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Theo Riddick finally has breakout game

Andrew Gastelum | Sunday, October 9, 2011

Many have criticized junior wide receiver Theo Riddick for underperformance this season, but as far as he is concerned, winning is all that matters.

Dropped passes have plagued the junior receiver, and he has been the third option in the offense at times. But sometimes struggle is a part of the game, even if it means a zero-catch performance in a 38-10 blowout win over Purdue on Oct. 1, Riddick said.

“[Not catching the ball] didn’t really affect me,” Riddick said. “I mean, we won and I came here to win games, and that’s what we are doing, so it feels good.

“You just have to be patient, especially in that spread offense. As long as you are patient, everyone gets their turn.”

Riddick’s turn came Saturday, grabbing eight receptions — including three in the first quarter — for 84 yards and a touchdown. But for Irish coach Brian Kelly, it was just another twist to an already multifaceted offense.

“I just think some guys go with the flow,” Kelly said. “[Theo] definitely needs some mojo — some good mojo — and it helps when you can run reverses with him, some handoff sweeps, some screen gain. So we are going to continue to have that and feature it in our offense.”

That “mojo” was on display from the very first drive Saturday when the offense targeted Riddick three consecutive times in the first six plays of the game. Sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees said getting Riddick involved early was an integral part of the game plan.

“He’s such a dynamic player. Getting the ball in his hands ¾ good things happen,” Rees said. “There were more options to give him the ball, and all week he and I did a good job of staying on the same page and making sure we connect … He’s a team guy and doesn’t really care as long as we win, but [there was] a little more emphasis of getting the ball in his hands and letting him go out and make some plays.”

Kelly echoed the importance of getting the ball to Riddick, who mixes electrifying speed with creative dynamism to create a lethal combination for the spread offense.

“I’ve been trying to tell you guys that he’s pretty good,” Kelly said. “Just when he gets his chances, he runs so hard. He is a difficult guy when he gets the ball in his hands. And obviously there was a concern on my part to make sure he got some touches and got into a good flow.”

Riddick exhibited his elusiveness with 32 seconds left in the first half on a 24-yard touchdown reception — his first since the 35-31 loss at Michigan on Sept. 10.

Starting from the Air Force 24-yard line, the New Jersey native outran his defender on a crossing route before catching a pass from Rees just a yard past the line of scrimmage. The converted running back proceeded to juke one defender and broke two more tackles in powerful fashion before diving into the end zone.

“Sometimes I still feel like a running back when I get out there and have to lower a shoulder fighting for a first down,” Riddick said. “It feels good looking for that contact and I kind of miss it. I just happened to be open and Tommy took full advantage of it. I was just happy to come in today and showcase my talent and help this team win.”

Riddick may want to show off his talents again, but it is more important to him that the Irish continue to ride this hot streak.

“We’ve won four straight, and we hope to continue the trend,” Riddick said. “I think we started out a little too slow, and I think it showed. Everyone is picking their game up as you can see, and I think the score today showed that.”