Thomas threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns, and the No. 13 Hokies overcame an otherwise sluggish offensive performance for a 26-7 victory over Arkansas State on Saturday.
"We had a good day passing," Thomas said after completing 21 of 33 attempts. His completions and yardage both exceeded his totals in the first two games combined.
"I think it shows what our offense can do if we do have the passing game moving," he said.
Thomas, a redshirt sophomore, had help. He hit D.J. Coles with a short pass that Coles took 49 yards for a touchdown, sprung in part by a big block from fellow wide receiver Danny Coale.
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"Danny made an excellent block on two players. I saw green and I just turned the corner and turned on the jets to the end zone," Coles said of his first collegiate touchdown.
Coale, who hooked up with Thomas on receptions of 52 and 44 yards, caught a 4-yard scoring pass later in the first quarter as the Hokies improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2006.
He finished with seven receptions for 128 yards.
Once again, the defense was key, as it has been for all three victories -- all against non-BCS competition. They entered Saturday's game ranked eighth nationally, allowing just 202.5 yards per game and ended the Red Wolves' string of 14 games with at least 300 yards. They finished with 269.
"We know we probably had to play our best game," Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin said after going 16 for 36 for 205 yards with two interceptions. "They had a really good defense, but we did not play well at all today."
Arkansas State (1-2) came in averaging 480 yards but managed little after Aplin's 51-yard pass to Taylor Stockemer on its first offensive play set up its only scoring drive. Consecutive keepers by Aplin covered the last eight yards, and the Red Wolves led 7-0 after just 3:01.
Apart from a drive to the Hokies' 8 yard-line at the end of the half that ended with a missed field goal, that was pretty much all they mustered against the Hokies' improving defense.
"I've seen us get better each week, and we're just going to continue to do that," said Kyle Fuller, who was credited with a sack for applying pressure to Aplin in the end zone, causing him to throw the ball away and draw an intentional grounding flag and a safety for the Hokies.
Aplin was sacked three times.
The Hokies' offense looked shaky from the start, and even the beginning was bad because wide receiver and kick returner Dyrell Roberts broke his left arm returning the opening kickoff.
Thomas hit Jarrett Boykin for 10 yards on the first play from scrimmage, but Thomas fumbled the snap on the next play for a loss of three. A 2-yard run and near interception forced a punt, and Scott Demler shanked it out of bounds to the left, a 22-yard kick.
Aplin then caught Fuller out of position and hit Stockemer in stride behind him.
On their next possession, the Hokies drove 83 yards, with Thomas running for 16 yards and then hitting Coale for 52, but couldn't punch it in after a first-and-goal at the 7.
On fourth down, Thomas' flip to fullback Martin Scales was underthrown and bobbled.
"I babied it a bit," Thomas said of the throw. Scales dove and could have caught it, but didn't.
Two plays later, the Hokies got their safety and found their stride.