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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Austin Hill ready to light up Cowboys again, one year later

Larry+Hogan%2FArizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AAustin+Hill%2C+No.+29%2C+makes+a+diving+catch+during+for+the+UA+football+team+in+a+24-17+win+over+Toledo.
Larry Hogan/Arizona Daily Wildcat Austin Hill, No. 29, makes a diving catch during for the UA football team in a 24-17 win over Toledo.

He may not be a household name for Arizona football fans, but receiver Austin Hill is proving he can be one of the Wildcats’ top playmakers.

The redshirt sophomore led the receiving corps with 139 yards in the UA’s 24-17 overtime win against Toledo in his second career start, which included a spectacular, diving catch for a touchdown.

On Saturday, Arizona will take on No. 18 Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys know about Hill, thanks to his breakout performance against them in 2011. The Wildcats will need him again if they want to keep pace with a prolific Cowboys offense that scored 84 points last week versus Football Championship Subdivision team Savannah State.

“Every week is a new week. You’ve seen underdogs come and beat teams,” Hill said. “You’ve seen teams that shouldn’t win beat teams. It’s football — anything can happen.

“84 points? It wasn’t against us, so I’m not really worried too much about it.”

With star receiver Juron Criner injured in the matchup in week two of last season, the coaching staff called on then-freshman Hill to play and start in Stillwater, Okla., against the then ninth-ranked team in the nation.

The game wasn’t pretty for the Wildcats — they were crushed 37-14 — but Hill made the most of his first start, snagging eight balls for 128 yards and showing his potential with a big of 48 yard catch. Hill was in his redshirt season when Oklahoma State dismantled Arizona 36-10 in the Alamo Bowl two seasons ago.

“I was happy that I got to step in,” Hill said about last year’s matchup. “I’ve always looked up to [Criner], so it was fun getting to step in and help the team out.”

“Since last year, even though I got to play against them and all that, I’m approaching this game as a completely different game, almost like I’ve never played against them before,” Hill said.

Now that the offense has changed, Arizona no longer needs an outside go-to receiver like Criner. Instead, they’re looking for versatile playmakers, and they’ve been able to use Hill all over the field.

“[Hill] is a smart guy. He can play all four receiver positions,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He’s one of the few guys who can do that. He’s a very competitive guy and made some big catches [Saturday].”

The transition to starting receiver hasn’t come without some growing pains for Hill. He lost a fumble in both of his career starts, including one he lost on Saturday as he fought into Toledo territory late in the second quarter.

Still, his talent has been on full display during his play-time, and quarterback Matt Scott has seen Hill’s development first-hand.
“Hill has been getting better every day,” Scott said. “He’s a great player and athlete, so the sky is the limit.”

Oklahoma State may have lost stars Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to the NFL, but the Cowboys’ offense, led by running back Joseph Randle and a powerful offensive line, will be able to put up huge numbers on most teams. In other words, the blowout win against lowly Savannah State probably wasn’t an anomaly.

This puts the pressure on the Arizona offense to match the Cowboys’ pace and proficiency, if it wants to finally beat a team that’s dominated the matchup the last two seasons. That’s not a concern for Hill though, as the offense has the same job this weekend as it has every other week — to score.

“My dad always said you put an offense on the field to score,” Hill said. “So yeah, of course every single time we go out there, we want to score a lot of points. If it comes down to [a shootout], we might have to score a lot of points. But as an offense we’re just going to go out there and do what needs to be done.”

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