There is the Dec. 15 Gildan New Mexico Bowl, college football's kickoff to the bowl season between Arizona and Nevada. But there also is the matchup that overshadows them all: Ka'Deem Carey versus Stefphon Jefferson.

Coach speak and cliches will tell you that the nation's No. 1 and 2 leading rushers will never go toe-to-toe because it's not an offense versus defense battle. But Carey admitted that the storyline serves as "two games in one."

"In a whole different game, I think there's the game, and then there's me versus him," Carey said.

And that is nothing new. Carey took the same approach into the meeting at UCLA against Johnathan Franklin earlier this year, as well as a number of other matchups against the nation's premier backs. It's enough confidence to know he is not afraid of the spotlight, but not enough to think he is cocky.

The Arizona sophomore will put his 1,757 yards and nation-best 146.4 yards per game average against the Nevada junior's 1,703 yards and 141.9 average. Although Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch leads the nation in total rushing yards with 1,771, it is the average that will determine the rushing champion.

The breakout numbers have led to a handful of first-team All-American selections for Carey.

"It kind of popped up on me because I didn't think he was running for that many yards," Carey's teammate, receiver Austin Hill, said. "But I'm proud of him. I think he deserves to be nationally recognized for his season.

"That's going to be some fun for Ka'Deem. First- and second-leading rushers in the nation. I think it will be a fun game."

Carey and Jefferson also find the end zone aplenty, with the Wolfpack back rushing for a nation-leading 22 rushing scores to Carey's 20.

UA head coach Rich Rodriguez said he can see "a little bit" of a similarity between the two running backs.

"They're guys that are physical between the tackles, and I think they're about the same size," Rodriguez said. "So there is some similarities."

Added UA linebacker Marquis Flowers about Jefferson: "From what I know, [Jefferson] is a very patient runner. He finds the hole, he hits the hole and he runs hard. He's capable of making a dude missing and breaking away.

"They both obviously know how to run the ball - number one and number two in the nation - so yards after contact is a great deal for both of them."

Carey's running style also has been labeled "angry" by Rodriguez and UA running backs coach Calvin Magee throughout the season.

Carey said "you've got to turn into a creature out there" to play football at the Division I FBS level.

"I feel like I just turn into The Hulk, or something," an animated Carey said. "I drink a little 5-hour energy and just … 'Aaaah!' The team just waits for that in the locker room and I feel like that just brings some energy before we go out there.

"It's me versus you. If you want to knock my head off, I take that defensively. You've got to look at it that way. … You're taking the beating to them instead of receiving the beating. So I've got to run angry. You've got to get in that end zone and they're preventing you to get there, so you're mad at them."

Carey is not entirely sure where that inner beast comes from, though he quickly added that it could be from living in a competitive household. More than he wants to win, maybe, the Tucson native does not want to lose.

Carey added that he has not watched too much of Jefferson, whose Wolfpack play in the Mountain West Conference. But he is aware of the numbers, and it's that challenge - regardless of who the running back is on the other side - that has the 5-10, 197-pounder excited about the matchup and coming out on top.

"Obviously he's a good back," Carey said. "So I'm excited to see him. I love looking at other running backs across the field and just see how they carry themselves and play. So it's going to be showtime between me and him and I'm looking forward to seeing him."

But when he's with his teammates, Carey does not talk too much about the individual matchup.

Quarterback Matt Scott was not even fully aware that both were running 1-2 in the race.

"We haven't really talked about that, at all," Scott said.

But wide receiver Dan Buckner knows that the anticipated battle is more reason that "all eyes are going to be on Albuquerque that morning."

"You know that's going to be there," Buckner said. "You know that the ball is going to be ran. So they're going to light up the scoreboard - but we are, too. I think it's going to be a fun game."

(Editor's Note: Tracy McDannald is the senior editor for Get all your Wildcats' news at

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.