LAS VEGAS -- Once back on the field, Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey ran again, then again and again, until he could physically no longer run any more. On his first rush of the season, Carey ran all the way to the end zone for a 58-yard touchdown run.
"I told the O-line we're going to score on this first one," Carey said with a huge smile after the game. "There were two holes, ‘B' hole and ‘A' hole and I pressed the ‘B' but [the defense] closed the ‘B' and the ‘A' was wide open."
Since being named an All-American at the end of the 2012 season Carey has had to talk more about his off the field issues than his accolades on the field.
But Saturday the junior returned to the field for the first time in almost nine months and left all his troubles behind him.
"It hurt so bad," Carey said about being suspended for the Wildcats' first game. "It's a humbling experience to see a team go out there and play, you just want to go out and be a part of it."
In the 58-13 victory on the road at UNLV Saturday, Carey scored two touchdowns and rushed for 171 yards on 16 attempts despite not being named the starter nor having a single carry until the second quarter. That first attempt set the tone for his night as he ran through the Rebels' defensive line and past any remaining defenders.
"Ka'Deem is a player and everyone knows it," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He runs hungry, [backup running back] Daniel Jenkins runs hungry and it gives us an added dimension."
Carey's return to the football field not only is a positive boost for the Wildcats' offense, but it's a mental and physical freedom for Carey.
His whole life he's ran through, around and past defenders. Last season no running back in the country ran as far as Carey did. His 1929 yards in 2012 made him an early Heisman candidate for this season. But being confined to offseason workouts and the sideline put Carey in an uncomfortable place.
"I prayed before every game and I broke down into tears and God let me go out there with the team," Carey said. "I woke up this morning with a smile and it was great to be out there."
Carey's contribution to the Arizona offense was tremendous. The tandem of Carey and Jenkins has so far through two games helped Arizona overcome its difficulties throwing the ball. The two are power and explosion in the backfield. As the season progresses they could become even more threatening.
"[We can be] too dangerous," Carey said. "We call each other thunder and lightning. I'll be thunder he can be lightning. We're just waiting to get healthy and get our bodies out there and it'll be a good combination."
Carey admitted the rust was there and the nerves were flowing prior to stepping out onto the field in the second quarter. And since he knew he wasn't going to play in the first game against NAU and was going to sit out the first quarter of Saturday's game, he has taken fewer reps in practice. But once his body gets back to the daily grind that he excelled in, he will return to his full potential.
"[Being off the field] hurt, but we got through it," Carey said.
This story was courtesy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.