Ka’Deem Carey’s first nine carries against Oklahoma State went like this: 2 yards, loss of 1, 2 yards, 2, 1, 3, 3, 3, loss of 2.
Total: 13 yards.
Nowhere to run.
“I was just patient,” said the Arizona Wildcats sophomore running back.
“I told the front line, ‘It’s going to be about patience. We’re going to bust one. I mean, no matter how long it takes, keeps pushing and keep chugging.’ That’s what we did.”
The running game against Oklahoma State slowly began to find traction. Carey, with the help of a push from behind by quarterback Matt Scott, fought his way into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.
He had a 15-yard run in the third quarter.
He broke off a 25-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
With Arizona holding a 14-point lead with under three minutes left, he went for 36 yards to the Cowboys’ 7-yard line to set up his third and final rushing touchdown in a 59-38 victory.
“I just had patience, really,” Carey said.
“The more patient you are, the better back you become. The front line, they pushed. We kept working. We just had conversations all night, saying, ‘Y’all working, I’m working. These 3 and 2 yards are going to be it right now, but eventually they are going to break.’
“We trained. We’re in great condition. The whole line is in great condition.”
Carey finished with 26 carries for 126 yards. He also had four catches for 28 yards and a score.
Carey ranks ninth nationally in rushing, averaging 136.5 yards through two games.
With the help of Scott keeping the ball in the read-option offense and scrambling on occasion, Arizona is 35th nationally at 209.0 yards per game.
Carey, and backup Daniel Jenkins, are home-run threats when given appropriate slices of room to run; too often, though, gaps up front have been non-existent.
Back to that “patience” theme.
“We have to be able to run the football better,” coach Rich Rodriguez said.
“I’ve been disappointed in some of our run game. We’ve got some really talented backs, particularly with Ka’Deem, but we’ve got to be able to run the football better. There’s another level we can get to offensively.”
What was encouraging is that the run game improved its yards per carry figure in each quarter against Oklahoma State.
A factor of the conditioning Rodriguez has preached about since his first day on the job?
“I could tell after the second quarter when I went to the line that they were getting tired,” starting left guard Chris Putton said of the Cowboys. “They didn’t seem as ready as we were.”
Rodriguez, who ran the ball two-thirds of the time as a head coach at West Virginia and Michigan, is about at a 50-50 split through two games. That should surprise no one, given Scott’s passing skill and the break-in time required to switch from Arizona’s old passing spread offense.
“Some teams are doing a good job, not allowing us to run,” he said.
“Oklahoma State was a big pressure team that brought a lot of blitzes. You want to throw when the numbers are right and run it when the numbers are right to run it. We don’t go into a game thinking we have to have 200, 300 yards rushing, so much passing; we just go in there thinking what we have to do to win.”
No doubt, though, Rodriguez will be persistent with the run game. Which brings everything back to patience.
“You get frustrated sometimes when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to in the beginning,” Putton said, talking about the Oklahoma State game.
“But I think we waited for our moment and when we got our opportunity, we did capitalize on them.”