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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Carey sparks win with career day

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Will Ferguson
Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat

TEMPE — On the day Ka’Deem Carey committed to Arizona, he handed his mother a box that would either contain an Arizona shirt or an ASU shirt.

After Saturday, Sun Devil fans, coaches and players alike are probably wishing it was a maroon and gold one.

“I told him he picked the right school,” Arizona receivers coach Dave Nichol joked outside the Wildcats’ locker room after Saturday’s 31-27 win over heated rival ASU.

The Tucson native and former standout at Canyon del Oro High School led Arizona with 167 yards — 92 on the ground and 47 through the air — and caught a touchdown pass. Carey also averaged more than seven times as many yards per carry (7.1) than Arizona’s next leading rusher, Keola Antolin, who averaged less than a yard on nine carries.

Carey found most of his running room after weaving through blocks and getting to the outside of the defense, something interim head coach Tim Kish said can be attributed to Carey’s instincts as a runner.

“Ka’Deem Carey is as special a running back as I’ve been around,” Kish said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the performance he had. He’s special.”

After having the best game of his short career while playing in the Duel in the Desert for the first time, Carey wasn’t shy about saying that Saturday’s game “ranks on the top” of his all-time list.

Carey’s performance on Saturday was the latest chapter in the season-long book of coming-out performances he’s had in 2011.

The freshman running back scored three touchdowns against USC, averaged more than seven yards per carry in Arizona’s win over UCLA and racked up 63 receiving yards at Washington.

Carey has the unteachable ability to keep his balance through holes, explode in and out of cuts and change direction on a dime, all while maintaining his power as a runner — something that has offensive coordinator Seth Littrell excited even though he likely won’t be at Arizona after this season.

“He’s special,” Littrell said. “He’s got a huge future in front of him. I can’t say enough about him. I’m excited to watch his future. He’s still young, but he doesn’t play like it. He plays like a veteran.”

That’s where Carey has made the biggest strides this year. Toward the beginning of the season, it was obvious that Carey was an elite talent who was still figuring things out mentally.

So while he’s improved as a runner — figuring out when to make cuts and how to take hits — Carey’s also making huge strides mentally, learning to expect when and where holes are going to open up and the other nuances of being a running back in a BCS conference.

“That’s the next big step for him,” center Kyle Quinn said. “Kid’s a freak athlete. He’s growing up before our eyes. He’s really starting to understand things.”

But for now, Carey isn’t worried about all that. He’s just enjoying a victory in his first career game against ASU.

“Oh yeah, I’ve kissed it and everything,” Carey said of getting the Territorial Cup trophy. “Me and that cup are gonna get to be real good friends.”

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