FOOTBALL: Eagles And Wildcats Have More In Common Than Elite Running Backs
Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 03:12
Legs pounding, spikes in the air, he breaks free from the desperate scrum of would-be tacklers and hits full throttle, tearing into the open field. Streaking to the outside for a first down, he cradles the ball with his right forearm and trucks an opponent with his left, before finally running out of room. At game’s end he’ll have 128 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Soon, rabid displays of running like this will become commonplace, maybe even taken for granted, and by season’s end he’ll have 17 rushing touchdowns and be considered one of the best backs in college football.
After all, Ka’Deem Carey is having a hell of a year at Arizona.
If the Boston College Eagles stared into a mirror en masse in a smoky room and squinted just hard enough, they might find the Arizona Wildcats, their 2013 AdvoCare V100 Bowl opponents, gazing back at them. Each team is 7-5 and isn’t nationally ranked, each has four wins in conference play, each employs a rush-heavy offense and has one wide-receiver dominant above all others, each has a Doak Walker Award Finalist in the huddle, and each ended its regular season with a disappointing loss.
The Wildcats are coming off a season of ups and downs and a few high-scoring blowout victories, a 2013 campaign highlighted by a 42-16 takedown of Oregon. Leading the way has been junior running back Carey, averaging 156 yards rushing per game and amassing 1,716 yards on the ground and 17 rushing touchdowns over 11 games played.
At 5-foot-10, 196-pounds, Carey is a small and shifty—but powerful—lightning-quick runner with soft hands. He’s racked up 26 receptions for 173 yards and one touchdown to go along with his exploits on the ground. His 2013 piece de resistance came against Oregon when he broke free for 206 yards and four touchdowns, paving the way for the Wildcats’ 42-16 drubbing of the Ducks. All in all, Carey’s a nightmare for BC’s defense, the second-to-last back in college football the Eagles’ would like to face—the first being their own power-running Andre Williams.
The Wildcat handing Carey the ball—or running it and throwing it himself—is dual-threat senior quarterback B.J. Denker. Given BC’s trouble with multifaceted quarterbacks, most recently seen through Syracuse’s Terrel Hunt throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for an additional 90 yards and a score in BC’s final regular-season game, Denker could deal the Eagles’ defense some serious damage. In 12 games, Denker has thrown for 14 touchdowns and 2,241 yards and run for 12 touchdowns and 898 yards.
While the BC defense has been solid on the ground for the most part this season, defensive coordinator Don Brown’s pass defense has struggled not to give up the big play as of late, and if Denker can link up with his favorite target, seven-touchdown-scoring freshman Nate Phillips, the Eagles will be in trouble.
The player that stands to cause the most problems come New Year’s Eve, however, could be Williams on a month’s rest. On paper, Williams and Carey are reminiscent of Gatorade’s “anything you can do, I can do better” commercials. The Heisman finalist has averaged 19 more rushing yards per game and has run for 386 more yards than Carey, but Carey has played in one fewer game than Williams and has the edge in catches—Williams has no receptions on the year.
When it comes to creating big plays, Williams leaves Carey in the dust—Williams has broken off for a 50-yard run or more in five games, whereas Carey has recorded one run greater than 50 yards, a 58 yarder, in his first game of the season.
BC’s x-factor could very well be senior quarterback Chase Rettig. Excellent against Syracuse, Rettig emerged as a dual threat in his own right, throwing for 168 yards and two touchdowns, and using his legs for 85 yards and an additional score.
It’s been an up-and-down year for the veteran signal caller. Rettig has thrown for 1,804 yards and 17 touchdowns on the year, seeing highs including a dominant four-touchdown, 197-yard performance against Florida State, and lows such as a 57-yard, zero touchdown effort against North Carolina. Rettig has proven himself as a capable game manager many times this season—and a game changer against Syracuse—and if he’s to conclude his collegiate career with that elusive first bowl-game victory, he’ll need to be on his game.
On Dec. 31, in Shreveport, La, the Eagles and Wildcats, Rettig and Denker, and Williams and Carey will battle in an attempt to send their respective teams to 8-5. It will be the first meeting between BC and Arizona, and chances are it will be an offensive slugfest of a game—neither team has outstanding defensive numbers. With two of the best backs in college football in action, the matchup may be decided by whoever can break more tackles, overpower more defenders, juke more opponents, and throw more stiff-arms. In the end, this battle of running backs may simply come down to which player is better at doing what he does best—running away with the game.