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Friday, October 24, 2014

Scattershooting: Watford shows signs of progress

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Posted: Friday, October 18, 2013 6:00 am

Scattershooting around the ACC, while wondering if Virginia quarterback David Watford took a huge step forward in his maturation process last week at Maryland …

Watford was clearly in command in the Cavaliers’ two-minute offense, getting the ball back at his own 17 with 2:34 to play and no time outs, trailing by a point. The sophomore completed 4-for-6 passes for 49 yards and three first downs in the drive and several of those throws had some real zip on them.

There was also a pass interference that gave the Cavaliers another first down, and one pass (to Tim Smith) was tipped.

While Virginia didn’t win, missing a 42-yard field goal wide right, Watford looked like perhaps that light bulb turned on during that drive.

“I believe that the last drive as you saw it unfold was you look at it and you shake your head like [Watford’s] getting better,” UVa coach Mike London said. “I believe that David will continue to get better at making decisions, at running the ball and managing the game.”

Watford was 27-for-44 for 263 yards, a touchdown, no sacks and no interceptions. On the TD pass, he showed good decision making, showing run all the way, then pulling up when he spotted tight end Jake McGee open in the end zone and firing away.

“I feel like week-to-week my confidence is rising,” Watford said. “With each game, I’m able to see defenses better. The game is slowing down for me more. Coach [Steve] Fairchild is showing more confidence in me in the play calls and what we’re able to do on the field as an offense.”

I couldn’t help but ask Watford if he could imagine what things will be like for him a year from now, after he’s started 12 games and has all that experience behind him.

“I imagine it will be a lot of fun … out there just scoring points and looking back on this, just thankful for this opportunity to learn and to grow,” the Hampton native said. “I can’t imagine how easy the game will be because when the game slows down, you’re able to see things before they happen and it becomes easier and easier.”

Another step forward on Saturday against visiting Duke would give everyone more confidence in his game.

Good for the ACC

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said that it’s good for the ACC to have the Clemson vs. Florida State showdown this weekend.

“I’ll tell you, it’s fantastic,” Beamer said about the spotlight shining on the conference after years of taking shots over its football shortcomings. “I see where it’s all access at Clemson and at Florida State, and the fact you put Louisville (which joins the ACC in 2014) and we’ve got four teams in the Top 10. I’ve said all along, just give us enough time, and this is going to come around because the coaching is good, the recruiting is good, facilities are improving, so I don’t think there’s any question that the ACC is going to hold its own against the competition.”

Boston College coach Steve Addazio, who used to be an assistant coach at Florida, has a high regard for the ACC.

“I can tell you from my years in the SEC and in the Big Ten and different places I’ve been, that I would put these two teams (FSU and Clemson) up against anybody,” Addazio said.

He would know. His BC team is the only one in the country to have faced both the Seminoles and Tigers this year. Asked to pick a winner, Addazio couldn’t, but said that either team is good enough to be No. 1 in the country and that fans are in for a treat this Saturday.

Prepping for the option

How difficult is it to prepare to play against Georgia Tech’s option for the first time? Ask Syracuse coach Scott Shafer.

Shafer said as soon as he was hired and he started to review teams his Orange would play, Georgia Tech jumped out immediately.

“Had to think outside of the comfort zone, outside of the box and take a look at a very unique offense,” Shafer said. “So early on we started looking at it and started talking to people that have defended it or run it in similar ways and try to come up with ideas that fit the personnel that we have on our team.”

Dabo & Tajh

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said that Heisman Trophy candidate Tajh Boyd, is part of the “bricks and mortar” of the Tigers program.

Boyd, a Virginian, arrived at Clemson the same time as Swinney. Boyd redshirted.

“My big thing with him was, I’ve got this job and here’s the vision for the program,” Swinney said. “I didn’t really have a track record at the time as a head coach and I was like, ‘You know what I need is a quarterback, somebody I can build this thing around.’”

Boyd has delivered.

