It would be easy to understand if Ka’Deem Carey had drawn a big red circle on the calender around this Saturday’s date, when his University of Arizona Wildcats football team will travel to Boulder to play the University of Colorado Buffaloes.
Last year, when the Cats hosted the Cougars in Tucson, Carey rushed for 366 yards. That set school and Pac-12 records and was a big contributor to his season total of 1,929 yards – which made him the nation’s rushing leader for the 2012 season. That conference record, by the way, had stood for almost 30 years.
The Cougars are drawing circles, too. But theirs look more like targets, and they have applied them to the back of Carey’s No. 25 jersey.
Carey’s record-setting performance from last year, when Arizona piled up 574 total yards in the 56-31 rout, is still fresh in the minds of the Colorado coaching staff. They still recall how the speedster found a hole to daylight every time one of their defensive players missed an assignment, collecting five touchdowns in the process.
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre wants his players this time around to focus on getting their assignments right, rather than getting “mad and angry” over the memory of last year.
“Then, be mad and angry when you hit him,” he suggested.
And the Colorado coaches are also painfully aware of the fact that the junior from Canyon del Oro High School is once again leading the nation in rushing yardage, with 161 yards per game.
You can bet they took notice of the 236 yards Carey put up last week in Arizona’s 35-24 win against Utah. That was a season high for the 5’10” running back , which means he isn’t slowing down and, just the opposite, may be building some momentum heading into the game with the Buffs.
Colorado’s defensive coordinator Kent Baer says Carey “is probably the best back in the country.” His formula for his players to have any success this year against the elusive back: play the gaps perfectly and use their hands to shed blockers before Carey slips past them.
And Baer is quick to point out that the Wildcats’ offensive line doesn’t have to hold their blocks very long… “Just a second is all he needs and he’s gone.”
While the Cats should plenty of points on the board Saturday, whether via Carey or a passing game that is averaging 162 yards per outing, they will still need to count on their defense, which has shown improvement this year. Last year, they finished the season ranked dead last in the conference by allowing 499 yards a game; this season they’re fifth with 369 yards a game.
The secret will be holding down the Buffs’ passing game which is averaging 256 yards a game, led by quarterback Sefo Liufau, who is completing almost 70 per cent of his passes, and a wide receiver, Paul Richardson, who already has 782 receiving yards and six touchdown on the year.
Both teams needs this one. Colorado will be playing in front of a huge Homecoming crowd and hoping to get over the .500 hump. The only wins they have put up so far in a 3-3 season have been in non-conference play; they’re winless in three conference games.
This is also an important game for Arizona, which is 4-2 overall and 1-2 in Pac-12 play, because they’re still a couple of games from bowl eligibility and have the toughest part of the schedule ahead when they play UCLA, Oregon, Washington State, and Arizona State.
Arizona’s best bet would be to wrap up wins in the next two games, despite the fact that they are on the road. This week’s game against Colorado will be followed by a match-up with California, which is 1-6 overall and 0-4 in conference.
And the timing couldn’t be better. Not only is Carey on a roll and going against a team that he dominated last year, but senior quarterback B.J. Denker is coming off his best two games of the season.
As they say in Tucson, it’s time to ‘Bear Down” and make the next two weeks count.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)