The Virginia Tech quarterback plans to keep one handy this week while preparing for the Hokies’ game at No. 13 Clemson on Saturday.
That’s because the Tigers manhandled Virginia Tech twice last season, including the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.
“It’s something that I’m not going to let slip out of the back of my mind,” Thomas said of the motivational chip. “I have it here, tucked away. Two tough losses last year prevented us (from being) in a bigger bowl game … but I’m extremely happy to get another shot at them – and hopefully get a chance to take it to them on their own turf.”
The Hokies finished 11-3 last season after losing to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. Without the two losses to the Tigers, they figure they would have at least had to be in the conversation to possibly play for the national championship.
Virginia Tech (4-3, 2-1 ACC) is coming off its strongest showing of the season, a 41-20 victory against Duke.
The Hokies only put it all together after the Blue Devils went ahead 20-0 in the opening 12 minutes at Lane Stadium, but dominated thereafter.
The surge came just in time as they head into their roughest stretch of conference play.
After visiting Death Valley, they have back-to-back Thursday night games – at Miami, and home against No. 12 Florida State.
Their preseason goal of a shot at the national championship has long since faded, making redemption for this season a moot point, linebacker Bruce Taylor said.
But the Hokies still can win the ACC, and would like to make a better showing.
“I think we’re a lot better than what we’ve shown, so it would be very nice if we went out against Clemson and actually played how we should have been playing all year, kind of what you saw in the second half of the Duke game,” Taylor said.
Clemson (5-1, 2-1), which won 23-3 at Lane Stadium and 38-10 in the ACC Championship, is a powerhouse again this season.
The Tigers are averaging more than 41 points a game, which ranks 11th nationally, and ACC contenders, too.
They won’t be looking past the Hokies, despite that success, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said.
“No, I don’t think there’s any worry about that at all,” he said.
“We’re just going to take it as another game. Last year doesn’t affect this game and their struggles don’t affect us. We do what we do and they have to deal with that. We’re going to bring our best, just like we bring our best every week. So their struggles and last year have nothing to do with this game.”
Virginia Tech hopes the performance against Duke finally marked the end of those struggles, but there’s more to prove.
In three prior games this season away from Blacksburg, they are allowing an average of nearly 37 points and lost all three.
“I think it’s an energy thing, an energy level, intensity thing,” Taylor said. “When we’re at home, we always have the crowd, the Hokie Nation, behind us. It’s just a different feeling and I guess what guys have to realize is when you are on the road, you kinda have to create your own environment. … Guys gotta learn, right now, that it’s not about where you play, or who you play. It’s about how you play, and how you play should not be affected by if you are home, or away, or wherever.”