Arizona Wildcats running back Ka’Deem Carey woke up with a thought.
Seems like a nice day to get the school rushing record.
Maybe he wakes up with that thought every Saturday. On this day, maybe he set his sights too low.
Carey zipped past the school record of 288 yards late in a fourth quarter with a 71-yard burst to the Colorado 10. He kept on going from there, finishing with a Pac-12 record 366 yards and five touchdowns on 25 rushes.
Arizona beat the Buffs 56-31 to improve to a bowl-eligible 6-4.
“When I woke up this morning, I just had a great feeling and I put it my head that I wanted to get the school record,” Carey said. “I didn’t want to tell anybody, but that’s what I thought.”
The old school record was 288 yards, set by Trung Canidate vs. ASU in 1998. The former conference record was 357, which was an NCAA record when Rueben Mayes hit that number in 1984 for Washington State.
Carey’s rushing total is the ninth-best in NCAA history — 40 yards away from the mark held by TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson.
“He’s going to get the nation’s attention with this performance today,” said senior center Kyle Quinn. “It was exciting to block for him.”
With starting quarterback Matt Scott out because of a concussion and junior college transfer B.J. Denker making his first career start, Arizona’s offense naturally gravitated to Carey, who entered the game 17th nationally with an average of 112.8 rushing yards per game.
Time and again, Carey simply took a handoff on an inside zone play, made a cut … and was off to the races. In order, he had runs of 13, 10, 30, 26, 21, 46, 14, 14, 10, 71 and 64 yards.
Offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele said it was basically the same play over and over. Denker sounded as if he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“We knew they were either going to let me run the ball by taking away Ka’Deem or they were going to let Ka’Deem run the ball,” Denker said.
“For some reason, they decided to let him run the ball. Not a very smart move.”
No doubt, the Buffs defense ranks among the nation’s worst, but Arizona still managed to get enough push up front, even without starting guard Chris Putton (concussion). Quinn, who returned last week from an ankle injury, was hobbling at times. Guard Trace Biskin is still battling a toe injury.
But that was one proud group after the game.
“When you just go for long ones and long ones, and you’re linemen are just getting so happy, you must be doing something good out there,” Carey said.
Carey also had two catches for 34 yards, giving him 400 all-purpose yards. That’s another school record, this time knocking Art Luppino (359 yards vs. New Mexico State in 1954) out of the top spot. Carey’s five rushing touchdowns were also a school record.
That’s three school records on a day he was dreaming of one.
“He’s an All-Pac-12 running back,” said Colorado coach Jon Embree.
“It’s pretty simple. I don’t know where he ranks, but he, Kenjon Barner and Johnathan Franklin are all really good. He fits through tight seams and breaks arm tackles. Their zone read was very effective.”
Rodriguez repeatedly says Carey “runs angry” or “runs hungry” — and that’s all true enough. There’s more to it than that.
“He’s getting more accustomed to the offense and where the cuts are going to be against certain fronts, how they are going to fit, where his eyes should be,” Rodriguez said.
“He has really good vision anyway, but it really showed today on a couple of cuts he made on those inside runs. I thought that was pretty big.”
More big numbers:
– Carey has 1,381 yards, the second-best figure in school history for a season. (Canidate has the record with 1,602 yards in 1999.)
– Carey has 18 rushing touchdowns this season, three behind Luppino’s school record set in 1954.
– Those 366 rushing yards were the most in an FBS game since Central Michigan’s Robbie Mixon had 377 against Eastern Michigan in 2002.
Said Ebbele: “It’s always a pleasure blocking for Mr. Carey.”
Mr. Carey. His teammates won’t be as respectful when they needle Carey about being caught from behind near the goal line on his 71- and 64-yard runs. He tough; he breaks tackles; he has great vision; he’s in super shape.
He’s not a blazer.
“That’s one of the things that when we’re watching film in the running back room, there will be some snickers going on,” Rodriguez said.
“Even (offensive coordinator Calvin Magee) said, ‘I can out-run him.’ Now, I know that ain’t true.”
Carey could laugh about it after the game, but being tracked down from behind is something he will take seriously. He sat at the interview table after the game with a big grin and nodded toward receiver Dan Buckner at his side.
“Dan won’t stop bothering me about it for the rest of the season,” Carey said. “That’s why I’m looking forward to next week’s games.”
Next week, with the Cats at Utah, will be a much tougher task for Carey and Arizona, especially with All-American defensive tackle Star Lotulelei parked in the middle of the Utes’ line.
But there’s always something to prove and no telling what kind of big dreams will fill Carey’s head next when he wakes up next Saturday.