McFadden Making His Mark

FAYETTEVILLE -- Left guard Stephen Parker called the freshman a "beast" after his record-setting performance in Arkansas' 23-20 loss at No. 4 Georgia.

Quarterback Robert Johnson described the Razorbacks' workhorse as a "true player" who runs like a veteran. And coach Houston Nutt referred to his dependable weapon as a "big-time back" who has been at his best against ranked opponents.

Darren McFadden has earned rave reviews from coaches and teammates during his impressive, four-game stint as the Razorbacks' starting tailback. The Southeastern Conference has noticed, too, handing McFadden another Freshman of the Week award after his 190-yard, 2-touchdown performance at Georgia.

It was the second straight week the Little Rock native has been named the conference's freshman of the week and the third time this season an Arkansas tailback earned the honor. Felix Jones was the first recipient after his 137-yard performance during the 49-17 season-opening win against Missouri State.

"Darren had another outstanding game against one of the best teams in the nation," Nutt said. "He continues to get better and better every week. He hits the line of scrimmage at full speed and uses his blocking well.

"If he continues in the same direction, he has the potential to have a special career as a Razorback."

McFadden already has left his mark on Arkansas' rushing list, setting the school's single-game freshman rushing record against the Bulldogs. He broke the mark set by former Razorback Darryl Bowles during his 169-yard game against Texas A&M in 1979. The performance also helped McFadden become Arkansas' freshman rushing leader (682 yards), shattering the mark established by Cedric Cobbs in 1999 (668).

As if that wasn't enough, McFadden also turned in the 12th-best, single-game rushing total in school history and the fourth-best performance in the SEC in 2005.

"The dude is a beast," Parker said after the game. "I love him. Half of the time, when they pull me and I get that kick out block, all I know is I just have to make sure I get a hand on him and he's going to squeeze through and he's gone.

"Just give him a crease. It's great having that feeling."

McFadden, who leads Arkansas in rushing, attempts (86) and touchdowns (8), didn't think he'd get the chance after starting the season fourth on the depth chart behind senior De'Arrius Howard, sophomore Peyton Hillis and Jones.

He was slowed by a knee injury during preseason practices and got 10 carries in two games. But McFadden became Arkansas' starter after an 88-yard performance at top-ranked Southern California. Since, he has rushed for 518 yards and 7 touchdowns in four games against Alabama, Louisiana-Monroe, Auburn and Georgia.

Alabama, Auburn and Georgia are among the top five in the SEC and top 15 in the nation in total defense.

"I didn't know I'd put up numbers like that," said McFadden, who has scored seven of Arkansas' last 11 touchdowns.

He is ranked fourth in the SEC in rushing (97.4 yards a game) and first in rushing touchdowns. Nutt said McFadden, who is fourth in all-purpose yards (126.6 a game), has had success because of his combination of speed and strength.

"Darren has such an acceleration to the line of scrimmage and he hits the hole with such quickness and he's on top of the linebackers before they realize it," Nutt said.

"Once he gets past them, the safeties must take a proper angle or he's gone."

His biggest play at Georgia was a 70-yard touchdown that showed off his breakaway speed in the second quarter. It equaled the career-long run at Alabama on Sept. 24. But even McFadden's 5-yard gains looked impressive Saturday.

The only time McFadden remembered getting 30 carries before the Georgia game was during the state playoffs his junior season at Pulaski Oak Grove High. His previous high at Arkansas was 13 attempts against USC and Alabama. But McFadden proved his durability against the Bulldogs, getting a career-high 31 attempts.

Nutt, who said McFadden absorbed plenty of licks, "got stronger" late in the game.

"Coach was telling me he was going to put a lot on me, about 20, 25 carries," McFadden said. "But I didn't think I was going to make it to 30 carries. I feel like when he started giving me the ball I was getting into it and kept running hard.

"I figured I had about 25, 26. I didn't know I had 30."

The Razorbacks will probably lean on the freshman down the stretch because of their woeful passing game. McFadden, who is 318 yards shy of turning in the 10th, 1,000-yard rushing season in school history, said he's ready to carry the load.

He's "really hoping" to reach the mark this season and has a chance with softer run defenses (South Carolina, Ole Miss and Mississippi State) on the horizon.

But McFadden said he'd trade all the accolades and records for four straight wins.

"It just feels good to do and accomplish these things as a freshman," McFadden said. "Not too many freshman out there that can come into this hard conference and do that. It ain't nothing to get big-headed about. It's just about staying humble.

"It's a team game. I know I couldn't do it by myself."

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