Scene setter: South Carolina vs. Arkansas
Thursday night in Fayetteville, Arkansas came with a freeze warning and talk of the 1964 Razorbacks National championship team. Team members gathered to honor their former coach and the retiring athletic Director Frank Broyles.
On the plane to Fayetteville Arkansas, Hog fans spot a Gamecock fan and talk about why they want a new coach: "Spurrier says (at S.C.) 'Why not us?' We have the facilities here, but a 7-5 season and the Cotton Bowl every three years is fine with them. I am ready for more." An Oklahoma fan living in the area talks about the plane that circled Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium the last three games calling for the end of the Houston Nutt era. Broyles is retiring - but will apparently keep an office on campus.
Nutt is one season removed from an SEC West Championship but lost star freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain to Southern Cal, his offensive coordinator and Mustain's former H.S. coach to Tulsa, and at least two freshman wide receivers to other schools after last season. The reason? Probably because he runs the ball.
Having Heisman Trophy candidate Darrin McFadden and sidekick Felix Jones probably have a lot to do with that. This season McFadden is 11th nationally in rushing (124 per game) and leads the SEC. With seven yards Saturday, Arkansas' career rushing leader will become the second SEC player to rush for 1,000 yards each of his first three seasons. Eighty three yards Saturday and McFadden moves into 8th place on the all time SEC rushing list.
Jones is 30th nationally with 107 yards per contest, but his 8.81 yards per carry lead the nation. Arkansas' rushing attack is third nationally at 287 yards per game. The Gamecock rush defense is 10th out of 12 in the SEC, giving up 169 yards per game. And local tv reports that the Razorbacks' "Hog Wild" formation - with McFadden at quarterback in the shotgun - will have some new surprises and wrinkles after watching Thursday's practice.
McFadden, by the way, has more yards against USC (406) than any other team over two games. Last season he jump started his Heisman Trophy run to second place with 219 yards and two touchdowns in Columbia, and his 315 all purpose yards in the Razorback's 26-20 victory.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a member of the 1964 team in town for the ceremony and re-union Thursday and Friday, says both McFadden and Jones will have successful careers in the pros. One may wonder where Coach Nutt will be next season.
Gamecock fans hope McFadden's exploits don't make Razorback fans forget that Casey Dick is the starting quarterback. Gamecock fans hope McFadden is as successful as Mustain was last season, when he was yanked early after starting and throwing a poor pass for a USC interception. Dick came on and was a mainstay the rest of the way. He is recovering from a concussion in last Saturday's win over Florida International. Observers who do not root for Arkansas point out the Razorbacks unbeaten but weak non-conference schedule makes them eligible for the Sun Belt Conference title. A stretch, but Arkansas has not given up more than 15 points since a 42-29 home loss to Kentucky September 22, and lost to Auburn 9-7 three weeks ago.
A chilly - low 38 - but clear night is expected Saturday for the showdown with South Carolina.
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