Greg Hansen: Ka'Deem runs onto national radar screen

2012-11-11T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Ka'Deem runs onto national radar screenGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 11, 2012 12:00 am  • 

In November of his junior season at Canyon del Oro, Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 427 yards and scored six touchdowns in a playoff victory over Glendale Apollo, and I remember his old coach, Pat Nugent, saying it might not have been Carey's best game.

"He scored seven touchdowns for our freshman team against Cienega," Nugent said. "He scored a two-point conversion by doing a full front flip over a defensive guy, landing on his feet in the end zone. We elevated him to the varsity the next week."

Ka'Boom. The legend was born.

On Saturday, five years after that flip into the end zone, Carey awoke with the strangest notion of his football career. "I had a good feeling; I said, 'I want to set the school record.' I didn't tell no one, though."

Now we all know.

The crazy thing is, Carey wasn't exactly sure what the record was. Trung Canidate had burst into legend-dom 14 years ago, wrecking Arizona State with a 288-yard rushing performance. I don't think there were 10 people at Arizona Stadium on Saturday who could have quoted Trung's record to the number, to 288, and Carey confessed that he, too, was unsure of the exact figure.

So he just kept running (and running and running) exceeding Trung's record on a 71-yard run late in the third quarter, and stretching it all the way out to 366 yards - a Pac-12 record - on his penultimate run, 64 yards, early in the fourth quarter.

It was like a baseball player hitting four home runs in a game, or a golfer shooting 59.

The Pac-12 record stood for such a long time - since Washington State's Ruben Mayes ran for 357 yards against the Oregon Ducks in 1984 - that Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, then 14, was a ball boy, standing on the sidelines at Autzen Stadium.

On Saturday, Arizona chopped up Colorado 56-31, becoming bowl-eligible, and Carey went from hometown hero to the national radar screen.

"He was doing a little bit of the Nintendo-weave," said UA coach Rich Rodriguez.

Colorado isn't any good. In fact, it's worse than that. But you don't rush for 366 yards against the '85 Chicago Bears. When Mayes set the league record 28 years ago, it was against a 6-5 Oregon team on a four-game losing streak.

You usually set records when the opponent is vulnerable and you go for the throat, as Carey did Saturday. No other Colorado opponent had gained more than 144 yards this year.

Art Luppino, the Cactus Comet, was the first to cross 200 yards for Arizona, setting a school record 228 yards against New Mexico State in 1954. The Aggies went 0-9 that year.

And when Jim Upchurch broke the Comet's record in 1973, rushing for 232 yards against UTEP, the Miners went on to a 0-11 finish.

It's not the opponent that counts. It's the opportunity.

Carey was so evasive on simple off-tackle, zone-read plays, detecting the gaps as accurately as Jack Nicklaus reads a birdie putt, that he broke off runs of 71, 64 and 46. Each time, he was caught from behind by a Buffalo defensive player, sometimes two.

And while Carey will catch a lot of good-natured grief from his teammates, running out of gas a few yards shy of the end zone, he has the perfect answer for those who might say he doesn't have a good fifth gear:

The first four gears are devastating.

"He's aggressive and explosive on tape and he was like that today," said Colorado linebacker Derrick Webb. "He can see a gap, burst through it, and then it is off to the races."

Said RichRod: "He runs as hungry and as angry as any back in the country, but he's going to get teased unmercifully for getting knocked down a few times."

He'll get teased all the way to the Pac-12's all-conference team.

Carey moved into position to reach some significant milestones. He has 1,381 rushing yards, which puts him second in school history behind Canidate's 1,602 in 1999. On Saturday, Carey surged past Luppino's 1,359 of 1953 and his 1,313 of 1954.

It also gives Carey 1,806 career yards with more than two seasons remaining. If he remains healthy and chooses to finish his college career, he looks to be the first Wildcat with a chance to reach 4,000 yards. Five have surpassed 3,000: Canidate, Luppino, Ontiwaun Carter, Mike Bell and Hubie Oliver.

Of the group, only Luppino captured the imagination of Tucson fans so early in his career. And now comes Ka'Boom.

After breaking Mayes' conference record with 10:16 remaining in the game, and scoring a clinching touchdown with 8:01 remaining, Carey walked purposely to the sidelines, as if exhausted, which he later said he was. Linebacker Tra'Mayne Bondurant met Carey at the 40-yard line, giving No. 25 a handshake and a hug.

Carey stopped and slowly jogged in place, exaggerating his arm swing, as if he was showing Bondurant how tired he got running up and down the field for three hours.

It was a good tired.

It was a good day to be Ka'Deem Carey.

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