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September 17, 2007

McFadden's value underscored in loss to Tide

Now Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden knows how it feels.

McFadden has been a huge headache for so many defensive coordinators, but he was forced to miss the Razorbacks' last two possessions in Saturday's 41-38 loss to Alabama because of a concussion.

"I got my bell rung a bit," McFadden said. "My head was spinning. It was a situation that I wanted to go, but the trainer was telling me I didn't need to be out there."

McFadden's presence on the field showed why he's the early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. His absence underscored his importance to the Razorbacks and their hopes for bouncing back from the loss and posting a successful season.

McFadden averaged 5.9 yards per carry while rushing for 195 yards and two touchdowns as the Razorbacks rallied from a 31-10 deficit to take a 38-31 lead. He was not stopped for a loss of yardage on any of his 33 carries.

"Darren McFadden played extremely hard," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "He earned every yard he got."

The Hogs obviously could have used his reliable production when they led 38-34 and hoped to run out the final 4 minutes.

Instead, he stood on the sideline reacting to every unsuccessful play with the frustration of a man desperately wanting to contribute to a victory and knowing he could've made a difference. The Razorbacks consumed just a bit more than two minutes of the game clock and left Alabama time to drive 73 yards for a game-winning touchdown.

"I would have liked to have had him in there if I could," Nutt said. "The doctors didn't think it would be wise."

Even though the Razorbacks dropped a step back in the SEC Western Division race, it wouldn't be wise to count them out as long as they have McFadden. The standout tailback is second nationally in rushing with a 173-yard average after two games.

Arkansas' schedule over the next seven weeks is about as advantageous as it gets in the Southeastern Conference. The opponents projected as most difficult in that stretch Kentucky (3-0), Auburn (1-2) and South Carolina (3-0) must visit Fayetteville. North Texas (0-2) and Florida International (0-3) also must visit the Ozarks, while the Razorbacks play Division I-AA Chattanooga (0-2) in Little Rock. Arkansas travels only to Ole Miss (1-2) in that span.

Five of those next six I-A opponents (all but Auburn) rank 80th or worse nationally in run defense and are allowing at least 175 rushing yards per game.

That would seem to give McFadden a chance to lead an Arkansas resurgence and provide a golden opportunity to enhance his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

From a team standpoint, the games appear to offer an opportunity for the Hogs to get on a winning streak and make a bid for a double-digit victory total this season. That is, if they're able to bounce back from such a heart-breaking loss to Alabama.

"We've got to have a short memory," McFadden said.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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