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SALT LAKE CITY - Sometime tonight, Ka'Deem Carey may rip off another one of his trademark long runs or dive headfirst - somersault, really - into the Rice-Eccles Stadium end zone for a short touchdown.

The Arizona Wildcats' star tailback from Canyon del Oro High may then raise his palms and wiggle his fingers, a not-so-subtle signal for his teammates to come join the celebration.

UA fans should, too, while there's still time.

Carey has emerged as the Wildcats' most dynamic player, a record-breaking, touchdown-scoring, game-salvaging dynamo of a running back who's on the verge of something special. With his sophomore season winding down, Carey has taken on another new role: emotional leader.

He's got plenty of spirit to spare.

"He's probably the most enthusiastic player in the locker room, before the game and after," guard Trace Biskin said. "It's been a lot of fun playing with him; he's going to have a great career."

Carey's evolution from role player to starter to star to leader has been gradual, although, the tailback says, he's always had the ability to lead in him.

"My freshman year, I wasn't really loud or trying to get it to rub off on people," he said. "My mom actually told me, 'You should try to have that rub off a little bit.'"

It has rubbed off - helped, of course, by Carey's big performances, he ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game (138.10) and fifth in rushing touchdowns (18). The sophomore tailback ran for a Pac-12 record 366 yards and a UA-record five touchdowns in last week's win over Colorado at Arizona Stadium.

Although he probably won't come anywhere near to matching those numbers tonight against the defensive-minded Utes, Carey figures to be a major part of the Wildcats' offense.

Fortunately, he won't have to carry the team himself.

Quarterback Matt Scott is expected to start after missing the last game and a half with a concussion. The Wildcats will need him.

With a win tonight at a frosty Rice-Eccles, the UA (6-4 overall, 3-4 Pac-12) can both improve its bowl chances and exorcise some road demons. The Wildcats have won just one road game in the last two years, a victory over rival Arizona State last season in Tempe, and are 4-10 on the road since the start of 2010. The team's three previous road trips this season - to Oregon, Stanford and UCLA - resulted in three losses; worse, the Wildcats were outscored 169-58.

Coach Rich Rodriguez said his team's road struggles are simple to explain.

"Some folks will talk about how we haven't won on the road," he said, "but we've played three teams that are better than us."

Where Utah (4-6, 2-5) falls is still up for debate. The Utes are solid as usual on defense but have struggled to move the ball. Utah ranks 104th nationally in passing offense and 99th in rushing offense; its 25.4 points per game ranks 85th nationally and eighth in the Pac-12.

The Utes must win their final two games - they play Colorado next week - to become eligible for the postseason. They'll only get as far as John White IV will take them: Utah's senior running back is coming off a season-best performance against Washington, and - given Arizona's struggles to stop the run -could be in line for another big night.

Arizona's star back, Carey, knows just how easily one game can change things.

"People know my name," he said. "It's not like they haven't, but they're starting to say it more."


• Who: Arizona (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) at Utah (4-6, 2-5)

• When: 8 p.m.


• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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