With ball in his hands, Carey quickly finds his comfort zone

TUCSON, Ariz. — When Ka’Deem Carey steps on the football field, he finds a comfort zone. It’s where he’s the most free and content.

“They don’t even have to say Ka’Deem you’re getting the ball,” he said. “But just stepping on the field and knowing that this play is going to happen… I just forget about everything and black out everything.

“Literally, I just play.”

One game into the season — one play into his season — and he was home again.

He predicted he’d have a breakaway touchdown on his first rush attempt. Of course, he did. In fact, he was hardly touched on Saturday night.

Every time he touches the ball in Rich Rodriguez’s offense there’s that potential. It’s how he gained a school-record 1,929 yards last season.

After his one-game suspension in the season opener, he quickly returned to form, gaining 171 yards on 16 carries while making his first 2013 appearance in the second quarter of a 58-13 blowout win against Nevada Las Vegas on Saturday.

He’s back, saying once again his off-season and off-the-field problems (a domestic violence charge that was eventually dropped and getting thrown out of a UA men’s basketball game) are as much behind him as a linebacker trying to catch him on a breakaway TD run.

“Just stepping on the field, I forget that that even happened,” Carey said. “My teammates remind me to keep moving forward. We just went out and played ball.”

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said Carey looked fit and ready. No jitters, no worries.

“He always runs hard, always runs hungry,” said Rodriguez. “That’s one of his great attributes. He made the right cuts, made the right reads, and he helped in protection. It felt good to have him back with Daniel Jenkins a big banged up. So, we have two starting tailbacks. It’s a good situation to have.”

Carey likes to think of them as being Thunder and Lightning.

“He’s lightning and I’m thunder,” Carey said. “I come with the boom, and he comes with the speed. Me and him will be a good combination this year. This is what we wanted because (opponents) can’t really key. If they key on him, I’m there. If they key on me, he’s there. I love the way me and him work.”

It would seem that they will have to work harder every game. Another test is Saturday vs. Texas-San Antonio. With Arizona’s passing game still a work in progress, the Wildcats are going to rely even more heavily on their running game. Opponents know that, but that doesn’t mean they can stop it.

“We’re still going to run the ball,” Carey said. “We’ll pound it down your throat. When they load that (box) up, let’s go play big (boy) football.”

Carey entered the year 1,471 yards short of the all-time school record for yards in a career but is now 1,300 shy — a record quest that his suspension might impede, but he says he doesn’t care.

“I don’t pay attention to the numbers but know this football game is what I love to do, so when I step on the football field, everything is going to come,” he said. “If I had 50 yards, I’ve worked for those 50 yards. I trust the line.”

And when that line opens up a lane, he’ll be free to run on the place he feels most comfortable — the football field.