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November 11, 2006

Arkansas thinking BCS after topping Tennessee

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Arkansas 31, Tennessee 14: Notebook | Box score
McFadden steals the show once again

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Arkansas had just wrapped up a surprisingly easy win over Tennessee, and the Razorbacks' fans started chanting.


The Razorbacks are making it hard to argue with them.

On a day several other top teams struggled, No. 11 Arkansas had no trouble with No. 13 Tennessee. Darren McFadden ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass in a convincing 31-14 victory Saturday night.

"It's in the back of our minds," offensive lineman Zac Tubbs said of the Razorbacks' place in the Bowl Championship Series picture. "But one thing this year - everybody's had such great focus just taking it week by week, game by game. If it works out that way, that's going to be great - it looks like that right now. We just need to keep playing and beat Mississippi State next week."

The Razorbacks (9-1, 6-0) can clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference title game by beating the Bulldogs. Arkansas has won nine straight since a season-opening loss to Southern California - its longest streak since 1988.

Suddenly, a spot in the national championship game for Arkansas doesn't sound far fetched. This week was a major chance for the Razorbacks to prove themselves against a ranked opponent, and the game drew a stadium-record 76,728.

"When they talk about the one-loss teams, we don't get mentioned too much," McFadden said. "I just feel like we proved ourselves."

McFadden, the dynamic sophomore, is being touted by Razorbacks fans as a Heisman Trophy candidate. He played tailback, quarterback and even a little wide receiver against Tennessee, and the Volunteers (7-3, 3-3) were never able to stop him.

Arkansas took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Casey Dick lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone and Marcus Monk ran under it for a 10-yard touchdown.

McFadden took over from there. The Razorbacks have used their star at quarterback lately - out of the shotgun, he either hands off, keeps the ball himself or even passes. He ran for a 17-yard touchdown out of that formation early in the second quarter, then threw to Monk for a 12-yard score to make it 21-7.

It was the second touchdown pass of the season for McFadden in two attempts. He played some quarterback in high school.

"He's such a threat, and he's so quick," coach Houston Nutt said.

Nutt also credited the Razorbacks' offensive line. Arkansas dominated the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense. McFadden added a 5-yard scoring run late in the second quarter - again after taking the snap himself - and the Razorbacks led 28-7 at halftime.

"It's hard to simulate the speed of Number Five," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said, referring to McFadden's jersey number. "He is the best back we have seen this year."

Redshirt freshman Jonathan Crompton started at quarterback for Tennessee instead of Erik Ainge, who has had ankle problems. Arkansas pressured Crompton throughout, and he finished 16-of-34 for 174 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception.

Dick went 10-of-15 for 154 yards for Arkansas. He replaced freshman Mitch Mustain after one series last week at South Carolina and played well enough to win the starting quarterback job.

Monk had eight catches for 137 yards, and Jamaal Anderson had three sacks for the Razorbacks.

McFadden set a school record by surpassing 180 yards rushing for fifth time in his career. His only big mistake was a fumble around the Tennessee goal line in the third quarter.

Tennessee was knocked out of the SEC title picture last weekend. Hours after losing to LSU, three Tennessee players were arrested after police were called to break up a disturbance at a club. Two of them - fullback David Holbert and safety Antonio Wardlow - were suspended for this week's game. The other - tailback Arian Foster - was suspended for the first half.

Foster had one carry against the Razorbacks.

Arkansas' most recent eight-game winning streak had been an 8-0 start in 1998. That one was snapped when the Razorbacks wasted an 18-point lead in a loss at Tennessee. The Vols won the national championship that season.

Arkansas had no trouble holding on this time, and the Razorbacks figure to move up at least some in the rankings after Auburn, California, Louisville and Texas lost this week.

"It's amazing how things work out sometimes," Nutt said. "The only thing we can control right now is the next game - Mississippi State. We're going to enjoy this one tonight at least until midnight and then get on to the next week.

"But you're right, a lot of things are happening."

For more coverage of the Arkansas Razorbacks, check out HawgSports.com; for more coverage of the Tennessee Vols, check out VolQuest.com.

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