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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Opportunity knocks for Arizona receiver Terrence Miller

Larry+Hogan%2FArizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0ATerrence+Miller%2C+No.+18%2C+escapes+defenders+as+the+UA+football+team+beat+Toledo+24-17+in+overtime+on+Sept.+1%2C+2012.
Larry Hogan/Arizona Daily Wildcat Terrence Miller, No. 18, escapes defenders as the UA football team beat Toledo 24-17 in overtime on Sept. 1, 2012.

A year ago, Terrence Miller wouldn’t have even been on the field in overtime. On Saturday, he might have been the reason Arizona won its first game of the Rich Rodriguez era.

In overtime, on third-and-goal at the 10-yard line, Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott took the snap.

Almost immediately after hiking the ball, Scott was on the run from the Toledo pass rush. He rolled to the right sideline, and as a defender started pulling him down by the jersey, from the corner of his eye Scott found Miller wide open in the middle of the field and threw for what would be, after a defensive stop, the game-winning touchdown in a 24-17 win. It was also Miller’s first-career touchdown catch at the UA.

“He made a great catch, a great play,” Scott said.

For Miller, a senior, his first touchdown was a long time coming.

““I tried to keep pretty poised during the game,” Miller said. “But, after I caught it I was just like ‘listen lets just run off the field’. I was happy on the inside I just didn’t want to show it.”

The 6-foot-4, 226-pound senior wasn’t quite ready to celebrate though. Last year, Miller was buried on the receiving depth chart behind the likes of Juron Criner, David Douglas and Gino Crump and rarely even saw the field.

“I still have a chip on my shoulder, I’m too hungry to celebrate now,” said Miller, who last season played in 10 games (no starts) and recorded 11 catches for 136 yards.

So, after Miller had six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown in Arizona’s 24-17 win against Toledo on Saturday, he was already just five catches and 56 yards away from last season’s totals, and already has more touchdowns. Miller showed on Saturday what he is capable of adding to the Arizona offense as a tall, possession receiver with good hands. But, Miller doesn’t understand why he didn’t get a real shot at playing time in the Mike Stoops regime.

“I didn’t have a big enough role last year,” Miller said during fall camp. “I felt it should’ve been bigger, the coaches just obviously had other plans.”

In his mind, Miller felt he deserved to be on the field, especially after he had a solid sophomore year catching 29 balls for 345 yards.

Confused about his lack of playing time, he even approached his coaches to find out why he was being ignored on game day, but didn’t get an answer. So, he patiently waited, biding his time for when the coaches called No. 18 and wanted him on the field.

“I just decided to come to practice and work hard every day,” Miller said. “I just decided that when my number’s called, I’m gonna make a play. That’s all you can do really.”

When Arizona made the switch from Stoops to Rodriguez, Miller saw it as another opportunity to show what he was capable of bringing to the Wildcats stable of talented receivers, which includes Dan Buckner and Austin Hill, who combined for 17 catches, 255 yards and a touchdown against Toledo.

Miller almost didn’t even get the chance to prove himself to the new coaching staff, though. In his first chance to impress Rodriguez in the spring, Miller suffered a scary, career-threatening injury.

During a spring practice in March, Miller took a nasty fall and lacerated his kidney, forcing him to spend five days in the University Medical Center. While lying in the hospital, worst-case scenarios started running through Miller’s mind.

“I was wondering if they was gonna take my kidney from me,” Miller said. “I didn’t want to go to surgery. I was wondering if they were gonna let me play football because they said if this (kidney) was bad, then they would be concerned about the other one so it was kind of a red flag.

“I was kinda sad for a couple of days because (I thought) ‘what if they say I cant play over a kidney. I would’ve been upset.”

In the end, it wasn’t too severe, as after a few months of rehab he was ready to go in August for fall camp. And he was right back at it, proving to his coaches exactly what he’s being trying to his whole career — that he deserves to play. So far, so good.

“He’s a big physical guy that’s a presence,” receivers coach Tony Dews said during fall camp. “Terrence works extremely hard, he been catching ball very well. He can make plays on balls in the air. The quarterback’s are certainly growing in confidence with him since he’s starting to make plays.”

With all the adversity Miller has gone through in the last year, especially with the lack of respect he felt he received from Stoops and Co., he’s taking it all in stride. If anything, he’s viewing the lack of playing time last season in a positive light.

“People are gonna look at last years film and not see me or have a clue about me and see me like I’m a scrub,” Miller said. “So I want them to do that. I’m gonna show em. You can believe that.”

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