McFadden Re-Emerges

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Houston Nutt was tipped off during pregame warmups that running back Darren McFadden was about to have a big night in front of a national TV audience.

As he normally does, Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Don Decker helped McFadden stretch his legs before last Saturday's game against then-No. 23 South Carolina.

But Decker noticed something: McFadden was more flexible than he had been while batting an assortment of injuries over the previous month.

According to Nutt, Decker told him, "He's ready. He's stretching like a racehorse." And McFadden left little doubt that he's healthy again.

He also showed with his big runs in the 48-36 win over South Carolina that it was premature for some college football analysts to consider his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy long gone.

"He's rare, that's why you have to mention him when you talk about the Heisman Trophy," Nutt said Sunday. "You have to mention his name. It's unfair if you're not going to do that; it's not right.

"He's too good a football player."

There is no denying that McFadden had an unforgettable performance against the Gamecocks. But as the tape would show, his record-breaking performance last Saturday would be short-lived.

After reviewing footage of the game, Arkansas officials determined Sunday that McFadden was accidentally given an extra two yards against South Carolina.

Turns out, McFadden was credited with a three-yard run midway through the third quarter that should have gone to fellow Arkansas tailback Felix Jones.

UA officials, however, also concluded that McFadden's first run of the game actually went for two yards instead of one because of a bad spot on the opening kickoff.

So after all the last-minute adjustments, McFadden was officially credited with 34 carries for 321 yards — not 323 like it was announced last Saturday night.

That means the junior tied Vanderbilt's Frank Mordica for the Southeastern Conference single-game rushing record instead of breaking it.

Not as if that diminished what McFadden did against South Carolina on ESPN2.

"To run for 321 yards or whatever he did and take that many carries and do that many things and then do the kickoff return and then throw (a pass) for a touchdown, it's a phenomenal, phenomenal effort," Nutt said.

"He's one of the greatest players to ever walk through here (at Arkansas)."

Even after rushing for a career-high four touchdowns in a 58-10 win over Florida International on Oct. 27, McFadden's Heisman chances were considered a long-shot by many experts.

He had fallen out of the top 5 of several national Heisman straw polls. But it's amazing what a 321-yard rushing performance can do to change opinions.

On Sunday, USAToday.com stated that McFadden's Heisman stock is "sky-high" and "on fire" following his huge night against the Gamecocks.

In addition, McFadden's late touchdown run — in which he burst to the outside and ran 80 yards untouched down the sideline — was named by ESPN as its No. 7 play of the day.

More importantly, the run clinched the win for Arkansas (6-3, 2-3 in SEC), which has reeled off three consecutive wins to rebound from a slow start to the season.

"He gets better on his 15th, 20th, 25th carry (of a game), 30th carry. He gets stronger as it goes — as long as he's healthy," Nutt said.

"He's a strong, strong guy, and I tell you, the bigger the game, the bigger he's going to play. And I've seen guys go the opposite. A lot of people can't handle that kind of pressure."



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