ALBUQUERQUE — Arizona Wildcats sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey fell short of his goal of 2,000 yards in a season but retained his lead in the national rushing race after the New Mexico Bowl against Nevada on Saturday
Carey had 145 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, on pace for those 2,000 yards, but he and the Wildcats were largely stymied after the break — until they scored two touchdowns in the final minute to pull out a 49-48 victory.
Carey finished with 28 carries for 172 yards and three touchdowns, boosting his season total to 1,929 yards.
“It was an overall great season,” he said after the game.
“I had teammates that pushed me through in the weight room, and I had Coach pushing me on the field. Without them, I couldn’t have placed this far ahead. We just have to continue on next year.”
Carey entered Saturday’s game with 1,757 rushing yards, leading the nation with 146.4 yards per game. The consensus All-American had an amazing late-season surge, with 914 yards in the final four games, including a Pac-12 mark 366 against Colorado.
Carey kept ahead of the nation’s second-leading rusher, Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson, who had 180 yards on 34 carries. Jefferson finished the season with 1,885 yards.
“That dude is a great player,” Carey said. “I’m happy I got to see him play and how he carries himself out there. He won the battle.”
Jefferson did have an 8-yard edge in the game, but Carey still sits on top for the year while waiting for the rest of the postseason to play out.
At 148.38 yards per game, Carey has a comfortable lead in his quest to be Arizona’s first national rushing leader since Art Luppino in 1955. The champ is determined by average per game, not total yards.
Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell needs 282 yards against TCU to pass Carey. Oregon’s Kenjon Barner needs 306 yards vs. Kansas State. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch needs 307 yards in the Orange Bowl against Florida State.
Carey had been hoping to have the 16th 2,000-yard season in FBS history, and the first since UConn’s Donald Brown did it in 2008.
Carey’s three touchdowns pushed his season total to 23, eclipsing the school season record of 21, set in 1954 by Luppino.