The question came straight at Ahmmon Richards, like a tight spiral.
And this time, he was locked in.
Richards, who last year broke Michael Irvin’s 31-year-old Hurricanes single-season record for reception yards by a freshman, was asked about his “two or three” drops on Saturday in Miami’s 27-19 win over stubborn Syracuse.
“Four [drops],” said Richards, correcting the reporter while shaking his head in obvious disappointment. “I was just trying to make a play.
“I’ve just got to look the ball in before I can run. I was just excited to [try to] get in the end zone. That’s on me. I’ve got to make those plays.”
Had he made the plays available to him, Richards would have scored twice, although on one of those, the defensive back stripped him of the ball.
But make no mistake: Richards is Miami’s biggest playmaker now that running back Mark Walton is out for the year due to injury. He had 49 catches for 931 yards as a freshman last season.
And even in Saturday’s uneven performance, Richards still had six catches for a game-high 99 yards — and that’s pretty good considering he probably hasn’t been fully healthy all season.
Richards missed the first two games of the season due to a hamstring injury. He came back, looked good against Duke and Florida State but then missed last week against Georgia Tech when his injury flared up again.
On Saturday, Richards looked amazing at times, even leaping over Syracuse 5-10 defensive back Rodney Williams, gaining extra yards after a catch.
Richards said the leap was instinct and not a plan.
“When I saw (Williams), he was flat-footed, and I knew he was going to try to take a shot me,” Richards said. “And I was already running full speed.”
So, yes, Richards, along with running back Travis Homer and quarterback Malik Rosier, is vital to the Miami offense because of the way he can stretch the field.
Miami does have other weapons.
Slot receiver Braxton Berrios, who has been huge this season with 24 catches for 326 yards and five touchdowns, but he was held without a catch on Saturday as Syracuse rolled more coverage his way.
That left tight end Chris Herndon open, and he took advantage with a career day — 10 catches for 96 yards and one touchdown.
“The coaches know that once I get going, it’s hard to stop me,” said Herndon, who came within two catches of tying the all-time Canes record for receptions in one game. “The coaches saw that early and kept getting me the ball.”
In addition, for the second straight week, Miami found true freshman Jeff Thomas for a big gain. This time it was a 48-yard touchdown catch over the top, and that’s a promising sign for Miami’s offense.
So Miami has Berrios, Herndon, Thomas, and, of course, Mr. Fourth Quarter Darrell Langham, who was strangely silent on Saturday after two straight heroic games.
But even with all that, Richards’ size and speed — and normally reliable hands —are sorely needed if the Canes (6-0) are to continue to win.
Richards said he had never had more than one or “maybe two” drops in any other game in his life.
As for his health, Richards said he is sore but fine overall, and Rosier confirmed that as fact.
“I will make sure he goes to treatment — he’s my roommate,” Rosier said. “Ahmmon is a guy that if you throw it anywhere around him, he will [usually] catch it.
“A couple of times [after drops] , he walked off the field with his head down. I said, ‘Come on, head up. It’s a long game. We’re fine. I’m going to keep throwing you the ball.’
“He started making plays later on. He’ll be fine.”