Ka'Deem Carey wasn't just successful Saturday, he was smart.
Minutes after rushing for a Pac-12-record 366 yards and program-record five touchdowns, the Arizona Wildcats tailback gave a deserving shout-out to the five men responsible for his double-wide running lanes.
"When you go from long run to long run and your linemen are really happy," he said, "you know you must be doing something right."
A week after blocking for one star, the Wildcats must prepare to stop another one.
Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is arguably the conference's best defensive player, a 6-foot-4-inch, 320-pound space-eater with a reputation for destroying offensive lines and shutting down running games. Through 10 games, Lotulelei - a projected first-round pick in next spring's NFL draft - has registered 33 tackles, nine tackles-for-loss and four sacks.
Utah's defense leads the nation in fumbles returned for touchdowns (four), and ranks second in forced fumbles (18). Lotulelei has forced three and recovered three.
Lotulelei has the Wildcats' attention heading into a critical game. With a win Saturday, the UA (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) could improve its bowl standing. The Utes (4-6, 2-5) could advance to the postseason by winning their final two games.
"Everybody knows who he is," UA center Kyle Quinn said. "It's a great challenge for me and this offensive line."
Expect the Wildcats to throw the kitchen sink at Lotulelei and his teammates.
Consider: The UA has used five different starting lineups in 10 games; coaches rotate them in and out based on a number of factors, from health and fatigue to the kinds of plays they're running.
Freshman Cayman Bundage started at left guard last weekend against Colorado, with Shane Zink on the right side. Zink eventually switched to left guard, and Trace Biskin slid in at his usual spot. They were filling in for Chris Putton, a starting guard (and sometimes tackle) who has been out with a concussion. Together, they've found the right mix. With 215.3 rushing yards per game, Arizona boasts the nation's 18th-best ground game. The Wildcats' 438 rushing yards against Colorado was the most since a Nov. 13, 1999, win over Oregon State, and the ninth-most in the history of the program.
"We have a lot of utility players," Biskin said. "Throughout (training) camp, we rotated and moved some guys around knowing that every season guys have injuries."
Quinn, the dean of the starting five, calls the offensive line "definitely a flexible group."
"We've proven that we have a lot of guys who can play a lot of positions," he said.
Each brings something different. The UA's projected five starters - tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele, guards Putton and Biskin and Quinn - hail from four states and range in experience from a redshirt sophomore to fifth-year seniors. Of the first two players off the bench, Bundage and Zink, one is an Oklahoma-born freshman and the other a California-born, married fifth-year senior.
Come Saturday, all will have the same goal in mind: stopping a Star.
"We're going to have to go up there and take it to him," Quinn said. "He's an outstanding player, a huge guy, and we have to be mentally prepared for a dogfight."
On StarNet: Check out the latest UA football news conference at azstarnet.com/video
• Who: Arizona (6-4, 3-4) at Utah (4-6, 2-5)
• When: 8 p.m. Saturday
• TV: ESPNU
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
Line 'Em Up
6-5, 287 pounds
Average height and weight of Utah's four starting defensive linemen
6-51/2, 289 pounds
Average height and weight of Arizona's starting five offensive linemen
Arizona's rushing yards per game this season (second in the Pac-12 and 18th in FBS)
Rushing yards allowed per game by Utah, (third in the Pac-12 and 18th in FBS)