By Norm Wood, firstname.lastname@example.org | 757-247-4642
6:18 PM EDT, October 9, 2012
At least Logan Thomas was ready with a quick-draw answer when he was hit with the surprising question this week from the radio show host.
With Virginia Tech (3-3 overall, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) facing adversity the likes of which it hasn't seen in two decades, Thomas was asked how he'd feel if Tech didn't make it to a bowl — an annual occurrence in southwest Virginia as expected as the emergence of the fall season stinkbugs.
"I was like, 'You don't have to worry about that. We'll be in a bowl game,' " said Thomas, the junior quarterback of a Tech program that has been to bowls in 19 consecutive seasons, which is the third-longest bowl streak in the nation.
"That's something we pride ourselves on — 10-win seasons and bowl games. We still have a chance to do that this year. … Obviously, it'd be a letdown if we couldn't, but we don't even have that in our mind right now."
Thomas may have banished the thought of having the ignominious distinction of being the Tech team that breaks the streak of making it to the postseason, but it's not an entirely far-fetched concept.
Tech is .500 or worse through the first six games of the season for the first time since 1992, which was the last time it finished the season with a losing record (2-8-1 at the end of that season, 2-3-1 through six games).
As hard as it may be to believe, Saturday's game against Duke (5-1, 2-0) suddenly is Tech's most important game of the season. If Tech can't get past Duke, which has lost 11 consecutive games to Tech, but has lost three of the last four meetings by 11 or fewer points each, it'll be a challenge for Tech to reach six wins.
Tech still has games at Clemson, at Miami and against Florida State among its final five contests. Though Tech still has a good chance to win the Coastal Division, and will have the inside track if it beats Duke and Miami, extending the Hokies' nation-leading streak of consecutive 10-win seasons to nine is a longshot.
After being touted by some observers in the preseason as having a defense worthy of comparison with the '99 group that helped lead Tech to the national championship game, Tech has gone the other direction and struggled at times on a level similar to the '92 defense.
Tech has given up 495 yards or more to three opponents — Pittsburgh (537 yards), North Carolina (533 yards) and Cincinnati (494 yards) — this season, which is something a defense coordinated by Bud Foster never has done.
The last time Tech surrendered at least that many yards to three opponents in the same season was in '92 (606 yards against Rutgers, 516 yards against East Carolina and 497 yards against Miami).
"I think we just need to be able to put a complete game together, 60 minutes with all three components of the football team — special teams, offense and defense," cornerback Antone Exum said.
"All three of those things need to focus on … not playing 'hero ball,' trying to do somebody else's job. Just doing your responsibility, and I feel like we'll be OK."
Tech could use a hero in its running game, where Michael Holmes, J.C. Coleman and Martin Scales haven't been able to get much of anything going. Tech was able to find its passing game in last weekend's loss at North Carolina, throwing for 354 yards, but the running game has fallen to 91st in the nation (131.3 yards per game) after posting just 40 yards against the Tar Heels.
Despite all the struggles, Thomas refuses to discuss panic mode. The development of the passing game gives him hope.
"We'd be in crisis if we couldn't move the ball and if we couldn't stop anybody," Thomas said. "That's not case."
WHO: Duke (5-1, 2-0 ACC) at Virginia Tech (3-3, 1-1).
WHEN: 12:30 p.m.