CDO High grad Ka’Deem Carey found a lot of gaps like this one in Utah’s defense on Saturday night, running for 236 yards on a UA-record 40 carries. “I had no idea he’d carried that many times,” said Rich Rodriguez, only the second time in his coaching career he asked a player to run that many times.
After he embraced Wilbur the Wildcat and ran a celebratory, hand-slapping highway to the Zona Zoo, Ka’Deem Carey ran into trouble.
“I was probably the only guy in the stadium who was mad,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said on Monday. “Ka’Deem looked at me like I had three heads.”
On his 40th carry of the game Saturday night, Carey had run too far too fast. Who knew you could do that in college football?
“I was screaming at him to get down at the one, two or maybe three,” Rodriguez said, smiling. “I said, ‘Do you know if you just would’ve got down, we’d win the game? We could kill the clock. He said, ‘Ohhhh, OK coach.’”
It was the 132nd touchdown of Carey’s high school and college career and it was the first time he was greeted by anything but joy.
Arizona led Utah 35-24, but Carey’s 44-yard bullet-route to the end zone had left too much time on the clock. Only a football coach would worry that the Utes could cover those 11 points in 90 seconds.”
Only a football coach would ask a star tailback to carry the ball 40 times, a school record, and offer not the keys to the team whirlpool, but a lecture.
You win. You learn. You win again. Isn’t that the order in which winning football games progress? On the 1,067th rush of in his high school and college career, Carey learned that you don’t always run to daylight. Sometimes you’ve got to think green.
As the junior’s role grows, so, too, does his local legend. Now he’s scoring too soon.
But the real story from Saturday’s game was that Carey endured one of the most physical games of his life. He carried 40 times, including six times in Arizona’s final seven plays, always attracting a crowd, always taking Utah’s best shot, always getting up and gathering himself for the next snap.
“I felt every carry,” he said.
If you watch the replay, you will see that the Pac-12 Networks cameras focused on Carey in the last six minutes. It took the full 20 or 30 seconds between plays for him to catch his breath, and yet he saved his best for last.
“I had no idea he’d carried that many times,” said RichRod. “I don’t remember it ever affecting him too much the following week.”
RichRod had asked just one running back to carry 40 times in his days at West Virginia, Michigan and UA: in 2003, WVU’s Quincy Wilson ran 40 times for 177 yards to beat Rutgers. A week later Wilson carried 33 times against Virginia Tech.
So don’t expect Carey to get the day off Saturday at Colorado.
The irony is that Carey began his endurance test by asking for a breather, something he rarely does.
“Ka’Deem can usually put two or three long runs together and be OK,” said Rodriguez. “But in the first quarter he was almost hyperventilating. I think he was just so excited to be out there. After he calmed down, he wasn’t tired at all.”
Not a lot of coaches are willing to call a tailback’s number 40 times, or even 30. Carey’s busiest night as a Canyon del Oro High Dorado was 28 rushes in an epic 427-yard performance in a state playoff victory over Glendale Apollo. His previous Arizona high had been 30 at Washington.
What’s next, 50?
Former USC All-American Ricky Bell ran 51 times in a 1976 victory over Washington State, but that was USC’s mentality. The Trojans once allowed Marcus Allen to carry the ball 433 times in a season, far exceeding Carey’s school-record 303 a year ago.
But that didn’t shock anyone. USC coach John McKay famously defended his tailback’s workload, saying, “What’s wrong with it? The ball’s not heavy.”
On Carey’s 40th rush against Utah, RichRod called a play that UA left tackle Mickey Baucus estimated had already been used “10 to 15 times’’ in the game. At the snap, on third-and-five, Baucus and right guard Cayman Bundage successfully drove two Utah linemen to the right, creating a momentary opening in the so-called B gap. That’s all Carey needed to see.
“Ka’Deem is taught to read the backside, the A gap on the backside, and hit the hole,” said Baucus. “And he took it to the house.”
If you’re a step slow on that play, or cowed, having been tackled 39 times in the game, you gain 2 yards and it’s fourth down.
It was a game-breaker by a game-changer, a play that took as much conviction by Rodriguez as it took talent and will by Carey.