By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — UVa’s football team has lost one of its running backs, apparently for good, and may be without one of its top wide receivers for the rest of the season.
Redshirt freshman Dominique Wallace, a tailback from Fredericksburg, has left the team for personal reasons, Cavaliers coach Mike London announced Monday afternoon.
Tim Smith, Virginia’s No. 3 wideout, has a slow-to-heal ankle injury that could force him to redshirt. Smith, a sophomore from Chesapeake, has 3 receptions for 28 yards this season.
Wallace, who in 2009 suffered a season-ending foot injury in UVa’s third game, was fourth on the depth chart this year, behind sophomore Perry Jones and fifth-year seniors Keith Payne and Raynard Horne. He was used primarily on special teams in the Wahoos’ first two games this year.
In a statement, Wallace said he does not plan to transfer to another school to play football. “My goal is is to finish my undergraduate degree at UVa,” he said.
London opened his weekly press conference by talking about Smith and Wallace.
“Dom has decided to leave for personal reasons,” London said, “and I’ll respect his personal reasons and just say that he’s a good young man. I wish him the best of luck in all his endeavors, and we’re going to move on like we do with any other player that’s injured or can’t participate.”
Smith played as a true freshman last season, so he has a redshirt year available. He was bothered by his ankle throughout training camp, and he appeared to be laboring Sept. 11 against Southern California on a reverse on which he gained 16 yards.
“I know he’s frustrated,” London said. “He wants to play. He wants to get back to his old self, being full speed and being able to run those reverses and thing like that that we al know he can. He is just limited right now. We’re going to get a second opinion, look at his ankle and see what happens from there.”
UVa (1-1) hosts VMI (1-1) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Scott Stadium. If Smith, as expected, isn’t available, the Nos. 3 and 4 wideouts will be juniors Matt Snyder and Jared Green. Neither has a reception this season.
ON THE MEND: Not all the injury news is bad for the Wahoos, who were off this past weekend.
London said he’s hopeful that his two best defensive backs, cornerback Ras-I Dowling (hamstring) and safety Rodney McLeod (knee), will make their 2010 debuts Saturday. Also, defensive tackle Brent Urban (knee) and offensive guard Aaron Van Kuiken (wrist) have been cleared to play for the first time this season.
PLAYING THE BLUES: In its third game of the season, UVa will break out its third color combination. That was the word Monday night from London, who on his weekly radio show said the ‘Hoos will wear blue jerseys and blue pants Saturday.
“Hopefully the Cavalier faithful out there will respond to that,” London said.
In the opener against Richmond, the Cavaliers wore blue pants and orange jerseys. A week later, against USC, UVa sported orange pants and white jerseys.
SHOW OF SUPPORT: London will participate in the third annual Coach to Cure MD event Saturday, as will many of his counterparts around the country. London will wear a patch, and fans are asked to donate to help battle Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Money raised will support research projects aimed at finding a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. For more information, visit www.CoachtoCureMD.org.
SPECIAL PLACE IN HIS HEART: UVa defensive coordinator Jim Reid is at his most passionate — and that’s saying a lot — when talking about VMI, where he was head coach in 2006 and ’07.
Reid left in January 2008 to become the Miami Dolphins’ linebackers coach. He was reunited with Paul Pasqualoni, then the Dolphins’ new defensive coordinator. Reid had worked for Pasqualoni at Syracuse.
Asked Monday if he would still be at VMI had Pasqualoni not offered him a job in Miami, Reid said the “answer to that, I believe, is yes. And I just want you to know that probably almost a dozen times I had the phone in my mind when I was down with the Dolphins about to call [VMI athletics director] Donny White within the first week and to see if I could get my job back. Not that I didn’t love it in Miami. It was great, it was pro football. It’s like the terminal degree of your profession, can’t get any higher than that.
“But I loved it [at VMI]. I really did … It’s a remarkable institution.”
