McFadden, McFadden, McFadden.
McFadden, Jones, McFadden.
Last week, it was all McFadden all the time, here and there and everywhere. Seriously, what else were we going to talk about? Darren McFadden had rushed for 321 yards against Steve Spurrier the previous week, and he and Felix Jones had stuck 487 on the Gamecocks. Numbers like that solicit exclamations like "unbelievable," and Volunteer fans relegated to cheering for a defense giving up an average of 168 yards on the ground were facing a terribly frightening scenario: McFadden and Jones were taking their show on the road. To Knoxville.
In the midst of all of this hysteria, Tennessee running backs Arian Foster, Montario Hardesty, and Lennon Creer quietly made a resolution: they were going to steal the show. They did, and then the Tennessee defense stole the stolen from them.
Draw the curtain:
The plan was to run the ball, milk the clock, and pray for defense. Check, check, and check. That first drive was a thing of beauty. It consisted of nearly two times more pass plays than run plays, but it ate five minutes and ended with seven points for the Vols.
Tennessee then rolled the dice by kicking off directly to Jones and immediately regretted it, as Jones sped his way around the pursuit to the Tennessee 34. And then the most amazing thing happened: Tennessee found the defense it had misplaced after the Georgia game. Despite the fact that Arkansas' second drive started within sniffing distance of the goal line, the Vol D held the Hogs to a field goal. It would be Arkansas' best drive of the half and the only one that featured a first down.
On the ensuing kickoff, Tennessee's Dennis Rogan kept up with, and overtook, the Joneses, taking the return all the way to the Arkansas fifteen yard line. One Daniel Lincoln field goal later, the Vols were up 10-3.
Tennessee then wisely took to squibbing all subsequent kickoffs, and the remainder of Arkansas' first half drives resulted in the following:
- Twenty-nine yards
- Zero first downs
- One interception
Meanwhile, Tennessee gained another 119 yards (53 by the three-headed running back monster Lenarianario Crardester), ten points, and seven first downs. By the end of the half, the Volunteers had possessed the ball for 21 minutes to Arkansas' nine.
After the first drive of the second half (culminating in an excellently-blocked 59-yard touchdown run by Arian Foster), Tennessee's offense achieved little more than a low calorie diet of clock, but the defense, well, they were stealing the show. Arkansas' second half drives:
- Seven yards and a punt
- 46 yards and a field goal
- 61 yards and a failed fourth-down conversion
- Minus 18 yards and a punt
- Interception (by Jerod Mayo, returned for a touchdown)
- Interception (by Eric Berry, returned 61 yards)
The Tennessee defense rarely even "bent" in the first half, and although it was as flexible as an Olympic gymnast in the second, it only "broke" once and made up for that with a score of its own. This bend-but-don't-break game plan, combined with the offense's general futility in the second half, resulted in some ostensibly even statistics. But don't be fooled: Tennessee dominated this game. The formerly maligned Volunteer defense held the formerly vaunted Razorback offense to 289 yards (remember, McFadden himself had 321 last week, and the team had 542), one touchdown, and two field goals. It dashed the hopes of one of the leading Heisman contenders by holding him to 117 yards on the ground.
Arkansas and Darren McFadden rolled into Knoxville on Saturday bringing the national spotlight with them. The Tennessee running backs and John Chavis' defense then proceeded to put together a performance compelling the spotlight to shine on them like a long lost friend. Standing O for stealing the show, gentlemen.
Charts, which don't really tell the story of this game, after the jump.