College Sports

Can the wild Hog be broken?

Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden leaves Wisconsin players in his wake during the Capital One Bowl.
Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden leaves Wisconsin players in his wake during the Capital One Bowl.

COLUMBIA -- The question had to be asked. It's not like Arkansas is going to unveil some brand-new scheme today when No. 23 South Carolina comes to town.

"How do you stop Darren McFadden?"

"He's a guy that's got two legs and we've just got to wrap guys up, don't miss tackles and play our assignments," linebacker Marvin Sapp answered. "I have confidence that we can hold him. I really believe that."

Here's to hoping Sapp's got a future career as a fortune-teller.

The numbers and stats go on and on when describing McFadden, the Razorbacks' stud running back and a Heisman Trophy contender who is the center of their offense. Whether taking the handoffs or checking in at quarterback -- he mostly runs after the snap but has thrown four touchdowns over the past two years -- McFadden is Arkansas' main man.

Everybody knows what's coming and not many can stop it. Although the Hogs are a pedestrian 5-3 (1-3 SEC), it's not for McFadden's lack of effort.

He had 195 yards in a 41-38 loss to Alabama and 173 in a 42-29 drop to Kentucky. Hampered by a set of bruised ribs against Auburn, McFadden only had 43 yards and the Hogs lost 9-7.

The ribs kept bothering him for the next two games, although he still rushed for 110 yards against Ole Miss and 61 yards against Florida International. The FIU game wasn't great on the yardage but he still scored four touchdowns.

McFadden said earlier this week he's healed enough for the Gamecocks (6-3, 3-3), who are trying to break a two-game losing streak. For Sapp and his defensive mates, the game plan is simple -- wrap him up and don't let him break.

Doing it is the tough part.

"Good running back," said safety Emanuel Cook, the team's leading tackler. "I think he'll be the best we'll see this year."

USC's suspect run defense has improved since giving up a whopping 290 yards in a 28-16 loss at LSU. Since then, the Gamecocks haven't allowed more than 157 rushing yards in any game and held North Carolina (113) and Tennessee (101) to minimums.

But those opponents have mixed the run and the pass well, which has fallen in USC's favor. Arkansas can throw and may get a boost this week if top receiver Marcus Monk returns from an injury, but its bread and butter is ol' No. 5 in the backfield.

"Two years ago, when we beat them out there, McFadden, I think, ran for 187," coach Steve Spurrier said. "And that was our total yards for the game."

Spurrier was right on target. As a freshman, McFadden posted the fourth-highest rushing total of his career against USC, at the same stadium they'll play in today. That turned out OK because the Gamecocks won anyway, 14-10.

But last year, McFadden strolled into Williams-Brice Stadium and racked up 219 yards, his career-best, as the Razorbacks withstood a late rally and won 26-20. No one needed to remind USC's defense that McFadden seemingly saves his best for USC, but it was brought up anyway.

"I think we've been playing some really good run defense, I think we've gotten better every week, actually," Sapp said. "Going to take us getting better, especially against him, and the other guys."

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