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Virginia quarterback David Watford (5) runs the ball as Pittsburgh defensive back K'Waun Williams (2) defends Saturday in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won 14-3.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
PITTSBURGH — He stood there, hands on hips, still as could be.
David Watford stared at the spot in the end zone where the last chance of winning had just dissolved, where his tight end had leapt in vain to try to catch the high throw, where Virginia’s 14-3 loss to Pittsburgh became all but official.
Five seconds…six…seven. No movement from Watford. Right tackle Jay Whitmire walked past his quarterback and gave Watford an encouraging tap on the rib pads. Still no budging from Watford.
What Watford was thinking at that moment isn’t known — he wasn’t available for interviews after the game — but here’s a guess: How did it come to this?
All last year, as he dutifully redshirted, Watford had pictured what it would be like to lead this offense. Safe to say performances like this one — 15-for-37 passing, 123 yards, no touchdowns, no picks —weren’t part of his creative visualization process.
Let’s be fair, though. They’re all responsible here, from the coaches who called the plays to the receivers who dropped the easy passes to the offensive linemen who couldn’t carve out any semblance of a running game to help their quarterback.
Let’s also remember that this was a game that the Wahoos — on the road as seven-point underdogs — were supposed to lose.
But what stings for UVa is how it went down. The defense gave the Cavs chance after chance. They sacked Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage seven times. They created three turnovers. They kept imploring their offensive counterparts to do something, anything, to get this game turned around.
Didn’t happen. And Watford, despite the mistakes of those around him, realizes that a lot of that is on him. He knows there were yards to be had against Pitt’s secondary, which yielded 377 in the air to Florida State and 319 passing yards to Duke.
The Cavs couldn’t find them. And you have to wonder if Watford — still just a sophomore making his fourth career start, remember — will be OK after such a humbling performance.
“He’s going to have to be,” UVa coach Mike London said. “He touches the ball 100 percent of the time.”
Will he continue to? Looks like it. London said he never really considered benching Watford for freshman Greyson Lambert or anyone else, and the implication was that he’ll continue to be the guy moving forward.
“He did some good things out there, but obviously he did some things that he could improve on,” London said, noting Watford’s mishandled shotgun snap that led to a quick Pittsburgh touchdown. “He throws the ball, puts it in hands, and the ball’s dropped? Well, that’s another issue we need to address.”
The signs that Watford might be in for a long day arrived early. On UVa’s first drive, there was apparent miscommunication on a third down play, as receiver Tim Smith went deep and Watford flung an out-pass to nobody in particular.
Other times, though, he seemed on the cusp of something special only to see it fail to materialize. Had he just an inch or two more on the sideline, Watford’s 19-yard run in the second quarter likely would have been a long touchdown.
Crucial second half drops by Darius Jennings and Rob Burns denied UVa chains-moving gains, and other catchable balls with a higher degree of difficulty clanked off the hands of their targets.
“We had a lot of drops today,” tight end Jake McGee said. “I don’t know how many. Seemed like every pass play, we were doing something wrong.”
McGee was the one Watford sought on the last-gasp fourth down play. The throw was high. McGee got a hand on it. He says he should have caught it.
However the strong-willed, motionless Watford, staring at the place where it all went down, probably knew otherwise. It was his ball. His throw. His offense.
And for the Cavs to have a chance, it has to be better than this.
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