University of Miami

‘Yo! Head up!’ UM’s QB told star receiver, who won’t soon forget strange game

Miami Hurricane receiver Ahmmon Richards hurdles over the Syracuse University defense at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, October 21, 2017.
Miami Hurricane receiver Ahmmon Richards hurdles over the Syracuse University defense at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, October 21, 2017. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

This week has been sort of surreal for All-American receiver Ahmmon Richards, who last year broke Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin’s Miami freshman receiving record with 934 yards on 49 catches.

Though covered like an annoying blanket, Richards, clearly an extraordinary talent who missed most of fall camp and three games this season with a pulled hamstring, insists he dropped a pass in the end zone Saturday against Syracuse.

Then he dropped three more – and still finished with a game-high 99 yards on six catches.

Nonetheless, people are still looking at Richards oddly this week, like, “What’s going on?’’ Richards said Tuesday after practice as the No. 8 Canes (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) prepared to travel to University of North Carolina (1-7, 0-5) for a noon Saturday kickoff. “But…that’s on me. I’ve never had a game like that in my life.

“I don’t ever want to have that feeling again.’’

Richards, who said he feels good despite the tender hamstring and a freshly tweaked right ankle from Saturday (it only hurts when he walks, not when he runs, he explained), said he “was kind of blindsided’’ during the game by his drops.

Quarterback Malik Rosier, who had a career-high 344 passing yards Saturday, noticed his star receiver’s head was down, so he “grabbed’’ it, “threw it up and was like, ‘Yo! Head up! Let’s go! …We’re fine. I’m going to keep throwing you the ball…’’’

Three days later, Richards relived the moment.

He’s my roommate, so, you know, we talk a lot,’’ Richards said. “When he came over to me at the sideline I was kind of down.…. Even when I put my head down he would lift my head right back up.

“I needed that. It meant a lot. At one point I was doubting myself, like, even, ‘Should I finish the game?’ But he motivated me to keep playing, keep fighting.’’

In 16 career games, Richards, a consensus four-star prospect out of Wellington High, has 1,207 yards and four touchdowns on 62 catches for a 19.5-yards-per-catch average.

This season: 273 receiving yards and one touchdown on 13 catches for a 21-yard average.

UM coach Mark Richt said Tuesday that Richards “was probably pressing’’ on Saturday to make up for lost time after sitting out the first two games and against Georgia Tech. The coach was asked more than once if he intended to play Darrell Langham (10 catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns) a bit more. He said Langham has played more than folks think, has earned the right to play and will continue getting into the game.

“They both play the same spot,’’ Richt explained Sunday. “Quite frankly, if Ahmmon caught the ball a little better [Saturday], he’d have had a couple hundred yards receiving and three touchdowns…He’s anxious to play and anxious to play great.’’

Richards said he needs to “stay focused’’ during games. “Looking at the film, it was like my hands were down. I wasn’t running and keeping my hands up. Just little things make a huge difference.’’

Does he think a game like Saturday’s can actually be good for him in the long run?

“I think so, honestly,’’ he said. “I feel like that was a learning lesson.

On Monday, two days after Richards hurdled over Syracuse defensive back Rodney Williams while sprinting after a catch, Richt was asked by WQAM if the sophomore was healthy.

“You don’t hurdle a guy who is standing straight up if you’re worried about your hamstring.’’ Richt deadpanned.

The coach was asked how he should handle the situation with Richards.

“Keep throwing it to him,’’ Richt said. “That guy’s elite. He’s a difference-maker.’’

▪ Richt said that tight end Michael Irvin II was back “in good standing’’ and “out of the dog house, so to speak’’ and will be able to play on Saturday. On Sunday the coach said Irvin “hasn’t done what we want off the field’’ and wouldn’t play until he turned things around.

▪ Cornerback Dee Delaney (right knee) is still sidelined and was doing individual drills while his teammates practiced. Guard Navaughn Donaldson (right ankle) was practicing fully Tuesday and will be ready to play against UNC, offensive line coach Stacy Searels said. Freshman receiver Mike Harley (left foot/ankle) practiced, as did defensive end Chad Thomas, who at one point came out of the game holding up his left arm gingerly. He returned later.

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