McFadden Proves Heisman Mettle

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt grabbed his star by the jersey, wrapped his arm around his thick neck and looked into the television cameras Friday night.

"You better put him in the Heisman (conversation)," he said.

In reality, Nutt didn't have to campaign for running back Darren McFadden on the field after Arkansas' 50-48 triple overtime win at No. 1 LSU. The Little Rock native, who slipped off the Heisman leaderboard largely because of Arkansas' four losses this season, took care of that himself throughout the second half and overtime against the Tigers.

McFadden made an impressive, final push for college football's most coveted award by scorching the Tigers' touted defense during the Razorbacks' thrilling win. He rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns, completed 3 of 6 passes for 34 yards and another touchdown, likely leaving Heisman voters with something to ponder before turning in their ballots in the next two weeks.

At the very least, McFadden left another lasting impression on LSU. He ran for 182 yards against the Tigers last season.

"McFadden is going to play for decades (in the NFL) for as long as he stays healthy," LSU coach Les Miles said.

Miles later added: "He had a Heisman performance."

McFadden passed former Auburn great Bo Jackson for third on the Southeastern Conference's all-time rushing list Friday. He also set the school's single-season rushing mark with 1,725 yards, which breaks the record he originally broke last season.

It all came on a day that got off to an ominous start.

McFadden lost a fumble on the opening kickoff, which led to an LSU field goal. He fumbled again on the ensuing kickoff, but recovered it. He fumbled a third time near Arkansas' goal line, but the ball bounced back into his hands after it hit the ground.

"That's not like him," Nutt said. "That scared me to death."

But McFadden bounced back from the early mistakes.

Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee told McFadden during the week he was going to get plenty of time at quarterback against the Tigers' because of LSU's propensity to struggle against scramblers. The Tigers had problems with Ole Miss' Brent Schaeffer last week. Florida's dual-threat quarterback, Tim Tebow, gave them fits in a 28-24 win earlier this season.

Usually, Lee said the Razorbacks try to give McFadden six to eight snaps at quarterback a game. But the LSU game plan called for McFadden to line up there 20 to 25 times.

"His word is, 'Good coach, bring it on,'" Lee said of McFadden's reaction to the extra workload. "That's his way of saying, 'Good, I want the ball in my hands.'"

McFadden scored Arkansas' first touchdown on a 16-yard run, which gave the Hogs a 7-6 halftime lead. He extended it early in the second half with his most electrifying run of the day, rumbling around left end to score a 73-yard touchdown.

McFadden -- who had missed receivers earlier in the game -- completed his most important pass in the fourth quarter. He found fullback Peyton Hillis for a 24-yard score, which gave the Razorbacks a 28-21 lead. McFadden accounted for his fourth touchdown in the second overtime, scoring on a nine-yard run.

"Me being a leader, that's something I always want to do," McFadden said. "I want to carry my team on my back and I feel like that's something I did (Friday)."

But what about the Heisman Trophy? McFadden was asked after the game if he thought his performance against the Tigers was worthy of the honor. His response was simple.

"The numbers speak for themselves," McFadden said.

But his coach was much more emphatic after the win.

"He's a Heisman Trophy guy," Nutt said. "The guy deserves the trophy. It's not right for his name not to be mentioned as No. 1 right now. He blocks, he catches, he quarterbacks, he throws, he reads (on the option), he runs the football with passion and determination. He really deserves a serious look."

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