Even by their own high standards, the Arizona Wildcats overachieved offensively in 2012.
With Rich Rodriguez calling the plays and Ka'Deem Carey running through holes, the UA set program records for yards, yards per game and points scored.
Matt Scott blossomed from a career backup into a team leader, and Austin Hill introduced himself as the Wildcats' next big thing at wide receiver. For the first time in program history, Arizona had a pair of players score 100 points in a season.
Not a bad start for a coach who had never before posted a winning season in his first year.
Arizona went 8-5, but the final record wasn't the most impressive stat. The team gained a program-record 6,840 yards and averaged a program-best 526.2 yards per game. The team scored 65 touchdowns, 63 of them coming from the offense; those scores were split almost evenly between rushing (33) and passing (30).
The 2012 season marked the first time Arizona had ever scored more than 30 touchdowns both on the ground and through the air; in fact, only twice in program history (2008, 2010) had the program scored more than 20. The team currently ranks 17th nationally with 227.77 rushing yards per game, and 25th with with 298.38 passing yards per game.
"We felt really good coming in after spring (drills) and going into August camp," Rodriguez said. "We streamlined what we were doing, catered it to what we had. We thought, 'If Matt stays healthy, we've got a chance.' He was extremely productive.
"And Ka'Deem got better."
If fact, nobody was better than Carey.
Playing in Rodriguez's spread-option offense, Carey, just a sophomore, posted the best rushing season in Arizona history. His 1,929 rushing yards are tops in the nation and most in program history, as are his 148.4 yards per game. Carey set a UA record with 23 rushing scores. He was named a consensus All-American and even received Heisman Trophy votes, though he didn't finish in the top 10.
Along the way, the Canyon del Oro High School product sparked the imagination of UA fans desperate for a new franchise player. UA officials have fed the machine, coming up with a hashtag - #TeamKaDeem - and flooding the Internet with highlight videos.
A full-blown Heisman campaign is next.
"It was an overall great season this season," Carey said following the UA's 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl. "I had teammates that pushed me through in the weight room. I had coaches pushing me on the field. Without them, I couldn't have played this far."
The UA must replace Scott, center Kyle Quinn, guard Trace Biskin and wide receiver Dan Buckner in 2013, and its season may hinge on how well the new quarterback performs.
B.J. Denker started against Colorado this year and played well enough to win; he'll be challenged by a half-dozen competitors, including former USC player Jesse Scroggins. Scroggins, a transfer from the Trojans via El Camino College in California, signed his letter of intent last week and will enroll in January. True freshman Anu Solomon, the state of Nevada's all-time leading passer, will contend for playing time unless coaches choose to redshirt him.
Regardless of who starts, the Wildcats are likely to gain yards and score points in bunches. In Year 1, the Wildcats posted a record-breaking attack.
"This offensive scheme works wonders," Scott said. "You really can't stop it if you make the right reads every time."
On StarNet: Join Ryan Finley's Bowl Challenge and see if you can pick the winners. azstarnet.com/bowls
2012 in review
Today's story is the third in a three-day review of the 2012 season.
• Friday: Special teams
• Saturday: Defense
• Today: Offense