Ex­quis­ite wood­work

Hogs swing for fences to beat No. 1 LSU

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - TOM MURPHY

FAYET­TEVILLE — No. 1 LSU had the na­tion’s sec­ond-ranked de­fense, a home-field ad­van­tage and the in­side track to the BCS na­tional cham­pi­onship game.

The Arkansas Ra­zor­backs, a 13-point un­der­dog un­der be­lea­guered coach Hous­ton Nutt, had even­tual two-time Heis­man Tro­phy run­ner-up Dar­ren McFad­den and the Wild Hog for­ma­tion in their cor­ner.

They also had a bone to pick with the Tigers, who had knocked them out of na­tional cham­pi­onship con­tention the year be­fore with a 31-26 vic­tory in Lit­tle Rock.

For some rea­son, LSU coach Les Miles re­ferred to the Tigers’ Thanks­giv­ing week­end op­po­nent as Ar-Kansas on sev­eral oc­ca­sions dur­ing the week of the game.

The Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette tried to set Miles’ mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tion straight with a car­toon re­bus that week fea­tur­ing the let­ter “R,” a tin can and a saw.

The Ra­zor­backs got their re­venge on the field.

Arkansas won 50-48 in triple over­time, a clas­sic that ranks as the No. 4 game in the Demo­crat-Gazette’s count­down of the 25 most

mem­o­rable games of the Ra­zor­backs’ 25 sea­sons in the SEC.

It was Arkansas’ first vic­tory over a No. 1 team since a 42-11 beat­down of Texas in 1981.

McFad­den took snaps at Wild Hog quar­ter­back on all four Arkansas touch­downs in reg­u­la­tion. The Lit­tle Rock na­tive rushed for 206 yards and three touch­downs and threw a scor­ing pass to Pey­ton Hil­lis, who had 127 yards of to­tal of­fense and a ca­reer-high four touch­downs.

“That’s got to be my No. 1 game of all time,” McFad­den said last sum­mer.

Nutt had asked trainer Dean We­ber to make small wooden bats for ev­ery mem­ber of the travel squad to take to the road game with a Ra­zor­backs logo and “Bring the Wood” in big let­ters on them.

McFad­den bran­dished his af­ter the up­set, shout­ing “We got that wood right here!” as he broke into Nutt’s postgame in­ter­view with CBS.

“It’s Arkansas, baby,” McFad­den said as a re­minder to Miles.

The University of Arkansas, Fayet­teville im­proved to 7-1 in over­time games. Hil­lis caught a 10-yard touch­down pass from Casey Dick in the first over­time. McFad­den scored from 9 yards out in the sec­ond over­time, and Hil­lis bar­reled in from the 3 in the third over­time. Felix Jones ran over left tackle on the manda­tory two­point con­ver­sion try.

The Tigers pulled within 5048 on Brandon LaFell’s 9-yard touch­down pass from Matt Flynn. Arkansas de­fen­sive back Mat­ter­ral Richard­son broke in front of Demetrius Byrd and picked off Flynn’s slant pass in the end zone for the fi­nal play of the game. Richard­son raced be­hind the Arkansas bench to cel­e­brate while the Ra­zor­backs re­joiced on the field.

“The only peo­ple who be­lieved were the peo­ple in that locker room, our play­ers and coaches,” Richard­son said that night. “It just feels so good be­cause no­body gave us a

chance.”

Nutt proclaimed that McFad­den needed to be back in the Heis­man Tro­phy con­ver­sa­tion and clas­si­fied the up­set as per­haps the best game of his coach­ing ca­reer.

“It has to be,” Nutt said. “They were ranked No. 1. I al­ways think about [big wins

against] Texas and Ten­nessee, but to come down here in Ba­ton Rouge and win, it was huge.”

An iconic mo­ment came early in the third quar­ter near the end of McFad­den’s 73-yard touch­down run, which gave Arkansas a 14-6 lead. Dick, who had been flanked out in the Wild Hog for­ma­tion, blocked safety Chad Jones away from McFad­den 50 yards down field.

“I don’t know if he’d have caught him, but [Jones] can def­i­nitely run,” said Dick, who is now of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Ben­tonville West High School. “I had to help him out. He helped us out a lot through­out his ca­reer. I had to re­pay the fa­vor a lit­tle.”

