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November 9, 2013
Carey, Arizona ready for 'statement game' against No. 16 UCLA
The number of yards Ka'Deem Carey runs for naturally pile up in his head throughout the course of a game. The nation's leading rusher may not have an exact total, but he typically has an idea.
But the Arizona running back was surprised to learn earlier this week that the last team to keep him below 100 rushing yards - Carey has the longest active streak in the country at 11 games - is Saturday night's opponent, UCLA.
"I think that's funny because I didn't realize that," said Carey, who had just 54 yards and a touchdowns in last season's 66-10 loss in Pasadena, Calif.
"To bring that to my attention now, I have a lot to prove. I'm excited to show [the Bruins] how developed I am since last year. … I remember the last time they came here (in 2011) something different happened and I ain't going to say too much about that."
Carey is averaging 153.1 yards per game - more than four yards better than last year's pace. He has rushed for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, collecting 1,072 yards and 10 touchdowns in seven games after his season-opening suspension.
The Wildcats and Bruins will enter the 8 p.m. MT homecoming kickoff with identical 6-2 records and tied for second place in the Pac-12 Conference South division at 3-2, along with USC.
But Arizona, although riding a three-game winning streak, has league wins over the three worst teams in the Pac-12 standings. Tonight's contest is against the defending South division champions, who are ranked 16th in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and 19th in the BCS standings. But UCLA has lost in its last four trips to Tucson, last winning in 2003.
"This is a statement game," Carey said. "This is the Pac-12 and we're trying to make that championship (game). This is the game that stands in front that we have to handle - and for them, too, because they're trying to do the same thing that we're doing."
Although the last memory of UCLA is ugly, forget the revenge factor, UA second-year head coach Rich Rodriguez said. There will be much more at stake at Arizona Stadium, such as postseason bowl game implications and a shot at division leader Arizona State - which sits just one game ahead and still has to play Arizona at the end of the month.
"What could go wrong, went wrong," Rodriguez said of the loss to UCLA. "Next thing, you turn around and you're down 21-, 28-0 and you barely got out of the locker room. I was embarrassed and I hope every one of us were embarrassed.
"What revenge? They didn't do nothing to our families; they just kicked our tail."
Bruins second-year head coach Jim Mora said only so much can be taken from the last meeting.
UA quarterback B.J. Denker was the raw backup and thrown into action after Matt Scott was knocked out of the game. The receiving corps is now much different, too, with true freshman Samajie Grant leading the Wildcats in catches, not all-conference performer Austin Hill. The UA defense is no longer the unit that surrendered nearly 500 yards per game, either, now ranking 38th in the country in total defense.
UCLA, for that matter, is different too - even compared to a few weeks ago. The program's all-time leading rusher, Johnathan Franklin, is no longer in the backfield, and this season's leader, Jordon James, will not be either. A right ankle sprain, re-injured in last Saturday's win over Colorado, has limited James to a stationary bike and he will not play, Mora said.
But when Mora reflected on last season's win over the Wildcats, and Carey's performance in particular, he said the score dictated the situation. The defense did not necessarily stop the All-American.
"He's a great one. He's an excellent football player," Mora said. "I think he's a guy who gets better every time you watch him play. He was great last year, he's better this year, and next year he will be great at the next level.
"You don't necessarily bottle up Ka'Deem Carey. You try to limit his explosive plays against you. But you don't lead the nation in rushing and stop those guys. It's going to be a great test for us."