surgery this week.

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