McFadden, Arkansas stun No. 1 LSU in triple OT
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- LSU let its second chance slip away.
Twice the Tigers were No. 1 and in control of their national championship hopes.
Twice the team with a flair for the dramatic couldn't pull out a triple-overtime victory against a Heisman Trophy contender.
Darren McFadden rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns, and even threw for another score to lift Arkansas to a 50-48 victory Friday, likely eliminating another team from the national title chase.
"Certainly, he had a Heisman performance today," LSU coach Les Miles lamented. "Right now, there's a goal of our football team taken off the board and it's sad. ... Tonight, we'll be sick."
LSU may very well play a bowl game in New Orleans, but the one they were hoping to play -- the BCS championship game on Jan. 7 -- now looks out of reach.
That had to devastate most of the 92,606 fans who filled Tiger Stadium with earsplitting roars throughout this classic, then quietly filed out while the Razorbacks stormed the field in triumph after snapping the nation's longest home-winning streak at 19 games.
The Tigers (10-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) had already clinched the SEC West Division and will move on to the conference title game in Atlanta on Dec. 1, but will do so feeling a little hollow.
Winning the SEC title will put LSU in the Sugar Bowl. No team with two losses has ever played in the national title game. A few more upsets could put LSU back in the debate, but it could've been so easy for the Tigers. All they had to do was win two.
"It's a sick feeling, losing another tough game that we played our hearts out," tight end Richard Dickson said. "We can think about it for a while but we have to come out next week and win an SEC title."
McFadden's rushing touchdowns went for 16 yards in the second quarter, 73 yards in the third period and 9 yards in the second OT. His TD pass was a flawlessly executed 24-yarder over the middle to Peyton Hillis after McFadden froze the defense with a play-action fake.
Heisman voters will have to think twice about leaving McFadden off of the top of their ballot.
"However you want to put it," McFadden said, "numbers speak for themselves."
Hillis scored four TDs, the last in the third overtime. Felix Jones ran for the critical 2-point conversion to make it 50-42 for the Razorbacks (8-4, 4-4).
LSU responded when Matt Flynn found Brandon LaFell for a 9-yard TD, but Matterral Richardson intercepted the 2-point conversion attempt, and Arkansas' bench emptied onto the field in triumph, having ended the nation's longest home winning streak at 19 games.
"Hey, we were the best team in the country today," boasted Houston Nutt, who is rumored to be on his way out as the Razorbacks' coach. "To come down here in Baton Rouge and win is huge."
McFadden, last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up, has 1,725 yards rushing this season, breaking the school's single-season record he set last year.
No doubt there are West Virginia and Ohio State fans who'd vote McFadden for Heisman if they could.
By knocking off LSU, which was in first place in the BCS standings, Arkansas boosted the national championship hopes of the Mountaineers and Buckeyes.
McFadden often took direct snaps in the "Wild Hog" formation, in which he was a triple threat to run, hand off or throw.
While he looked quite comfortable in the quarterback role, he was most dangerous running the ball, as usual. All of his rushing TDs came on direct snaps.
"We had been watching film of LSU and saw they had weaknesses against running quarterbacks," McFadden explained. "So it was something we planned on doing all week."
Miles said he thought he had a good plan for the "Wild Hog," with two defenders shadowing McFadden. LSU linebacker Ali Highsmith did his best, making 15 tackles.
"There's a point where I thought we were going to defend that thing pretty well," Miles said. "There were two pretty good LSU tacklers ready to tackle that guy and he didn't go down. It definitely affected us."
Maybe McFadden was running a little angrier than usual after hearing Miles purposely mispronounce Arkansas as ar-KANSAS this week.
"They weren't saying it right so we wanted to let them know how to say it," McFadden said.
Hillis ran for 89 yards and Jones had 85 as Arkansas finished with a 385 yards on the ground against one of the best run defenses in the country.
Now that the Tigers have fallen as No. 1 a second time, the winner of Saturday night's game between No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Missouri will likely take over the top spot in the rankings and the BCS standings. No. 4 West Virginia, which was third in the BCS standings, has a chance to sneak up to at least No. 2 in each with a win over Connecticut.
As for Ohio State, the Buckeyes are done and waiting it out. They were fifth in the last BCS standings.
Whichever team reaches No. 1, it'll be the fourth top-ranked team in this season of instability. The last season with four No. 1s was 1997.
Flynn finished with 209 yards passing and three touchdowns, two of them to Demetrius Byrd, who also was the intended receiver on the failed 2-point try that ended the game. Flynn ran for a 12-yard score in the first overtime, when LSU could have emerged victorious with a stop on fourth-and-10.
But Casey Dick found Hillis open for a 12-yard gain to keep the Razorbacks alive, then later found Hillis again for a 9-yard tying TD.
Jacob Hester rushed for 126 yards and two TDs for LSU, which had to rally from a one-touchdown deficit three times in the second half, and convert two fourth-down plays on its last drive in regulation, just to force overtime.
LSU had made a habit of pulling off dramatic second-half comebacks in victories over Florida, Auburn and at Alabama. Their only other loss also came in triple OT at Kentucky, with quarterback Andre Woodson putting on a Heisman-worthy performance.
This time, Arkansas and the embattled Nutt walked away holding the "Golden Boot," a trophy shaped like the states of Arkansas and Louisiana.
"This league's the toughest league in America and that's why it's hard for a lot of people to understand that every Saturday, anybody can beat anybody in this league," Nutt said.
Or on Fridays.
Nutt, who will have his team in a bowl game, may not be back with the Hogs next season after growing unrest in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas officials have yet to confirm that, however, and firing Nutt may be a less popular move now.
Miles' job is not in jeopardy, but there's been talk he could be moving after this season, too. Miles, who played at Michigan and was an assistant coach there, is widely considered a top candidate to replace Lloyd Carr as the Wolverines' head man.
Before Miles decides that, LSU still has a couple games to play -- just probably not the one the Tigers were hoping to play.
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