Get A Grip

FAYETTEVILLE --Felix Jones and Darren McFadden weren't used to this.

After dominating in high school, the Arkansas true freshman duo stepped right in and started doing similar things to college defenses.

Jones broke out early in the season with a 137-yard game against Missouri State in the Razorbacks' opener. McFadden topped 100 yards for the first time in Arkansas' win over Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 8 and went wild, running for more than 100 yards in four straight games.

But last week in Oxford, Miss., the pair were stifled, combining for just 72 yards on 26 carries and no touchdowns. Both also had critical fumbles that killed the Razorbacks' momentum before another freshman, quarterback Casey Dick, bailed them out with a pair of second-half touchdown throws to help lead Arkansas to a 28-17 come-from-behind win.

So when McFadden walked over to senior running back De'Arrius Howard during the Ole Miss game, Howard just laughed and had a message for the newcomer.

"I said, 'Y'all are getting your welcome into the SEC ..." Howard said. "... It's going to make them stronger in the long run.

"It brings you back down to reality. You have big games and now it's 'Whoa.'"

Ole Miss turned the Arkansas fumbles into 10 points, going from being tied 7-7 when McFadden fumbled in the second quarter to being up 17-10 after turning Jones' fumble into a field goal early in the third.

"I just had the ball hanging out," Jones said. "I shouldn't have had it out like that. I'm supposed to have it into my ribs but I had it out away and he came by and popped it out."

Both running backs have tried this week to correct the fumbling problem which cost them a week ago. McFadden's came on a Kelvin Robinson hit.

"The only thing I can do is just come back and work hard and know I've got to hold onto the ball and be looking for those hits," McFadden said.

Although he has not fumbled since joining the Razorbacks, a span of 411 carries, Howard still had some advice for the youngsters.

"I told (McFadden), don't let that fumble get him down because it can mess up your whole mind frame," he said. "You've got to have a short memory. I've never fumbled, but I have in high school. (I told him) just forget about it, go and make up for it on the next play, score a touchdown and everybody will forget about the fumble."

Only one other time this season had the two freshmen been held to less than 125 yards. Against Vanderbilt on Sept. 10, Jones and McFadden combined for just five yards but each had only one carry as Howard and Peyton Hillis got the majority of the carries.

Now, the two must bounce back from what Houston Nutt called "their worst first half of football in their college career" when the Razorbacks host Mississippi State on Saturday at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.

"We just had a bad game that game," Jones said. "We'll come back (Saturday) and we'll make up for it.

"We just have our bad days."

Running backs coach Danny Nutt is confident the pair will come out strong against the Bulldogs.

"They came back and went to work," Nutt said. "They've got that in them; they've got that little fight in them. They're not going to hang their head. They did stop us Saturday but they came right back and went to work."

McFadden said he hoped the emergence of the Razorbacks' passing game would force defenses to stop crowding the box to slow the run.

"It takes a whole lot of pressure off the running backs," McFadden said of passing success. "Because if we get a little passing game going, it makes them spread their defense out a little bit; they can't just stack eight or nine people in the box every time."

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