Arizona Wildcats running back Ka’Deem Carey, in what very well might be his final home game, left an enduring memory.
Carey, indefatigable, ran 48 times Saturday in a 42-16 upset of the fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks, usually taking the ball right up the middle on UA’s bread-and-butter zone-read play. He rushed for 206 yards, putting him at 3,913 career yards, breaking the school record of 3,824, held by Trung Canidate.
“It means a lot. It means a lot to this program, to me, my family,” Carey said of the record. “Being raised here, being born here, I felt I put on for Tucson. We had magic out here.”
Carey, from Canyon del Oro High School, is the hometown kid that has helped launch coach Rich Rodriguez’s tenure at Arizona.
Navigating the coach’s running back-friendly offense, Carey has rushed for 3,513 yards in 23 games under Rodriguez, scoring 41 touchdowns.
He didn’t have a run of more than 20 yards against Oregon, but he made sure the Ducks felt the brunt of each hit, relentlessly shredding tackles and plugging away for positive yards. Carey leveled safety Nic Johnston by lowering his shoulder in the fourth quarter on his 35th rush of the game.
Carey said he wanted the defense to “feel the force I’m bringing to them, and they didn’t want to tackle it all game.”
Just Ka’Deem being Ka’Deem.
“He’s a physical, hungry runner,” Rodriguez said.
“The guys love blocking for him because they know he’s going to get everything he can out of every run. There were a few holes that were there, but there were also some holes that he made.
“I said we’re not going to get a lot of explosive plays; we’re going to get four or five yards at a time. It’s hard to keep a long drive going with that, but Ka’Deem makes it easier because of way he runs.”
The 48 carries are the most in school history for a game and the largest total in a college football game this season, eclipsing the 45 Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney had vs. Oregon.
“I knew we needed energy,” Carey said.
“When you play a big team like this and the crowd is in it … energy. I know by going out there and running somebody over, it’s going to spark the team. Just running hard and running with passion, it kind of gave us the message like, ‘It’s time to play.’”
Carey broke the school career rushing record with that 20-yard run in the third quarter. At the next commercial break, Arizona showed Carey highlights on the videoboard, cut to Canidate applauding on the sideline and then focused on Carey, raising his arms to the crowd to make more noise.
“I wanted to have the O-line in the picture with me, because I’m not the only one out there working,” Carey said.
“Quarterback B.J. (Denker) handed me the ball and is making reads. It’s all together. It’s a together thing, not just the one thing. Everything came together to help me get it.”
Carey’s big game in a big upset should go a long way toward more big postseason honors.
He was the nation’s leading rusher and a consensus All-American last season. He likely won’t catch Boston College’s Andre Williams for the national rushing lead this season, but he should repeat as an All-American and could become the school’s first winner of the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back.
With Heisman candidates stumbling late, could Carey be worthy of an invite to the ceremonies in New York? Invitations are given to as many as five candidates.
Carey, who figures to jump to the NFL after this season, is 10th in Pac-12 career rushing yards (3,913). If he comes back, at a pace of 150 yards per game, he’ll threaten Charles White’s record of 6,245 yards.
Well, that’s probably just a dream.
The reality is that Carey already is an all-time Arizona great. If he is running in the NFL next season, then UA can go ahead and add his name to the stadium’s Ring of Fame.
“It’s always a pleasure blocking for Ka’Deem,” said senior guard Chris Putton.
And a pleasure for everybody else to watch.