ALBUQUERQUE - Sometime after Nevada knew it would play the Arizona Wildcats in Saturday's New Mexico Bowl, the nation's second-leading rusher sat down in front of his computer and watched the country's leader.

Stefphon Jefferson watched Ka'Deem Carey slash through defenses on YouTube, more out of curiosity than any game plan responsibility.

"We're kinda like the same back," the Nevada junior said. "We're kinda the same person."

Carey, a UA sophomore, averages an NCAA-best 146.4 rushing yards per game; Jefferson averages 141.9.

Carey, a first-team All-American, has 20 touchdowns this year; Jefferson has 22.

On Nov. 10 against Colorado, Carey, a Canyon del Oro High School graduate, ran 25 times for a school-record 366 yards. On Sept. 22 at Hawaii, Jefferson became only the fourth FBS player ever to record seven touchdowns in one game.

The two are an inch apart in height and within 13 pounds in weight, with Jefferson having the edge.

Both wear No. 25.

"He's a lot like Ka'Deem," UA linebacker Marquis Flowers said of the Visalia, Calif., native. "It's kind of crazy that they wear the same number. You can't arm-tackle him. You have to form-tackle him, and bring him down."

The running backs will be the storyline in Saturday's game, which pits two teams with matching 7-5 records.

"It's pretty cool, just to see top running backs playing against each other," Jefferson said. "It's fun. You don't get a chance to experience this that often."

Jefferson, whose 139 rushing yards in the season finale against Boise State was his highest total in two months, said he and Carey run with aggression.

"We're not really east and west running backs," Jefferson said. "We're north and south."

Maybe it comes from Jefferson's first job as a rusher. He played fullback as a junior at El Diamante High School before being switched to tailback in the I-formation system.

He admittedly "had one good year in high school," his senior season, and received only two stars by recruiting services.

As such, he chose Nevada over then-lowly programs Fresno State, San Jose State and even FCS team Cal Poly.

As recently as last season, Jefferson doubted if he would even start, or play much.

"I wasn't the main guy," he said, "and I didn't know if I was going to be the main guy."

His fullback experience wasn't enough to help him quickly pick up the Wolf Pack's "Pistol" offense, in which the running back lines up behind a quarterback, who takes the snap standing half as deep as one would in a shotgun.

"I basically started from scratch," he said. "It was different. It was really hard to pick up. The footwork looks easy, but it's hard."

His steps need to be consistent to allow for quarterback Cody Fajardo to run a read-option play, pulling the ball away at the last minute or handing it off, depending on what the opposing defensive end does.

"The timing is essential in getting the play done and the execution done," said Fajardo, whose 89.2 rushing yards per game is No. 43 in the country and the result of the unique option plays. "If he goes too soon, then the read is all screwed up for me. I know it's on our shoulders."

They haven't disappointed so far.

"He's a shifty back," Fajardo said. "He runs really hard. He influences the offense.

"When you see him run over a guy or run for a lot of yards, that inspires us as an offense."

Jefferson is ready for Saturday's matchup.

"I'm not too big on the (running) backs, whoever comes out on top," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and play."