Sometime in the next 30 days, the Arizona Wildcats will get on a plane and go play in a bowl game for the second straight year.
And when they do, there’s a very good chance it will be the last time Ka’Deem Carey wears an Arizona Wildcats uniform.
The junior running back must make a decision in the next couple of months on whether to enter the NFL draft May 8-10.
After putting together another All-America-type season — he ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game (156) — Carey’s chances of returning for his senior season seem slim.
“He had a tremendous year and he’s only a junior,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said Saturday. “Of course, I’d love to have him come back, but he’s got at least one more game with us. I hope he has another whole year. He runs extremely hard. He gives his best on every play.
“What he’s been doing is phenomenal.”
Carey has been mum on his plans, but he’s expected to make a decision sometime after the UA’s bowl game.
One thing is certain. In the UA’s 58-21 loss to then-No. 13 ASU on Saturday in Tempe, Carey was one of the Wildcats’ only bright spots.
The Canyon del Oro High School grad still managed to gain 157 yards on 32 carries and added a touchdown in the third quarter. His 46 career rushing touchdowns now tie him with Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers for sixth all-time in the Pac-12.
If he’s able to score twice in the UA’s bowl game, he’ll tie UCLA’s Skip Hicks for fifth place.
Carey also moved into ninth place on the Pac-12’s all-time rushing list and now has 4,070 yards in his career. He’s 36 yards behind Washington’s Napoleon Kaufman for eighth place and 99 yards behind Stanford’s Darrin Nelson for seventh.
He’s also gone over 100 yards in 15 straight games. No FBS running back has had a longer streak in the past decade. Of course, Carey would have traded all of those numbers and accomplishments for a win over ASU, now No. 11 in The Associated Press poll.
It took some time for the running back to get heated up against the Sun Devils. He rushed for just 23 yards in the first quarter. Then, early in the second quarter, Carey was stopped on back-to-back possessions trying to get a yard on fourth-and-one.
The running back didn’t have much of a chance for a gain on either rush, being greeted in the backfield by ASU defenders as soon as he got the ball.
The Sun Devils often had an extra defender near the line of scrimmage to limit Carey.
“We knew they were going to send that extra guy and that’s what they did,” said Carey, who had 95 of his yards in the second half. “As soon as we picked it up, we started rolling, but it was too late.”
As a team, Arizona (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) had just 21 rushing yards in the first quarter. Carey didn’t get his first touch of the game until the UA’s eighth offensive play.
“They were forcing B.J. (Denker) to keep the ball,” Carey said. “It’s just really settling down as an offense early and that’s something we didn’t do. We didn’t get to settle down, we didn’t get our feet wet and get the ball moving. If we would have done that, the game would have been a different story.
“We never got it moving, we never got comfortable.”
Rodriguez said the UA’s inability to convert on the short-yardage situations in the first half helped ASU keep the early momentum.
The Sun Devils (10-2, 8-1) led 13-0 the first time Carey, who was thrown for a loss of 7, was stuffed. Four plays later, D.J. Foster scored on a 14-yard rush to make it 20-0 early in the second.
“There were times they were outnumbering us a little bit in the box, but they’re good up front,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know how many fourth-and-ones we had. Jeez, we had three or four or five short-yardage ones where we didn’t convert first downs. With that, one, it puts the defense back out there in a hurry and two, it didn’t allow us to get any tempo going offensively.
“It was just not good.”