Mcfadden Already Turning Heads In 2007
Sunday, September 2nd 2007, 7:31 pm
By: News On 6
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ Darren McFadden is a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, so he's clearly one of college football's top players this season.
Troy coach Larry Blakeney would go several steps further.
``That guy is hands-down the best football player I've ever seen,'' Blakeney said.
McFadden was his usual self Saturday night, running for a touchdown and throwing for one to lead No. 21 Arkansas over Troy 46-26. Last year's Heisman runner-up, the sensational tailback rushed for 151 yards to help the Razorbacks pull away despite a shaky passing game.
Arkansas now has a week off before playing at Alabama.
``We have a bye week to get ready,'' Razorbacks center Jonathan Luigs said. ``It's good to start 1-0, but we have to put it behind us and concentrate on Alabama.''
Arkansas led only 23-17 at halftime, but Felix Jones scored on a 44-yard run and McFadden tossed a 42-yard touchdown pass to Crosby Tuck to make it 37-17.
``We feel like we're playmakers on the team,'' McFadden said of himself and Jones. ``So we always feel like we have to go out there and do something to get the team going.''
Jones also scored on a 90-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, and for a while, the special teams handled most of the scoring for the Razorbacks. Freshman Alex Tejada kicked three field goals in the first half and finished the game with four, the most by a Razorback since 2003.
The offense reached the end zone only once in the first half, on McFadden's 12-yard run in the second quarter. A number of drives stalled deep in Troy territory _ Tejada's field goals were from 35, 23, 28 and 30 yards.
Casey Dick went 11-of-20 for 108 yards and didn't complete a pass to a wide receiver until Reggie Fish caught one midway through the third quarter. Marcus Monk, Arkansas' career leader in touchdown receptions, is out with a knee injury.
With Southeastern Conference play about to start, the passing game remains a question mark.
``It's going to get tougher now as it goes,'' coach Houston Nutt said Sunday. ``That's where our passing game has to come on.''
McFadden and Jones did more than enough to help Arkansas win the opener. Like last year, McFadden took several snaps at quarterback in the shotgun. On his touchdown pass, he faked a run toward the right side, then threw deep to Tuck behind the defense.
``You fake to Felix and fake like you're going to run the power and now you throw it to a true freshman Crosby Tuck, which was set up beautifully,'' Nutt said. ``Darren actually threw off his back foot on that one, so you see how strong his arm is. He was very accurate with it.''
Jones, the second of Arkansas' two 1,000-yard rushers last season, ran for 129. Most of that was on two plays, his touchdown and a 40-yard end-around on the game's first play.
Omar Haugabook went 15-of-43 for 204 yards and a touchdown with an interception for Troy before walking off slowly with a hand injury in the fourth quarter. Later he said he could have returned.
The Trojans' running game also struggled. Kenny Cattouse was held to 44 yards on 15 carries.
``We didn't come here for a moral victory. We came here to win,'' Blakeney said. ``I'm really proud of our kids and our coaches. We've got a team that can compete if we stay well and get together.''
Troy can still be considered a favorite in the Sun Belt Conference _ the Trojans won the New Orleans Bowl last year. Arkansas will move on to SEC play _ where the Razorbacks will have to avoid some of the sloppiness they showed in the opener.
Arkansas fumbled six times and was fortunate to lose only two of those. Tejada missed an extra point, and the Razorbacks turned punt returns into an adventure.
Even at the end, the Hogs made mistakes. Troy's Tanner Jones scored on a 2-yard quarterback draw after an Arkansas penalty gave the Trojans a play with no time on the clock at the end of the fourth quarter.
Those problems weren't too damaging in the opener, but they could be in the future.
``This is a very good win,'' Nutt said. ``Now let's learn from it because now we're getting ready to step into the SEC.''