Stat of the week

You can bet Virginia defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta and special teams coordinator Larry Lewis will make sure they know where Duke’s Jamison Crowder is at all times in Saturday’s game.

Crowder is second in the ACC in all-purpose yardage, averaging 159 yards per game, including: second in the conference in pass receptions per game (7.8); third in pass receiving yards per game (103.0); and No. 1 in the league in punt return average (17.5).

Quote of the week

Virginia true freshman defensive tackle Donte Wilkins, who will start in place of injured Brent Urban against Duke on Saturday, is still trying to get used to the original spelling of his first name. He discovered he had been misspelling it for years.

“I went my whole life spelling it Donta and then turned 16 and went to go get my driver’s license and looked at my birth certificate. I said (to his mother), ‘my name is spelled with an “e” mom.’ She said, ‘Oh yeah, it IS spelled with an “e.” I didn’t want to tell you because you learned to spell it with an ‘a.’”

Wilkins said he still sometimes spells it with an “a,” when he’s communicating with old friends and that it seems a little weird spelling it with the “e.”

Short yardage …

…During Wednesday’s ACC Operation Basketball, commissioner John Swofford couldn’t help but field a football question about why the NCAA still hasn’t ruled in the Miami case, to which Swofford answered: “I am as perplexed as anybody why that hasn’t been resolved at this time. The pure length of time is problematic for the institution itself.” …Maryland QB C.J. Brown has been cleared to play at Wake Forest this Saturday after missing the UVa game due to a concussion suffered the week before at Florida State. …Jim Grobe said his Deacons have played better lately, particularly on offense because they were asking QB Tanner Price to do too many things earlier this season, including some things he wasn’t comfortable with, like handling the ball in the option game. …I’m not sure I’m buying the playing freshmen excuse as much as I used to. Why? UCLA has played 17 freshmen this season and is ranked No. 9 with a 5-0 record. Sometimes younger is better.

The picks

Last week: 6-1. To Date: 58-14. This week: Miami 20, UNC 17 (picked before game); Pitt 37, Old Dominion 24; Georgia Tech 27, Syracuse 17; Florida State 33, Clemson 30; Virginia 30, Duke 27; UPSET SPECIAL: Wake Forest 26, Maryland 23; Louisville 23, Central Florida 20; Notre Dame 21, Southern Cal 17.

Hootie’s Power Rankings

Place, team, record, last week’s ranking, comment (prior to Miami-UNC game Thursday night):

1A. Florida State, 5-0 (1B). Seminoles get a slight edge over Tigers as most complete team. We’ll see for sure on Saturday.

1B. Clemson, 6-0. (1A). After leading our rankings all season long, we’re thinking the Tigers’ downfall will be their secondary vs. Jameis Winston.

3. Miami, 5-0 (3). Hurricanes were in for a crucial road test last night.

4. Virginia Tech, 6-1. (4). Hokies offense was again unimpressive vs. Pitt. They’ll work on it during this bye week.

5. Boston College, 3-3. (6). Eagles are starting to resemble some of Tom O’Brien’s old teams with rugged running game, good defense.

6. Georgia Tech, 3-3 (5). We’re still not sold on Jackets’ offense this year. Syracuse hasn’t seen it before though, so Tech should win.

7. Syracuse, 3-3 (10). The Orange can run the ball a little bit, too, but can they stop GT’s option in first meeting?

8. North Carolina, 1-4 (7). Tar Heels might be best 1-4 (or possibly 1-5 after last night’s game) team in the country.

9. Pittsburgh, 3-2 (11). Passing game will keep Panthers in most games this season.

10. Maryland, 5-1 (8). Terps might be worst 5-1 team in the country.

11. Duke, 4-2 (12). Coach David Cutcliffe might be the most underrated coach in the country.

12. Wake Forest, 3-3 (13). Deacs had a week off to study Terps. We think it will pay off in an upset win.

13. N.C. State, 3-3 (9). Wolfpack is erratic, inconsistent and not as good as we originally thought.

14. Virginia, 2-4 (14). Cavaliers’ backs are against the wall. They desperately need a win.

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