BOULDER – Ka’Deem Carey went on an extended afternoon run last November 10, and all Parker Orms could do was watch. Unfortunately, his Colorado defensive teammates also slipped into spectators’ roles for Carey’s fun run in sunny Tucson.
Orms was recovering from a concussion and watched from the sideline when the Buffaloes lined up to play Arizona. At day's end, Carey had stomped into the Arizona, CU and Pac-12 Conference record books, rushing for 366 yards and scoring five touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 56-31 rout.
No Arizona back had run for that many yards in a single game. No back CU ever played had run as productively. And no back in Pac-12/10 history had reached that yardage as Carey broke the former league mark (357) set by Washington State’s Rueben Mayes in 1984.
Carey’s total was just short of being 100 yards more than the 268 that Kansas’ David Winbush pounded out of CU’s defense in 1998. Carey had 293 yards in the first three quarters, and the Wildcats finished the game with 438 yards rushing (574 total).
In a season of bad CU Saturdays, this one was among the worst.
“It was embarrassing, very embarrassing,” CU defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe said. “As a defense one of the things you always take pride in is being able to stop the run. Having given up all those yards to one guy, it definitely hurts.”
Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre said rather than his defenders getting “mad and angry” over the memory of Carey prancing past them last season, they should concentrate on getting their assignments right for Saturday night’s visit by Arizona (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network) “then be mad and angry when you hit him.”
Taking in last season’s carnage from the sidelines, Orms said Carey “found holes whenever anyone had a missed assignment and then he was off to the races . . . he’s the type of back that makes the first guy miss and you can’t have that. You have to have the first guy wrap up, then have the other ten guys coming.”
On Saturday night in Folsom Field, Orms, a senior safety, hopes to get the shot(s) at Carey he missed last season. Same can be said for the other Buffs. The Wildcats (4-2, 1-2) are two wins shy of bowl eligibility (they became bowl eligible last season on Carey’s run-it-up afternoon) while the Buffs (3-3, 0-3) are seeking a signature October win that will send them into October thinking bowl.
Carey, a 5-10, 207-pound junior, led the nation in rushing in 2012 (148.3 yards a game) and he’s ahead of that pace this season. Coming off a 236-yard performance in last weekend’s 35-24 win over Utah, Carey is averaging a nation-best 161.0 yards a game.
“He’s the same guy (as last season), an explosive back, very strong, very fast with good vision,” Uzo-Diribe said. “He’s as advertised.”
On Monday night, the Buffs’ defensive staff watched Carey run on tape, viewing last season’s CU game as well as Carey’s five 2013 games (he was suspended for the opener against Northern Arizona “per team policy). What Carey did to the Buffs, said defensive coordinator Kent Baer, “he’s done to a lot of people. He’s probably the best back in the country.”
Carey’s lowest rushing total this season has been 128 yards against Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) in a comfy 38-13 Arizona win. To keep him from running amok as he did against CU last November and Utah last week, Baer says defensive alignment and “playing your gaps perfectly” are required. Plus, his players must use their hands to shed blockers before Carey slips past them.
“That’s where he gashes people,” Baer said, adding that Arizona’s offensive line has been “good blocking against all fronts. It’s really a simple running game, but we have to be sound in what we’re doing.”
Arizona’s O-line, said Baer, doesn’t need to hold blocks abnormally long for Carey to find a crease and slip through: “Just a second is all he needs and he’s gone.” But, Baer added, “He gets a lot (of yards) on his own. He’s also got great vision, good speed and he’s not afraid to lower his shoulder and run you over. He’s a pretty physical kid.”
The Buffs are No. 10 in the Pac-12 in rushing defense, allowing 174.5 yards a game. The Wildcats, with Carey getting an assist from quarterback B.J. Denker, are second in the conference in rushing offense behind Oregon (332.4-268.5). Denker adds 54.5 yards a game to Arizona’s rushing average.
Better tackling has been atop Baer’s wish list for his defense since August camp. MacIntyre said there has been noticeable improvement since last spring, but Baer shrugged and said, “I don’t know,” when asked Tuesday how much better tacklers the Buffs might have become.
“There have been a couple of games I was disappointed in them,” he said. “We work on it every day and just have to keep pushing it.”
MacIntyre wasn’t pleased with the Buffs’ tackling last weekend in their 43-10 rout of Charleston Southern. He said the Buccaneers “made us miss” too many times and this week against Carey the Buffs “have to make open-field tackles, one-on-one tackles in the hole and run to the ball.”
Facing Carey, MacIntyre said, represents a steep step up and if he had his druthers, “I wish we were playing Jim Carrey and not Ka’Deem Carey.”
(You can add your own Dumb and Dumber line.)
NOTABLE: Freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau, who made his first college start last weekend, said he believed he did “a good job of managing the game” and taking what the defense gave him . . . . CU junior receiver Paul Richardson’s cousin, Shaquille Richardson, is an Arizona cornerback. Liufau said “P-Rich” has offered “tips on both (Arizona) corners and what they’re good at.” Liufau hopes that will allow him and his offense “to do a couple of things that will help us win.” . . . . MacIntyre believes the Wildcats have “improved drastically on defense.” They rank fifth in the Pac-12 in total defense, allowing 369.2 yards a game. Last season, Arizona finished last in the conference in that category, allowing 499 yards a game . . . . The Buffs opened Pac-12 play at Oregon State after a 21-day layoff. They resume conference play coming off their lopsided win against CSU. Is that a sign of momentum for Saturday night? “I don’t know,” MacIntyre said, “but Tuesday was our best Tuesday practice all year. He said he didn’t know whether to attribute it to the weather, the ‘W’ or what, “but hopefully it shows up Saturday.” . . . . Michael Adkins II rushed for a 137 yards and a freshman record four TDs last weekend. MacIntyre said Adkins and sophomore Christian Powell will continue to be the Buffs’ 1-2 tailback punch, with Powell playing fullback as dictated by opponents’ defensive sets. “He’s a good versatile player,” MacIntyre said . . . . Freshman Ryan Severson is fourth in the conference in kickoff returns, averaging 23.5 yards. “I think he’s break one,” MacIntyre said. “He’s a 10.7 hundred meter kid.” . . . . Win Saturday night and CU will exit October 4-3 and two wins shy of bowl eligibility. MacIntyre said bowl talk is not rampant among the Buffs, “but there’s the first time to utter it.” Even if postseason talk is premature, MacIntyre called it “good motivation to go out and practice (and) stay positive.” . . . . Sophomore tackle Marc Mustoe is scheduled for surgery (leg) before the end of the week. MacIntyre said senior tight end/fullback Alex Wood (concussion) could return this weekend, dependent on testing he was to undergo on Tuesday . . . . MacIntyre said he has used all the true freshmen he intends to play – unless something disastrous occurs in the offensive line and a first-year player or two is needed.