Cavaliers hope receiving corps starts catching on - The Daily Progress: Sports

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cavaliers hope receiving corps starts catching on

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Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 9:00 pm

David Watford didn’t bother to shower after the Pitt loss, opting to head straight for the airport-bound bus.

Once the Virginia quarterback landed with teammates in Charlottesville on Saturday evening, Watford didn’t bother immediately finding sleep or entertainment, either.

He hit the McCue Center practice field.

“As soon as we got back,” Watford said, “I was throwing to Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell.”

That trio played a role in 10 dropped passes during the ugly 14-3 defeat to the Panthers in which the Cavaliers couldn’t manage 200 yards of offense, couldn’t consistently convert on third down, couldn’t take advantage of a spectacular performance by their defense.

The effort dropped UVa (2-2, 0-1 ACC) to 112th nationally in total offense. It sunk its quarterback to another low.

“I just got on the bus right after the game — just out of frustration,” Watford said. “I talked to my mom and saw my family and just got on the bus. It was frustrating because it was definitely a game we should have won, we could have won, but we just didn’t do enough.

“I felt like we could have done more offensively. I have to take accountability for the offense because with me being the leader of the offense, everything runs through me. So I just have to take more charge and just have to be able to do more and just execute better.

“I have to demand that more in practice and throughout the week and through my guys. That’s really something I said to the guys after the game. We have to expect it in practice, we have to demand it out of each other offensively and defensively.”

The first order might have been directed at the receivers.

Through four games, the starting WR trio of Jennings, Terrell and Tim Smith has combined for 33 catches, 265 yards and two touchdowns. By comparison, through five games, Ball State’s Willie Snead has made 35 receptions for 611 yards and four scores.

The Wahoos will face Snead and the Cardinals (4-1) at noon, Saturday, at Scott Stadium.

However, Snead’s competition might not necessarily be Jennings, Terrell and Smith.

Sparked by the drops at Heinz Field, the UVa coaching staff decided to open the receiver competition this week in practice.

During Wednesday’s ACC teleconference, Virginia head coach Mike London didn’t name his new starters, but described the receiver battle as “very competitive.”

During a Wednesday teleconference with reporters, UVa offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild said the Cavs will “try to roll more people through not only practice, but games to see if we can get any more consistency going on with our outside receiver spots.”

Candidates there include Adrain Gamble, Keeon Johnson, Kyle Dockins and Miles Gooch.

“I definitely feel that this week will be an opportunity,” Gamble said Monday. “Being that everybody wants to be on the field, that’ll bring more competition. Competition makes other players better. So it’s definitely a big opportunity for me. I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity.”

Watford has completed 80 of 135 passes for 604 yards with three touchdowns to six interceptions this season. He’s also had a pair of lost fumbles.

Against Pitt, the line was 15 of 37 for 123 yards and a lost fumble on a botched snap.

Watford’s Saturday night practice session continued Sunday morning. The Heinz Field memory had to go away. The drive for improvement had to begin instantly.

“We got all our receivers up and we were out there throwing routes,” Watford said. “Even though it was not full speed, we were still just trying to catch. Just throwing and catching because that’s the most important thing and that’s really what we need to work on. That’s something that we look to do.”

And it’s something Fairchild has admired. He’s down, but Watford isn’t out. The same goes with the entire offense.

“David’s a special person and prepares like no one I’ve been around,” Fairchild said. “He cares. ... These kids are good kids and they practice hard and they want to do well. I feel for them. I got to do a better job. I got to get them in better spots to succeed. But there’s no better kids to coach than what we’ve got here.

“They’re fabulous.”

Running backs to return

Fairchild said Virginia will get freshman running back Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell back for Saturday’s game. Mizzell has missed the last two games with a sprained ankle.

Fairchild also noted that running back Khalek Shepherd will return. Shepherd played against Pitt, but in a limited fashion, running twice for seven yards and making one catch for seven yards. “That should help, too,” Fairchild said.

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