All his young life, David Richards dreamed of starring in a nationally televised football game.
But not like this.
The Arizona Wildcats’ wide receiver caught a game-high seven passes for 50 yards against Oregon last weekend. That it happened in a 49-0 loss to the Ducks, however, prevented Richards from celebrating.
Football is a team sport, after all. Breakout performances mean little when you’re on the losing end of a shellacking — and a shutout, no less.
Richards has yet to watch the game replay since returning to Tucson Sunday morning, and has yet to look up ESPN’s highlights online. The Wildcats (3-1 overall, 0-1 Pac-12) face 18th-ranked Oregon State Saturday.
“I didn’t care about what I did or anything. I was just upset that we couldn’t capitalize more on the offensive side,” he said. “I was more upset that we got the loss than anything I did.”
Still, coaches have liked what they’ve seen in the redshirt freshman. The 6-foot-4-inch, 203-pound Richards has thrived since moving from slot receiver to outside receiver last spring. He played well in training camp, and caught two passes for 16 yards in the Wildcats’ first three games.
When Terrence Miller injured his shoulder in the UA’s nonconference win over South Carolina State, Richards moved into the starting ???against???. Saturday, he proved to be a bright spot on an otherwise dreadful night.
Austin Hill knows the feeling.
Hill caught eight passes for 128 yards, both career highs at the time, in last year’s game against Oklahoma State. Like Richards, Hill was filling in for an injured starter (Juron Criner). And, like the young receiver, Hill was too caught up in a blowout loss to celebrate his breakthrough performance.
Oklahoma State thumped the Wildcats 37-14 in Stillwater, kick-starting a spiral that would eventually cost coach Mike Stoops his job.
Hill, like many skill-position players, believes that individual success will — more often than not — help the team win a games. But when it doesn’t, it’s hard to celebrate. “I’d rather have a pretty bad game and have us win than have a spectacular game and have us lose,” he said.
Hill had nothing but praise for Richards, who he says “plays hard, and knows what he’s doing.” Coach Rich Rodriguez calls Richards “a smart guy.”
“He’s having a pretty good three, four games,” Rodriguez said. “We kind of consider him part of the regular rotation.”
Pressed to name what he does best, Richards thought for a second — and then played it safe.
“My hands are pretty good,” he said. I think I’m a pretty good possession receiver.”
Arizona’s previous coaching staff expected as much when they recruited the two-way player out of Palmdale (Calif.) High School. Recruited as both a cornerback and outside receiver — he even played quarterback at times — Richards projected as a rangy offensive threat and, in a pinch, a candidate to switch to defense.
The Wildcats’ new coaches, notably assistant Tony Dews, have been impressed with Richards’ work ethic and willingness to improve. Maybe this week, Richards can help contribute to a win.
“He comes out, and he works very hard every day,” Dews said. “So him getting a chance to play was good for him, and he obviously took advantage of some opportunities to help the team.” ㆆ