Malachi Fields return offers UVA glimpse of future
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- As complicated as the play looked, Malachi Fields has run the route many times, just not in awhile and never in a game at Scott Stadium with these results.
“It was a routine play we do all the time in practice," Fields said, "So, we just go out there and execute.”
One of the few bright spots from Virginia's 30-point loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, their largest at home since 2017, was Fields.
Not only did Fields produce the only points of the game for the Cavaliers on his acrobatic 9-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the endzone, the Monticello alum also accounted for more than a third of UVA's total yards (144) with five catches for 58 yards. After his touchdown, Fields went player-by-player and coach-by-coach celebrating his bright return to the field.
“It was really exciting," Fields said, "My boys were right there. They were happy for me and happy to see me out there. I could not do it without them pushing me every day. I was happy to see them happy for me.”
These moments were expected to come often for the second-year receiver playing in his hometown. Fields showed glimpses of his talent as a freshman with 11 catches for 172 yards, while transitioning from high school star quarterback at Monticello to playing a new position.
The talent translated to the new coaching staff and offense too, with Fields looking like a starter coming out of spring practice. But days before fall camp while running route, Fields suffered a broken fifth metatarsal 'out of the blue', forcing him to miss camp and the first nine games of the season.
"Malachi had the best spring of the wide receiver group," UVA offensive coordinator Des Kitchings said, "When we lost him this summer, it was a blow just from a depth standpoint and competition standpoint. Credit to him, he's attacked his rehab and got himself into a position to be able to help us play these last couple of weeks."
Fields warmed up for the first time before the North Carolina game, but did not play as Tony Elliott wanted the Keswick native to acclimate to the gameday environment again. Even after Fields was "turned loose" this week in practice though, Elliott thought he would only play 15-20 snaps until late in the week.
"Malachi has worked extremely hard, he's a guy that loves the grind of football and I’m just so happy for him to have some success," Elliott said, "But I didn't expect him to play as many snaps early in the week. But as we progress towards the later part of the week I felt a bit more comfortable with the suggestion to play him about 30 or 40 plays.”
Fields' emergence comes at a time of real need for Virginia, who played for the second-straight game without their top three receivers in Keytaon Thompson, Dontayvion Wicks and Lavel Davis Jr., all of whom were right there on the sidelines celebrating with Fields after his touchdown.
On the touchdown grab, Kitchings saw the receiver the UVA coaching staff first saw in the spring, but Fields says there is more to show.
"Getting there, it's a grind every day," Fields said, "So just trying to get back to that."