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Ryan M. Kelly | The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress
Virginia quarterback David Watford throws down field against Georgia Tech Saturday. The redshirt sophomore completed 43 of 61 passes for 376 yards, two TDs and a two-point conversion.
Saturday, October 27, 2103
CHARLOTTESVILLE — In the midst of the darkest seasons, when the light at the end of the tunnel borders on nonexistent, and even when seen is more likely to be an oncoming locomotive, a team needs some glimmer of hope, however faint, to keep going.
Players and coaches need to see improvement somewhere, to give everyone — everyone within the program, anyway — the idea the mistakes, the losing, the frustration and the disappointment soon will end.
For the University of Virginia Cavaliers, that ray of hope comes from quarterback David Watford.
The redshirt sophomore has been the starter almost from day one of the preseason. Early on, he didn’t look so much like a project at quarterback as he did a young man in need of a new position.
He could run. Everyone knew that. But would he ever be able to pass well? Would he ever be able to stand in the pocket with bodies crashing around him and find his second or third receiver?
Would he ever possess the most valued qualities in a quarterback — poise and accuracy?
Eight games into a deeply disappointing season, the Cavaliers (2-6) have yet to find the ability to win. But they might have found the quarterback they need to help them win in 2014 and beyond.
Virginia lost to Georgia Tech Saturday, 35-25, in a game that certainly was within the Cavaliers’ grasp. Virginia could have won, a familiar refrain of late. But it did just enough things wrong to lose.
Watford, though, showed progress. He completed 43 of 61 passes — school records — for 376 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. He threw just one interception, and that came late in the game when the Cavaliers were down by 10, running out of time and Watford had no choice but to try to force action.
Watford was calm in the pocket. He rarely made ill-advised passes. Some of his completions came because the Yellow Jacket defenders offered more cushions than a furniture store.
Others came because Watford made accurate passes and his receivers actually held onto the ball.
“I see improvements in different areas and aspects of my game,” Watford said. “But there still is a lot of room to improve, still a lot of stuff I need to work on — leading the offense, executing, protecting the ball, just little things.
“I didn’t feel like I was ‘on’ today. I feel like our receivers made big plays for me. I missed some throws I should have made.”
Watford made more throws than he missed. And his receivers could make multiple plays for him in the remaining four games and still be in arrears to their quarterback.
“We’re aware,” Tim Smith said of the criticism he and his position mates have received for dropping too many passes. “We just ignore it. No one sees what we do Monday through Friday. They only see what happens Saturday.”
Uh, what happens on Saturday is what matters. Say this for Smith, he produced against the Yellow Jackets with 10 receptions for 151 yards.
Watford has had some rough Saturdays. But against Georgia Tech, he had the look of a major college quarterback.
“You can talk about having poise in the pocket, and you can practice it, but when you’re in a game and there are no coaches out there, and you’re feeling the rush, you’ve got to step up in the pocket and do it,” said Virginia coach Mike London.
“And he did. You see the growing pains. But we’ve seen improvement. Plus, he’s one of our leaders. He’ll be a good player. He’ll be a good quarterback. We’re trying to bring in enough guys, surround him with enough good people, to help him.”
Watford is showing he can help good players become better. If his progress continues, he has a chance to do the same for the Virginia program.
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