Local product Fields makes big splash in his return for Cavaliers

By Kenneth Cross
JerryRatcliffe.com Correspondent

Malachi Fields led Virginia in receiving with 58 yards, and scored his first career touchdown Saturday. (Photo: UVA Athletics)

Sophomore Malachi Fields entered the season with a broken metatarsal in his left foot (in spring football), as he had undergone surgery in the summer and had no timetable for his return to the field. Saturday, Fields made his 2022 debut and followed that with Virginia’s only score in the 37-7 loss to Pitt.

Fields, like several of his teammates, had to overcome injury, as he showed glimpses of being a deep threat last season when he had 11 catches for 172 yards as a freshman, averaging 15.6 yards per catch. 

Saturday afternoon after Virginia stumbled through the first quarter, Fields caught the first touchdown pass of his career on a 9-yard snare against tight coverage, finally putting the Cavaliers on the scoreboard.

“It felt great,” said Fields, who starred locally at Monticello High School. “It was my first [touchdown] of my career. You want to keep going and move forward and make some of the others.”

The score came on a day where Dontayvion Wicks, Lavel Davis Jr. and Keytaon Thompson were still out of the Cavaliers’ lineup with various injuries. It was the second consecutive game that the “Big 3,” as head coach Tony Elliott likes to call them, have missed. Elliott said he expects all of them back, but he won’t play them until they are cleared by UVA’s medical staff.

Fields led the Cavaliers with five catches (eight targets) for 58 yards and the touchdown. His speed and quickness gave Virginia an advantage on an afternoon where the Cavaliers could muster only 144 total yards.

Elliott wasn’t sure how much he would be able to play Fields as he studied the situation early in the week.

“I was thinking maybe 15-20 plays and then late in the week, our medical folks did a good job of having him prepared and said we could push it to 30, maybe 40 plays,” noted Elliott.

Fields and his love for the game were happy for such an opportunity in his first game of the season. 

“Malachi has worked extremely hard,” said Elliott. “He’s a guy that loves the grind of football and I am just happy for him to have some success.”

Quarterback Brennan Armstrong found Fields in the back of the end zone, as the 6-foot-4 sophomore made a catch over cornerback M.J. Devonshire to finally give the Cavaliers some life. 

“He had the best spring of the wide-receiving group, and with injury, that was a blow to the depth standpoint and a blow from the composition standpoint,” said offensive coordinator Des Kitchens. 

Last week Elliott allowed Fields to go through the pregame warm-ups, and it ignited his will even further.

“Credit to him, as he has attacked his rehab and got himself to be in a position to help us play the last couple of weeks, so I am excited for him and his future,” said Kitchings.

While the Cavaliers have had a tough season, players with solid attitudes such as Fields have been a huge entity for the new coaching staff, as the starting of rebuilding the program have been front row and center.

“You have got to tell the guys to stay in it,” said Fields about motivating players after Pitt’s two interceptions for touchdowns on Virginia’s first two offensive plays. “‘Next play, you can’t think about the past.’”

Fields is a player who can also be a key in team leadership as well as with his solid play.

“There is definitely progress, and you can see what’s changed,” he said. “You know you can push forward and see how you can grow.”

Making his season debut in Saturday’s game allowed Elliott to get Fields back on the field, and it also allowed his friends to get to see him score after they had helped his rehab.

“It was really exciting,” Fields explained. “My boys were right there happy for me and happy to see me out there. They have been pushing me every day, so I was just happy for them and happy to see them happy for me.”