Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey steams for the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown while quarterback B.J. Denker celebrates the Wildcats’ final score of the night at Arizona Stadium, Carey ran for 236 yards on a school-record 40 carries.
Rich Rodriguez wanted a first down. Ka’Deem Carey wanted a touchdown.
Carey won out and got a hug from Wilbur T. Wildcat to boot.
Leading by four with just under two minutes remaining, Arizona was faced with a third-and-five at the 44-yard line. Carey took a handoff from quarterback B.J. Denker, put his head down and sprinted straight into Wilbur’s waiting arms at the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Arizona 35, Utah 24; game over.
“That last one, I was yelling at him to get down,” Rodriguez said. “I’m sure he didn’t hear me and he probably didn’t care. He was going to keep on running.
“He was going to be like Forrest Gump on that run.”
Carey finished with 236 yards on a school-record 40 carries in front of 50,871 fans at Arizona Stadium.
He only had one rush he’d like to forget.
With UA leading 28-24, Carey fumbled on his own 39-yard line with 6:29 to play to give the ball back to Utah. The Utes drove down do the 23, but kicker Andy Phillips missed a 40-yard field goal, letting Carey off the hook.
“Just after that fumble, I had a lot built in,” said Carey, who broke Ontiwaun Carter’s record for carries in a game, which stood at 36. “I felt like I let my team down. When I got that ball (on the final carry) and saw that crease, I said ‘I got your back, team.’ ”
And he did.
After Phillips missed his kick, Arizona got the ball back with 3:49 to play. Carey had rushes of 5, 8 and 4 yards before breaking off his 44-yard score to seal the win.
“Before we went on the field for the second-to-last drive, I told him, ‘when I’m asked why we won the game, it’s going to be because you put the team on your back. Everyone knows we’re going to give the ball to two-five,’ ” Denker said. “And then he goes and fumbles and makes me look bad. But our defense saved our butts and then he had some magic at the end of that long run.”
Truthfully, the Wildcats worked some magic all 60 minutes en route to their first Pac-12 victory of the season.
Trailing 21-20 early in the fourth quarter, Denker delivered his best ball of the night to freshman receiver Nate Phillips, who was streaking down the sideline. Phillips fought off a pass interference penalty from a Utah defender and hauled in the pass. Three plays later, Denker found Phillips in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown to give the UA a lead it would never surrender.
“One of the plays of the game was his catch down the sideline,” Rodriguez said of Phillips’ 36-yard catch. “Nate has the same kind of hunger and intensity that Ka’Deem has. That was a huge play; a huge catch.”
Added Phillips: “I beat my man and B.J. threw a perfect ball and it just dropped right in the bucket and I caught it. Our previous drives had stalled a little bit and that definitely got us on track and gave some energy to the defense.”
A shorthanded defense played with energy for the majority of the game.
Linebacker Marquis Flowers registered his first career touchdown with a 14-yard interception return for a score early in the second quarter to give the UA (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) a 14-7 lead.
Senior cornerback Shaq Richardson also registered an interception — his second of the season — and the UA got production from some unlikely sources throughout.
Safety Jared Tevis missed the game with a knee injury and fellow safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant exited in the first quarter with a blow to the head. Will Parks and Anthony Lopez filled in for the duo and combined for nine tackles.
The UA also got two tackles-for-loss and a sack from backup defensive lineman Justin Washington and a sack from third-down specialist Sir Thomas Jackson.
“It was real impressive having guys like that step up and having that depth that second-team can go in there and execute the way we are,” senior defensive end Sione Tuihalamaka said. “That’s a great thing for the team.”
The second team may have stole the show on defense, but on offense, it was the usual suspects.
Denker was interception free for a second straight game and finished 18 for 30 for 168 yards and the touchdown to Phillips. He also added 51 yards on the ground and two rushing scores in the first half.
Phillips finished with 63 yards on four catches and David Richards and Samajie Grant each had three catches in the win.
But they were all just complementary pieces to Carey, who went over 200 yards against the Utes for the second straight season.
“He doesn’t stop,” Utah linebacker Trevor Reilly said. “You have to make sure you wrap and roll with him because he just does not go down. He’s one of those backs that always leans forward and gets a couple more yards.”
On Saturday, it was 44 more and it led to a much-needed win.