Richard Smith couldn’t afford to drop another pass. He wasn’t going to let it happen again last Thursday against Washington State.
The sophomore wide receiver caught only his 11th catch of the season in the first quarter of ASU’s 55-21 win over Washington State. With confidence building up, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell gave him an even bigger opportunity midway into the second quarter.
A chance at his first touchdown of the season.
“You want to take a shot?” Norvell asked according to Smith’s account.
“Yeah,” Smith replied.
Smith said he muttered a prayer to himself before taking the line of scrimmage. On first-and-10 on ASU’s 49-yard line, redshirt junior quarterback Taylor Kelly heaved a pass to Smith as he was running a fly route. With Cougars’ senior cornerback Damante Horton draped all over him, Smith’s initial grab at the ball propelled it up into the air and Horton batted the ball backwards.
Finally, Smith secured the ball on the third try and turned around to complete the 56-yard touchdown. The referees called defensive pass interference against Horton, but it didn’t matter. The play became an instant candidate for SportCenter’s Top 10 that night.
“I just focused on the ball,” Smith said. “I kept my eye on the ball. I made sure that tipped or not, I’m getting the ball.”
Smith finished the game with three receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown. He knew he was due for a breakout game after having a good week in practice.
“Everything just went well,” Smith said. “I caught all the passes that were thrown to me, I knew my plays a lot quicker, I was able to grasp the defense that they were playing so I understood the coverages.”
It’s exactly what he needed after a rough start to the season and hopes it will inspire him heading into the last four games of the regular season.
Smith dropped several critical passes throughout the first few games of the season and gave up a fumble that proved to be one of the team’s fatal mistakes in its loss to Notre Dame. He lost his place in the rotation and hasn’t seen much playing time since.
Smith said he was trying to find himself again as he was dealing with adversity.
“I had talked with my mom and a couple people back at home and they told me just to relax and keep God in me,” he said. “I haven’t been as spiritual as I should’ve been. I just took time out and had some me time and focused on me. I really came back to who I am and made sure I played how I really wanted to play. Then it came on.”
- The weekly BCS standings were released on Sunday night, ranking ASU at 22nd. The Sun Devils were also ranked 23rd in the AP Top 25 and 24th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll this week.
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