If Greg Byrne intended his critique of last week’s football game to serve as a motivator for his University of Arizona Wildcats, it seems to have worked – particularly for a young running back that took yesterday’s game against Colorado into his own hands.
Byrne, the athletic director at UofA, gave last week’s embarrassing 66-10 loss to UCLA just a single line in his weekly newsletter:
“Please allow me to reflect a bit on last weekend’s game…That stunk. Time to move on.”
Ka’Deem Carey, the sophomore sensation from nearby Canyon del Oro High School, may have drawn at least some of his motivation for his huge contributions to yesterday’s 56-31 win over Colorado from his AD’s words of disdain. He did, indeed, move on – in a big way.
The 5’10” running back set several records yesterday in leading his team to a make-up win over Colorado that now give the Cats a 6-4 season record, which makes them bowl-eligible. Colorado beat Arizona last year in Boulder, 49-28.
Carey, who was averaging 113 yards a game going into yesterday’s contest, ran for 366 yards to erase the old Pac-12 conference mark of 357 yards set back in 1984, broke the school’s single-game record of 288 yards, and tied the school record of five touchdowns in a single game.
He finished the game with 400 all-purpose yards that included a couple of pass receptions that added 34 yards to the total.
“Ka’Deem runs as hard and as angry as any running back in the country,” his new head coach, Rich Rodriguez, said after the game.
Arizona needed this win as they continue on a roller-coaster ride through Rodriquez’s first season as head coach. The Cats won their first three, lost three, and then began winning again with back-to-back victories over Washington and USC.
But the roof fell in last week when UCLA took them to the woodshed, totally dominating the Cats in a game that was never close at any time. The Bruins ran up 400 yards of offense in just the first half, scoring six touchdowns in that time to put the game out of reach early. Carey provided the only touchdown of the game for the Cats, scoring in the second half.
So the Colorado game popped up on the schedule at just the right time. The Buffaloes have won just one game all season and ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring, total offense, and passing offense. The rushing game is a tad bit better; they’re 11th in rushing offense.
They were coming off a 48-0 loss to Stanford in which they were able to muster just 76 yards of total offense.
It got so bad last week that head coach Jon Embree benched the quarterback that started the first nine games and put sophomore Nick Hirschman into the starter’s role against Arizona. His choices were between Hirschman, who had just one start on his college resume, and sophomore Connor Wood – who had none.
As it turned out, he needed them both. Hirschman left the game in the third quarter with a head injury and was replaced with Wood, who engineered a couple of scoring drives in the fourth quarter that made the final score a little more respectable.
Arizona, too, was under the direction of a new quarterback. But enjoyed better results.
B.J. Denker, a junior-college transfer who joined the program over the summer, stepped in to replace the regular starter, Matt Scott, who is still recovering from a concussion suffered in the UCLA game. Denker went 12-for-14 passing in his first career start and also carried the ball nine times to direct the offense to 574 total yards, 438 of which were on the ground.
In his only appearance, Denker posted the top pass efficiency rating of the season, hitting 214.5. Wildcat fans will be happy to know that Denker is a junior, so he’ll still be around when Scott graduates at season’s end.
It wasn’t a good start for the newcomer, however, as Arizona turned the ball over on the first play from scrimmage on its own seven-yard line. Colorado turned that miscue into a quick score – but it was the last lead they would see as the Cats drove 80 yards on the next possession to score their first points and move on to a 28-17 lead at the half.
The Buffs actually ran two dozen more plays than Arizona and held the ball for almost 44 minutes more. But it was the Cats putting up the points in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 51,236 fans who showed up for Homecoming.
And Colorado did a good job of playing the typical patsy that is generally scheduled for Homecoming, when an abundance of alumni are in attendance – and want to be treated to a big victory.
But, hey, a win’s a win.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)