To get a glimpse of what makes VMI special, Reid said, “you would need only to do this: You would need only to go at 7 o’clock in the morning Monday through Saturday and stand there in front of the chapel and watch the Keydets as they come in formation with a drum beat and watch them as they march by you down to the mess hall.
“From the first day, when I got chills, to the very last day, when I knew I was leaving and went out to watch it, there was not one day that I was not on post that I didn’t go to the formation and watch that in the morning.
“It’s an absolutely amazing experience to watch the precision and discipline of every cadet as they march in step from the barracks to the mess hall.”
In the Keydets’ two seasons under Reid, they went 3-19. VMI, which competes in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision, finished 6-6 in 2002 and again in ’03, but hasn’t had a winning season since 1981.
Success, however, “comes in a lot of different ways,” Reid said. “It’s not only through the record. Every day that you live you have an opportunity to have a successful day, to do things correctly, to do things right. Honor, integrity is demanded [at VMI]. It’s two qualities I hope that most of the time I can live myself. And that’s some of the reasons that I loved working there.”
London said he’ll ask Reid to talk to the team about VMI this week.
“I’ve actually already given the defense a little bit of an introduction,” Reid said. “These players, these cadets, are conditioned to the positive. They’re conditioned to the positive with energy and enthusiasm. They will never, ever, ever quit on anything. I’m talking about academics. I’m talking about doing things correctly.
“That’s what the Institute stands for. That’s how they’re conditioned. I believe that that’s how we’re being conditioned right now, exactly the same way. I think that’s exactly the way that Coach London is running this program. There is no quit in this team, there is no quit at the Institute. And that I know.”
SO FAR, SO GOOD: Of London’s asistants, the least experienced as coaches are former UVa stars Shawn Moore (wide receivers) and Ron Mattes (offensive line). Their respective units, however, have been among the most productive for the ‘Hoos.
A year ago, Mattes was out of football, living and working in Concord, N.C.
Moore was quarterbacks coach at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. But under his tutelage, Virginia wideouts Dontrelle Inman (10 catches, 142 yards) and Kris Burd (10 catches, 141 yards, 2 touchdowns) have sparkled.
“You would not be able to tell that he came from high school,” Inman said. “I guess I would say more so because he was actually an elite player at one time, so he knows what it takes to win at the college level. He knows how you have to compete each day. He knows what it takes to be an elite football program.”
Moore played quarterback at UVa, and many consider him the greatest player in school history.
Inman on the Keydets: “From looking at the tape … They will not quit. They will play to the last snap. Even if they’re down 60, 70 points, they’re still going to play like it’s the first play of the game.”
NOTHING TO IT: UVa has scored 7 touchdowns this season. Five have come on runs by Payne, a 6-3, 255-pound bruiser.
On his success near the goal line, “I really don’t think much about it,” Payne said. “I just run with the ball and then follow the big boys, and we all end up in the end zone.”
Payne weighed 225 pounds when he graduated from Oakton High in Northern Virginia. By the time he arrived at UVa, however, he was up to 240, and he has continued to grow.
“My body just does what it wants,” Payne said with a smile. “I don’t know how to fix it, or I don’t know if it’s wrong. I don’t know if it’s right. I try to play to what I’m at.”
Virginia hasn’t played since its trip to the West Coast. Heavily favored USC’s 17-14 win was not secure until UVa’s unsuccessful onside-kick attempt in the final seconds.
The Trojans’ slim margin of victory surprised some, but not the Cavaliers.
“I guess to the world it was kind of shocking,” Payne said, “but to us, it was like, ‘We should have come out with the win.’ We knew exactly how that game was going to go.”
LOOKING AHEAD: UVa will play at home again Oct. 2, against ACC rival Florida State. The starting time for that game won’t be announced until Sunday.
During their bye week, London said, UVa’s coaching staff reviewed some video of FSU, which hammered BYU on Saturday.
“You try to get a little jump-start,” London said. “So you do a little bit of both for this opponent and the next opponent because you have the time to do that. So we did that. But like I said, first and foremost now, as we get into game week, will be the preparation for VMI.”