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Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey takes over national rushing lead

Ka'Deem Carey

Ka’Deem Carey has 1,585 rushing yards through 11 games. Photo by Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

The folks who run the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back, released their list of 10 semifinalists on Nov. 9.

The Arizona Wildcats’ Ka’Deem Carey didn’t make the cut.

Since then, he has rushed for 570 yards in two games.

Hard to say why the national awards feel compelled to narrow their lists like that with just two-thirds of the regular-season gone, but the early birds will have missed out on the guy who is now leading the nation in rushing.

Carey, one game after setting a Pac-12 record with 366 yards, followed his second-best game ever. The sophomore carried 26 times for 204 yards and a touchdown as the Cats won 34-24 at Utah.

He led a spirited Arizona ground game that picked up 320 yards against a Utah defense that had not allowed more than 171 in 10 previous games.

Coach Rich Rodriguez credited his team’s fast pace with being able to overcome Utah’s physical defensive front.

“The big key for us was our guys have totally bought into the tempo part,” Rodriguez said in his postgame radio interview on 1290-AM (KCUB).

“Our guys in the first half were running off the sideline, going, ‘Coach, we’ve got to go faster, we’ve got to go faster.’ We’re trying to go as fast as the officials will let us. I thought that was a big key for us.

“Man to man, with Star Lotulelei and some other guys they’ve got, they’re pretty hard to block. But when you get them going at a fast tempo, our guys’ conditioning can help a little bit. It really made a difference, I thought.”

Carey, a sophomore, entered the game tied for second nationally in rushing, 55 yards behind Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson, who rushed for 128 yards in a win at New Mexico. That gave him 1,564 yards in 11 games.

He boosted his total to 1,585 yards, 17 yards away from tying the school record set by Trung Canidate in 1999.

Carey is averaging 6.34 yards on his 250 carries, which compares favorably — or better — to the other top rushers in the nation. He has 19 rushing touchdowns, two off the school record of 21, which has endured since Art Luppino set it in 1954. Luppino is the last Arizona player to lead the nation in rushing, doing so with with 1,313 yards in 1955.

Carey “wasn’t 100 percent,” Rodriguez said — nursing various bumps and bruises — but Arizona also got good work from backup Daniel Jenkins. He had 42 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Both backs excelled on the inside zone plays that have been so successful for the Cats. Carey is especially adept at seeing the lanes and making the right cuts.

He had eight runs of at least 10 yards against Utah. In the past two games, he has rushed for double-digit yardage on 19 of his 51 carries.

Carey is always quick to credit the offensive line, and Rodriguez did that, too, after the game.

“We might not be strong enough to push people off the ball yet, but we’ve got to get the right hat on the right hat,” Rodriguez said. “I have to watch the film, but it looked like we did that assignment-wise. We weren’t really complicated.”

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