Arizona's success this season has been about predicting the opponents' reactions. The issue was always about having just one action to trigger those reactions.
From a wider perspective, the Wildcats were a run-first, run-second and run-third team to begin the 2013 season. Ka'Deem Carey -- and his opponents -- knew the touches would be piled on his shoulders, but his continued success despite loaded boxes eyeing him yet opened up opportunities elsewhere.
Of course, the passing game took a while. Against USC two games ago, Arizona began showing it would make teams pay. Quarterback B.J. Denker was hitting the quick, short passes and soon the defensive backs sneaking up would bite against double-moves. Arizona ended up giving the Trojans a late scare.
Last week against Utah, the Wildcats only built upon the success -- Denker's passing attack opened up even more as Carey continued to take on the heavy load.
Against Colorado in Boulder on Saturday, UA used the expected reactions of the Buffs against them, and Carey's past success made his game all the more easy.
Denker got going early and led Arizona to a quick 7-0 lead with an 88-yard drive halfway through the first quarter. Carey got touches early as usual, but then the zone read began to open up.
It was easy to predict the Buffs would focus all their energy on Carey after he rushed for 366 yards and five touchdowns against them last year. The Colorado defense worked initially, but Rodriguez knew how it would react and used it against CU. The zone read and CU's frantic rush to stop the running back ended with Denker's biggest rushing night of his career.
The Arizona quarterback rushed 15 times for 190 yards and had runs of 54, 46, and 18 yards.
Denker's passing game also caught fire, and by the end of the night he connected on 21-of-32 passes for 266 yards.. His continued development of chemistry with Nate Phillips ended with a perfect 44-yard touchdown sling just a minute before halftime to give the Wildcats a 24-13 lead at the half, not bad considering an interception by Denker and a fumble by Garic Wharton each led to CU field goals.
Arizona began the third quarter with a drive that set up Jake Smith's second made field goal of the day, and Colorado answered with a touchdown to bring it within seven points with the scoreboard reading 27-20. The Wildcats responded with a seven-play, 70-yard drive in just two minutes.
Colorado got desperate and made two questionable decisions late.
With a 1st-and-goal seven yards out, the Buffs couldn't punch the ball in the end zone as UA's defense held on a 4th-and-goal. On the next CU possession, it refused to punt after a three-and-out situation and didn't trick the Wildcats on a fourth down trick play from its own 17-yard line. Arizona would punch in Carey's fourth touchdown of the day to go ahead 41-20 and ride out Daniel Jenkins for the fourth quarter, which included another Smith field goal.
At the beginning of the season, the Wildcats weren't in position to react before the opponents could read them. That's because the opponents didn't have to read the Wildcats -- the gameplan was simply about stopping Carey.
It was the case against the Buffaloes Saturday, too worried and scarred Carey would make mulch of their defense like he did a year ago.
The numbers -- 119 yards on 23 carries -- were nice but not telling of the big picture, which included a mixed and versatile offensive attack. And the total was actually Carey's fewest in his last 10 games, a stretch dating back to Carey's Pac-12 record-setting night against the Buffs.
It came full circle. The Buffs were reacting to the past, and RichRod and company went to Denker's arms and legs.
They were a step ahead once again.