TUCSON, Ariz. — With Pac-12 passing leader Matt Scott sidelined with a concussion, the Arizona Wildcats turned to running back Ka’Deem Carey, and the sophomore responded with a record midday ramble.
Carey ran for 366 yards, breaking a Pac-12 Conference record that had stood for 28 years, and scored five touchdowns, powering Arizona to a 56-31 rout of Colorado on Saturday.
Carey, who carried 25 times, broke the record of 357 rushing yards set by Washington State’s Rueben Mayes at Oregon on Oct. 27, 1984.
“When you just go for long ones and long ones and your linemen just get so happy,” Carey said, “you must be doing something good out there.”
The sophomore’s five rushing TDs — of 10, 13, 30, 8 and 3 yards — tied a conference record. Carey, whose longest gain of the day was 71 yards, smashed the school record of 288 yards set by Trung Canidate against Arizona State in 1998.
“When I woke up this morning, I just had a great feeling and just put in my head that I wanted the school record,” he said. “I didn’t want to tell nobody that, but that’s just what I woke up thinking.”
Junior college transfer B.J. Denker completed 12 of 14 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns in his first start for Arizona (6-4, 3-4). He also ran for 44 yards and a touchdown as the Wildcats became bowl eligible with their sixth win, rebounding from a 66-10 embarrassment at UCLA the previous week.
“We knew they were going to either let me run the ball by taking away Ka’Deem or they were going to let Ka’Deem run the ball,” Denker said. “For some reason, they let him run the ball. Not very smart move.”
Coach Rich Rodriguez said his team probably could have passed a bit more, but the way Carey was careening all over the field, it just wasn’t necessary.
“He runs as angry, I guess you’d say, as any back in the country,” Rodriguez said.
In his first start this season, Colorado’s Nick Hirschman was 12 of 13 for 123 yards and one interception. Connor Wood relieved Hirschman and went 4 of 7 for 90 yards and a touchdown. Christian Powell rushed for 137 yards and two scores for the Buffaloes (1-9, 1-6), and Donta Abron gained 83 yards in 13 attempts.
Colorado coach Jon Embree said Carey ranks among the other top backs in the conference.
“I don’t know where he ranks, but he, Kenjon Barner and Johnathan Franklin are all really good,” Embree said. “He fits through tight seams and breaks arm tackles. Their zone read was very effective.”
Wood connected on a 71-yard pass play to Scott Fernandez for a touchdown that cut the lead to 49-31 with 10:22 left. It was Fernandez’s first career catch. But after the subsequent kickoff, Carey broke through on a 64-yard run to the Colorado 3, then scored from there to provide the final 56-31 score.
Embree said he was “pleased overall” with how the quarterbacks played.
The Buffaloes had the ball for 41 minutes, 48 seconds, yet still lost by 25.
Denker and Carey messed up a handoff on Arizona’s first offensive play, and Derrick Webb recovered for the Buffaloes at the Arizona 7. Powell rumbled into the end zone on the next play and Colorado led 7-0.
The Wildcats scored touchdowns on their next seven possessions.
First came a nine-play, 80-yard drive, capped by Carey rushing 10 yards for the first of his three first-half touchdowns. Denker was 3 of 3 for 42 yards on the drive.
The Buffaloes mounted their longest drive, in time elapsed, of the season, consuming 8:24 to go 69 yards in 15 plays. On fourth-and-goal at the 1, Colorado chose Will Oliver’s 18-yard field goal, which put the underdog Buffs up 10-7.
The lead lasted just under two minutes. Denker completed three straight passes, then Carey rushed in from the 13 and Arizona was up for good, 14-10 with 13:31 left in the half.
Hirschman, replacing Jordan Webb — who started the first nine games — completed his first eight passes before his toss into the left flat went right into the hands of Tra’Mayne Bondurant. Had he not bobbled the ball, Bondurant would have scored easily, as he did with an interception return at Colorado last season.
As it was, Arizona took over at the Colorado 49. Garic Wharton gained 19 on an end-around, then Carey broke a series of tackles in a 30-yard run that made it 21-10.
Another long, time-consuming drive moved the Buffaloes 75 yards in 13 plays, using up 7:51. Powell scored from the 1 to cut it to 21-17 with 2:44 left in the half.
That was plenty of time for Arizona, even without Scott. Carey started the drive with a 26-yard run and had another for 21 yards to set up Denker’s 21-yard scoring pass to Dan Buckner, and Arizona led 28-17 at the half.
The game matched the bottom two defenses in the Pac-12. Colorado is also the league’s worst offense. Arizona, even without Scott, simply overwhelmed the Buffaloes.