SHREVEPORT, La. — There’s not much debate that Tuesday’s AdvoCare V100 Bowl features the nation’s top two running backs.
Boston College’s Andre Williams was a unanimous All-America selection and the UA’s Ka’Deem Carey was a consensus pick for the second straight year. Combined, they rushed for 3,818 yards and 34 touchdowns during the regular season.
But there is some disagreement on which back is better.
Williams seems to have the upper hand, winning the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top back and earning one more All-America honor than Carey. But Carey’s teammates obviously have his back and disagree.
“We feel like our running back is better,” UA quarterback B.J. Denker said. “We feel like the nation kind of made a mistake with the Doak. I know Ka’Deem’s hungry and as a teammate and a brother, I would love for him to outshine Andre and get a victory of his own, so we can get two victories in one.”
Carey appreciated his quarterback having his back. In his typical manner, he didn’t disagree with his buddy, who has often served as the running back’s lead blocker this season.
“That’s my quarterback and he’s supposed to say that, but at the same time I think he’s right,” Carey said. “I think I’m the best running back and I think he’s the best fullback.”
Tuesday’s game at Independence Stadium won’t be the final say in the Williams-Carey argument, but it will go a long way in deciding who the better back is.
Arizona players point to the fact that Carey isn’t just a one-year wonder like Williams. The Canyon del Oro product backed up his nation’s best 1,929 yards last season with 1,716 so far this year, despite missing the first game of the year. Williams rushed for just 584 yards and four touchdowns last season.
They’ll also point out that Carey has 476 receiving yards over the past two seasons, while Williams didn’t catch a pass this season.
Williams’ teammates say he’s the best because he led the nation in rushing this year with more than 2,000 yards and did a lot of his damage later in the season when opposing defenses were focused on stopping him.
And even though both running backs are trying to keep the focus on the team matchup and not the individuals, their teammates know better.
“I think he’s downplaying it some and acting like it’s not that big of a deal, but as a competitor, I know he wants to show what he can do,” said safety Jared Tevis, who also played with Carey at CDO. “We’re just trying to help him get in that spotlight a little more.”
Both teams may think their guy is better, but one thing is certain: Both defenses know they’re in for a challenge.
With Williams, the UA knows it usually takes more than one player to bring down the 6-foot, 227-pound back, who’s made a habit of breaking tackles and not going down easily.
“Once he gets to that second, third level, he’s too strong,” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant said. “He’s throwing people off of him and he’s breaking through leg tackles. You have to make sure you attack him. What we’ve seen on film, the teams that have gotten to him, there’s a lot of guys bringing him down every run.”
Williams also has a pretty nasty stiff-arm he likes to use.
“When you watch him on film, he does DB’s dirty with that stiff arm,” linebacker Marquis Flowers said.
Boston College knows Carey has some power, but is worried more about his athleticism and ability to shake defenders in the open field.
“Andre is a little more powerful, but (Carey) will shake you out of your shoes a little bit,” Boston College linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis said. “He’s also a tough runner. He’s going to keep moving his feet and he’s going to break out of tackles. He makes it look easy and we have to make sure we get back to fundamentals and wrap up and get him to the ground.
“Eleven hats to the ball is our motto for the bowl game.”
Of course, the Williams-Carey talk is fun and has certainly gotten most of the attention, but Tuesday’s game could very well come down to which back has more room to run.
In other words, the offensive lines will be front and center.
“I think that’s what it comes down to; which O-line blocks the best is going to win the game,” senior guard Chris Putton said. “Both are amazing running backs. Without the O-line, it’s not going to matter what you do. Whichever team runs the ball better is going to win this game.”