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Fame limits freedom
Fame limits freedom: Arkansas running back McFadden deals with life as Heisman candidate

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

AUBURN — Darren McFadden can't shop at a department store or the mall without being hounded. The Arkansas running back can't sit down in a Fayetteville restaurant without being bothered by a horde of Razorback fans.

"Sometimes it gets to the point where you want to just have your fun and try to just sit down to eat," McFadden said Tuesday. "But I know it's something I have to deal with."

Ah, the life of a Heisman Trophy candidate, the nation's third-leading rusher and a man with his own extravagant Web site.

Last season's Heisman Trophy runner-up and this year's consensus preseason All-American, McFadden has started the season with five straight 100-yard rushing performances.

He'll attempt to break another school record with a sixth straight 100-yard outing when the Razorbacks (3-2, 0-2 SEC) host No. 22 Auburn (4-2, 2-1) on Saturday night in a game that is a must-win for an Arkansas team that has dropped its first two conference games.

"Everybody knows what's on the line," said McFadden, who bruised his ribs during the Razorbacks' 34-15 win over UT-Chattanooga last week but should return to practice Tuesday.

"We're not playing blind. We know what's on the line for us."

What's on the line is Arkansas' last grasp at a return trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship.

The Razorbacks' lackluster defense has overshadowed McFadden's success. Arkansas has allowed 41 and 42 points in its two losses to Kentucky and Alabama.

But no matter how horrible the defense, McFadden's presence alone gives Arkansas a chance to win. His companion in the backfield, Felix Jones, adds to an already potent running attack. The two are both in the top eight nationally in rushing yards a game, combining for a stunning 281 yards a game.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt compared the duo to Auburn's former running back pair of Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown.

"I've got to rank them up there with Cadillac and Brown," said Nutt, who led Arkansas to a 10-4 record and an SEC West crown last season.

"I feel like our guys are very similar in a lot of ways. Both of them are just as important to our team as they were to their team."

Much more important would be more like it.

The Razorbacks run the ball more than 52 times a game. The passing offense is ranked a dismal 105th in the nation, averaging about 170 yards a game through the air.

Only once this season have Jones and McFadden, both juniors, failed to each run for 100 yards. Against Alabama, Jones was 6 yards shy of the century mark.

But it's McFadden who has stolen the spotlight. He's on his way to holding virtually every Arkansas rushing record. The biggest may come against Auburn on Saturday. The junior from Little Rock, Ark., needs only 32 rushing yards to become the school's career rushing leader.

He's on countless sports magazine covers and even has his own intricate Web site listing all the record he holds, the awards he's received and his statistics — rushing, receiving, all-purpose and passing.

Passing?

Oh, yes. McFadden has completed 9 of 13 attempts for four touchdowns.

But he doesn't let the coverage get to his head.

"I'm very nonchalant about it," McFadden said. "I am really kind of quiet until I get to know you."

A sophomore, McFadden was surprised to find himself in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony last winter. A strong second half of the season when he had three 180-yard-plus games vaulted him into the spotlight.

Finishing second to Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith was not a disappointment, but more of a surprise. This season brings a different perspective.

"I can't say it's not one of my goals," McFadden said "but it's something that I am not focused on right now."

But he can't get away from it. It follows him around, literally.

McFadden said while on campus he gets sort of a respite from all the attention. Only about three or four people a day bother him.

"It's more when I try to go out to eat or something, go to the mall or Wal-Mart," he said.

Five things you might not know about Arkansas

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said receiver Marcus Monk, who has a school-record 24 touchdown catches in his career, is doubtful for the game against Auburn. Monk injured his knee during preseason practice and has missed the first five games of this season. “I don’t think he’s going to be ready,” Nutt said Monday. “We just don’t know for sure.”

Arkansas defensive line coach Tracy Rocker played for Auburn during 1985-1988. During his senior year, he captured the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Trophy. He was voted on Auburn’s team of the century in 1993. Rocker played two seasons in the NFL with the Washington Redskins before beginning his coaching career. During the mid and late ’90s he coached at Troy and West Alabama.

Entering this season, Arkansas was tied with Florida with the second-most home victories (47) since the 1998 season. LSU topped the list with 48, and Auburn had 45.

The Hogs have led the SEC in rushing four out of the last five seasons, including the last two. They look to do it again this season. Arkansas is first in the SEC and second in the nation with 338 ground yards a game.

Arkansas will be playing its third team from Alabama this season when the Tigers travel to Fayetteville. The Hogs beat Troy in their opener 46-26, then lost at Alabama 41-38.

Ross Dellenger

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