Arizona Wildcats sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey hasn’t had it easy this season, facing three very good run defenses.
Stanford might be the best one yet.
Carey is coming off a 115-yard performance against Oregon State — which was ranked second nationally until playing Arizona last weekend — and now goes against a big Stanford 3-4 front.
The Cardinal is third nationally against the run, allowing 65 rushing yards per game and only 2.34 yards per game.
“He’s a great back,” Stanford’s 305-pound nose guard Terrence Stephens said of Carey in a video interview (below).
“He’s shifty, from what I’m seen on film so far. He knows where to go. He hits the holes. And he’s not scared of contact. That’s the biggest thing. He’ll run you over.”
Carey enters Saturday’s game 18th nationally and third in the Pac-12 in rushing (107.6 yards per game). He has 97 carries for 538 yards, putting him on pace for 1,291 yards in the regular season.
How good would that be in Arizona history?
Only first-round pick Trung Canidate and Art Luppino have rushed for more yards in a season.
Canidate went for 1,602 yards in 1999. Luppino won national running titles in 1954 (1,359 yards) and in 1955 (1,313).
That would be great company for Carey, if he can keep up the pace. Arizona’s last 1,000-yard rusher came in 2008, when Nic Grigsby gained 1,152 yards.
Carey also is active in the passing game, catching 14 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. He has 16 touchdowns in 15 career games.
“Ka’Deem has really good ball skills. He’s just a good football player,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said.
“Ka’Deem loves the game, as I have said before. He catches. He blocks. He runs extremely hard. He runs hungry.”
Oregon State is now ninth nationally in run defense. Arizona also has played Oregon (24th nationally against the run) and Oklahoma State (38th). So, Carey’s totals haven’t been padded with cheap yards vs. inferior teams.
In fact, Carey’s worst rushing day came against lower-division South Carolina State, when he only played in the first half, picking up 71 yards on 13 carries.
You can also make the case that Carey isn’t getting a lot of help. Rodriguez continues to say things like this about his offensive line: “We’re not as physical and getting as much movement up front as we would like.”
It will be a chore to move Stanford, which is 3-1 with a win over USC and has allowed only one running back this season to gain more than 37 yards.
That was Washington’s Bishop Sankey, who broke off a 61-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 at the end of the third quarter to help fuel a 17-13 Huskies victory. Sankey finished with 20 carries for 144 yards.
Carey will be trying to reach triple digits for the fourth time this season.
Rodriguez said second-string tailback Daniel Jenkins is probably worthy of more playing time, but it’s hard to take Carey away from Arizona’s no-huddle, up-tempo attack.
“Ka’Deem is in great shape,” Rodriguez said. “For as many plays as he is playing, for as physical as he is, he’s still good to go.”