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Though they've both struggled mightily this season, Cavaliers receivers Tim Smith and Darius Jennings play their way back into good graces.
Ryan M. Kelly | The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress
Virginia wide receiver Darius Jennings fights off Georgia Tech cornerback D.J. White (28) and defensive back Jemea Thomas (14) after making a reception along the Georgia Tech sideline on Saturday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.
The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress | File
Virginia wide receiver Tim Smith (20) catches the ball in front of Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell (6) and safety Jeremy Cash (16).
RYAN M. KELLY | The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress
Georgia Tech cornerback Louis Young (8) breaks up a pass intended for Virginia wide receiver Miles Gooch (17) on Saturday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.
Monday, October 28, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Veteran wide receivers Tim Smith and Darius Jennings received one very important vote of confidence Saturday during Virginia’s football game with Georgia Tech.
“It was an in-the-moment type of thing,” quarterback David Watford said of a conversation he had with UVa offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild.
“I call my receivers by their numbers. I told coach Fairchild, ‘Just keep [No.] 20 and keep [No.] 6 in the game,’ because they were feeling it. I could tell when they came in the huddle, just the way they carried themselves on the field.
“They were giving me confidence. I was like, ‘Keep them in the game so I can get them the ball.’ Coach Fairchild was like ‘all right.’ I didn’t realize how many times I threw the ball till after the game.’ ”
Watford set school record for completions and attempts on an afternoon when he was 43 for 61 for 376 yards. It didn’t prevent UVa (2-6, 0-4 ACC) from losing its fifth game in a row, 35-25.
Jennings finished with 13 receptions for 119 yards and Smith had 10 catches for 151 yards. It was the first time ever that two Virginia receivers had caught 10 or more passes in the same game.
One week earlier, they had combined for one reception in a 35-22 loss to Duke, leading to numerous mid-week stories about the ineffectiveness of a once-touted group.
“We definitely hear what’s said, all the criticism of the receivers, but we try and ignore it as much as we can,” Smith said following Saturday’s game. “Nobody knows what goes on Sunday through Friday.”
Head coach Mike London did.
“Tim had his best week of practice,” London said. “It wasn’t surprising. Some of the catches and some of the blocks [Saturday] were indicative of some of the work he did during the week.
“That’s how we must get better as a team. You can’t feel complacent. You’ve got to find a reason why you’re playing and those two decided that they were going to turn up their efforts.”
Jennings, who had been playing at one of the outside receiver spots, was moved into the slot.
“During the game, Darius made some catches that required him to keep playing,” London said. “We talked about making some changes because of the lack of production. Ever since those changes, those two young men have taken it personally.”
Jennings and Smith were scratched from the starting lineup following a 14-3 loss at Pittsburgh in which UVa receivers dropped 10 balls, according to London. They were replaced by a true freshman, Keeon Johnson, and a redshirt freshman, Kyle Dockins.
In the three games they started, Johnson and Dockins combined for eight receptions, six by Johnson, who started on the outside Saturday when Jennings shifted to the slot.
“I haven’t been as productive as I would have liked and the team would have liked,” said Jennings, who had a team-high 48 receptions last year as a sophomore. “I kind of had some bumps in the road. Just to get back on track, I’ve been working my butt off in practice.”
He also has been returning kickoffs in recent games and has been listed as a starter, as has Smith, for Virginia’s game Saturday with ninth-ranked Clemson at Scott Stadium at 3:30 p.m.
“You could see the connection between Dave and the rest of the receivers today,” Jennings said Saturday. “It’s something we haven’t done throughout the season, but it still wasn’t enough. We still had an ‘L’ on the board at the end of the day.
“The final score is always important. As an athlete, a competitor and a football player, you just want to win.”
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