2014 NFL Draft: Ka'Deem Carey shows first-round form vs. Ducks

Ka'Deem Carey has proves he can get the tough yards against good teams. (USATSI)
Ka'Deem Carey has proves he can get the tough yards against good teams. (USATSI)

Those who didn't see Arizona's shocking dismantling of Oregon Saturday will give the Wildcats' defense most of the credit for clamping down Marcus Mariota and the dynamic Ducks'  offense in the Wildcats' 42-16 win.

While the defense certainly deserves credit -- they were the first to intercept Mariota in a calendar year (and they did it twice) -- head coach Rich Rodriguez turned to a time-honored strategy of running the football to keep the Ducks' offense off the field

The strategy isn't a new one but with a superstar running back in junior Ka'Deem Carey, Rodriguez had a talent to rely upon that few other teams in the country can boast.

Carey ran the ball an eye-popping 48 times for 206 yards and four touchdowns, combining with quarterback B.J. Denker to give Rodriguez easily the biggest win of his career in Tucson.

A week after struggling in a home loss to Washington State, Denker was spectacular, stealing the role of a potential Heisman candidate from Mariota by completing 19 of 22 passes for 178 yards and two scores while running for another 102 yards.

Denker's breakout performance certainly will catch the attention of scouts but the superstar in this game was clearly Carey, who galloped 20 yards in the third quarter to break the Wildcats' all-time rushing record with state rival Arizona State coming up next weekend.

It may not be the only time this year that Carey matches Trung Candidate, the man whose record he broke Saturday. Candidate is the only running back in school history to earn a first round selection, as he was selected No. 31 overall by the St. Louis Rams in 2000.

Carey, 5-10, 207-pounds, led the country with 1,929 rushing yards a year ago but the 1,559 he's rushed for this season have been even more impressive, as Carey has shown improved toughness and determination in the hole. A year ago, Carey often relied on his lateral agility and burst to make defenders miss. He still possesses the juice to make defenders look silly but is clearly stronger in 2013, which helped him barrel through multiple would-be tacklers for short yardage scores.

Just as impressive this year has been Carey's production in the passing game. While his only catch against Oregon went for a five yard loss, Carey's strength and toughness makes him one of the country's more reliable pass protectors at the running back position.

Arizona's huge win will serve as an effective resume-builder for their head coach, their embattled quarterback and for Carey, as well. While his terrific body of work should provide plenty of evidence that he is one of the few running backs who should warrant first round consideration, the victory over Oregon gives the junior perhaps the perfect send-off for what could be his final game at Arizona Stadium.

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