FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)—Not much has changed at Arkansas: The Razorbacks’ passing game needs some work, but Darren McFadden can still do just about anything on a football field.
McFadden started his Heisman Trophy campaign in style, running for 151 yards and a touchdown and also throwing for a score in No. 21 Arkansas’ 46-26 victory over Troy on Saturday night.
Last year’s Heisman runner-up, the sensational tailback helped the Razorbacks pull away in the third quarter. Arkansas led only 23-17 at halftime, but Felix Jones scored on a 44-yard run and McFadden tossed a 42-yard touchdown pass to Crosby Tuck to make it 37-17.
“We feel like we’re playmakers on the team,” McFadden said of himself and Jones. “So we always feel like we have to go out there and do something to get the team going.”
Jones also scored on a 90-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
Freshman Alex Tejada added four field goals for Arkansas, the most by a Razorback since 2003. He did miss an extra point after Michael Smith’s 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but by then he’d already made field goals of 35, 23, 28 and 30 yards. That was a welcome sight for coach Houston Nutt, whose kicking game faltered toward the end of last season.
“From 55 yards on in, I’ve got a lot of confidence in him,” Nutt said. “I’ve never had that since I’ve been here.”
Arkansas went 10-4 last season, but the Razorbacks had a tumultuous offseason that included the departures of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and quarterback Mitch Mustain. Casey Dick struggled at times against Troy, going 11-of-20 for 108 yards.
“Casey’s ineffectiveness early was just basically a lack of accuracy,” said David Lee, Arkansas’ new offensive coordinator. “I think that was a first-game start—first one of the season, a little bit nervous. I thought he settled down and played better the second half.”
The Razorbacks didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until Reggie Fish caught one midway through the third quarter. Marcus Monk, Arkansas’ career leader in touchdown catches, is out with a knee injury.
McFadden, though, had no trouble finding an open receiver. Like last year, he took several snaps at quarterback out of the shotgun.
On his touchdown pass, he faked a run toward the right side, then threw deep to Tuck behind the defense. It was his fourth career TD pass and his longest completion.
“We just kind of mesmerized them—run, run, run, run,” Lee said. “Then, boom.”
Jones, the second of Arkansas’ two 1,000-yard rushers last season, ran for 129. Most of that was on two plays, his touchdown and a 40-yard end-around on the game’s first play.
Omar Haugabook went 15-of-43 for 204 yards and a touchdown with an interception for Troy before walking off slowly with a hand injury in the fourth quarter. Later he said he could have returned.
The Trojans’ running game also struggled. Kenny Cattouse was held to 44 yards on 15 carries.
Arkansas outgained Troy 157-16 in the first quarter but ended up with just two field goals to show for it. McFadden scored on a 12-yard run early in the second, but the Trojans—who did the Sun Belt Conference proud by winning the New Orleans Bowl last year—answered with a 69-yard drive that ended with Cattouse’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Jones returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, which also meant the Razorbacks’ defense had to go right back on the field. Troy drove 83 yards in 2:28 and scored when Haugabook found an open Gerald Tate across the middle for a 17-yard touchdown.
Nutt is now 9-1 in season openers at Arkansas. The only loss was last year’s 50-14 rout at the hands of Southern California.
The coach appeared happy to take the field instead of worrying about the team’s problems off it.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Nutt said. “Getting out there in front of 72,000-plus, playing the greatest game in the world, and there’s nothing like being 1-0.”
Troy’s Tanner Jones scored on a 2-yard quarterback draw after an Arkansas penalty gave the Trojans a play with no time on the clock at the end of the fourth quarter.
“We probably match up decently with (Arkansas),” Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. “Except for two people—McFadden and Jones.”