Last Saturday’s 38-35 homecoming victory over Duke will always be a memorable afternoon for senior quarterback Justin Thomas and Tech football fans.
It was a day for the record books for the Prattville, Ala., native as Thomas totaled a career high 459 yards, including career highs 264 passing yards and 195 rushing yards. Like he has all his career, Thomas willed his team to victory breaking off big play after big play when his team needed him the most.
His performance was historic as he became the fourth FBS player since 2000 to throw for more than 250 yards, run for over 190 yards and account for two passing and two rushing touchdowns. No play was bigger than his 46-yard run on 3rd and 17 at the end of the game to seal Tech’s victory and cement his performance in Tech folklore.
Thomas piled up the accolades this past weekend. He was the recipient of the Walter Camp National Offense Player of the Week, ACC Offensive Back of the Week, Davey O’Brien “Great 8” member and one of the Manning Award Stars of the Week.
Thomas was very humble about receiving those recognitions being National Player of the Week.
“It feel good, but I don’t feel no different,” Thomas said. “I still got to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do. They remember you for your last performance. So I got to go out there and keep playing hard and … match the intensity and keep moving forward.”
All of these feats and recognitions occurred against a team that Thomas had not beaten as a starting quarterback. In last year’s matchup against Duke, Tech only totaled 316 yards as a team and only 173 rushing yards. Completing 10 of 14 passes for 264 yards, Thomas recorded a 99.7 QBR, which is the highest of all in the 2016 college football season.
Thomas credited his offensive line for their improvements in pass blocking this season to allow him the time to make the right throws, the end result being his gaudy totals through the air against the Blue Devils.
Thomas also became the 39th player in FBS history to throw for 4000 yards and run for 2000 yards over the course of his career.
“That’s huge for as many people that have played the game, … especially in this type of era with as many quarterbacks that have come through college football, period. I think that’s an great accomplishment, but it’s not all me though,” Thomas said. “Guys have to protect me, and today guys have to make plays for me to be in that situation. It’s a great honor. … Hopefully there’s more at the end of the season.”
Thomas believes the offense is continuing to improve.
“I think so. If you go from week one to now, we’re executing better, and we got to keep doing it and can’t relax. We just got to keep playing hard and playing physical,” Thomas said.
So far in his career, Thomas has beaten every ACC opponent he’s played as a starter except for UNC, whom he will face this weekend. Tech takes on the Tar Heels this weekend, and Thomas will look for redemption after Tech lost last year’s game following a 21-0 lead.
Thomas has already put last weekend behind him and is focusing on getting a win against UNC and trying to get back into the Coastal divisional race. Unlikely as it may be, there are still scenarios in which Tech faces the winner of the Atlantic division with the conference on the line.
“We know that we can still get in a fight for our division if we keep winning. We got to have the same approach as last week, one week at a time,” Thomas said. “[We’re] going to come into this game mentally prepared, cut out the mistakes and play as hard as we can.”