With one play, the Arizona Wildcats’ Ka’Deem Carey put a troubled offseason behind him.
That was it. One carry. His first touch of the year, coming early in the second quarter of the second game, suspension served, going from zero to 58 yards on one acceleration up the middle. Touchdown.
Hello, again, Ka’Deem.
Carey, the nation’s leading rusher and a consensus All-American in 2012, picked up where he left off, rushing 16 times for 171 yards as Arizona beat the house in Las Vegas, making quick work of UNLV in a 58-13 victory Saturday night.
“First off, congratulations to Arizona for coming in here and beating the hell out of us,” said Rebels coach Bobby Hauck.
The Cats did deliver repeated body blows with their ground game, finishing with 68 carries for 397 yards and five touchdowns. Arizona, up 45-6 at halftime, attempted only four passes after the break.
Carey put in about half of a game’s work, entering late in the first quarter for Daniel Jenkins, who filled in very well in the season-opener against NAU. Coach Rich Rodriguez said earlier in the week that Jenkins would start again and that Carey would play at some point in the first half.
“I woke up with a smile and it was just great to be out there,” Carey told reporters after the game.
Same as it ever was.
He has rushed for at least 100 yards in nine of the past 10 games, the only exception coming when UCLA routed Arizona last season, and Rodriguez pulled Carey from the game to avoid injury. Carey, who also scored on a 12-yard run Saturday night, has reached the end zone in 10 consecutive games.
And how’s this for consistency: In his past three games, Carey has rushed for 172, 172 and 171 yards.
“Ka’Deem is a player and everybody knows it,” Rodriguez said. “He gives us an added dimension.”
All but one of Carey’s 16 carries went for at least 4 yards. Nine runs covered at least 7 yards. Even if you take out his 58-yard romp, he averaged 7.3 yards per carry. With it, he averaged 10.7.
Jenkins ran 17 times for 82 yards.
“We have two starting tailbacks now that we can play at any time,” Rodriguez said. “They understand our offense. They have good ball skills. They block well. And they run extremely hard.”
The passing game is an entirely different story. That will be a major Week 3 storyline after the Cats passed for less than 100 yards in each of their first two games.
Starting quarterback B.J. Denker was 8 of 21 for 81 yards. He wasn’t intercepted for the second game in a row, but he did lose a fumble after the ball came loose during a handoff exchange.
“We played pretty hard and our focus was pretty good, but, boy, do we have a lot of things to clean up execution-wise,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to be sick after we watch the film. There are three or four touchdown throws we didn’t make out there.”
The defense turned in its second consecutive encouraging effort, including returning two interceptions for touchdowns. Both came in the second quarter, the first being a 49-yard return by linebacker Jake Fischer and the other being a 52-yard score from safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant.
Fischer spun out of a tackle around the 10-yard line before getting into the end zone.
“It was fun. I felt like it took forever to get to the end zone,” he said on the 1290-AM (KCUB) postgame show. “I honestly felt slow. I was just happy the guys blocked for me, so I was able to get in.”
Carey had no trouble with that, putting up two scores after he set the school record with 23 rushing touchdowns last season.
“Just being out there with the team, it caused goosebumps again,” he said. “It was great.”