The Wild Hog was a cru­cial part of Arkansas’ vic­tory.

“We felt like in watch­ing the

film … the thing about the Wild Hog, we felt like it would slow them down, the dis­ci­pline of their eyes,” Nutt said this sum­mer. “With Felix Jones com­ing in mo­tion, with Pey­ton Hil­lis in the back­field and Mar­cus Monk on the out­side and Dar­ren han­dling the ball, we felt, ‘This is go­ing to be a good way to not let them play fast.’

“That was our No. 1 thing. We’re not go­ing to let LSU play fast and we’re go­ing to make them cover all their bases.”

The game did not start well for Arkansas, es­pe­cially for McFad­den, who lost a fum­ble on the open­ing kick­off, then re­cov­ered his own fum­ble on the next kick­off af­ter LSU con­verted the early take­away into a field goal. The Ra­zor­backs led 7-6 at half­time, so there was no in­di­ca­tion a shootout would en­sue. But that’s ex­actly what hap­pened.

Arkansas fin­ished with 513 to­tal yards, 100 more than the Tigers. The for­tunes for both teams took im­me­di­ate turns.

Nutt re­signed a few days later and took the head coach­ing reins at Ole Miss. The Ra­zor­backs earned a cov­eted Cot­ton Bowl berth with the vic­tory, but played unin­spired in a 38-7 loss to Mis­souri in Dal­las.

Miles was dis­traught af­ter the game, say­ing “We un­der­stand that this cost us and what was at stake.”

But his team got an un­likely re­prieve. The Tigers fell only to No. 5, went on to de­feat Ten­nessee 21-14 in the SEC cham­pi­onship game, and thanks to a se­ries of up­sets, they cy­cled back up to No. 2 in the BCS rank­ings and thumped Ohio State 38-24 in the Su­per­dome to win the na­tional cham­pi­onship. McFad­den, now ap­proach­ing his 10th sea­son in the NFL, said re­venge was up­per­most in his mind en­ter­ing the game.

“We were 10-1 [in 2006)

and they knocked us out of a chance to go to the na­tional cham­pi­onship,” McFad­den said. “It’s just a great feel­ing to be able to re­turn the fa­vor.”

The Ra­zor­backs not only brought home the Golden Boot Tro­phy, they cre­ated mem­o­ries.

“I’ll talk about it for the rest of my life,” Arkansas line­backer We­ston Da­cus said.

“Any time you can go into Death Val­ley, they’re ranked No. 1, it’s at night, it’s the day af­ter Thanks­giv­ing, it’s an over­whelm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Dick said. “There’s a lot of peo­ple who go in there and get losses and we were able to go in there and get a W out of it.”

Nutt said he usu­ally stops what he’s do­ing when he sees the re­play of the 2007 game at LSU on TV.

“I’ll be sit­ting at home and I can feel my­self ac­tu­ally get­ting but­ter­flies and think­ing, ‘Are we go­ing to make this third down? … How are we go­ing to make this fourth-down play?’

“It al­ways turns out right, but even sit­ting in that chair watch­ing when you know the out­come, man, you still get a lit­tle ner­vous think­ing ‘How are we go­ing to pull this thing out?’ ”

Arkansas cen­ter Jonathan Luigs said games like this were what made play­ing in the SEC spe­cial.

“Be­cause it seems like al­most ev­ery year Arkansas plays the No. 1 team or the na­tional cham­pion,” said Luigs, who won the Rim­ing­ton Tro­phy as the na­tion’s top cen­ter in 2007. “You love to play in those types of games. That’s why you come to Arkansas, to play against teams of that cal­iber.

“It’s re­ally cool to look back and say we beat the No. 1 team, we beat the even­tual na­tional cham­pion. That’s a great mem­ory.”

Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

Arkansas run­ning back Dar­ren McFad­den car­ried a team-is­sued minia­ture bat, with its “BRING THE WOOD” in­scrip­tion, off the field af­ter the Ra­zor­backs’ three-over­time vic­tory over top-ranked LSU at Ba­ton Rouge in 2007. McFad­den rushed for 206 yards and three touch­downs and added a touch­down pass as the Hogs earned their first road vic­tory over a No. 1 team since 1964.

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