Less-than-sharp Razorbacks secure spot in title game

Published November 19, 2006

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Darren McFadden didn't have his usually strong game rushing, but he made up for it by returning a kickoff for a touchdown.

The Heisman Trophy contender returned a kickoff 92 yards for No. 5 Arkansas and his teammates backed him Saturday with just enough big plays to slip past Mississippi State 28-14 and into the conference title game.

"This was the most important one," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said of a game many predicted the Razorbacks would overlook with No. 9 LSU on the way. "Everybody was talking about the BCS, about Atlanta, about all these other things. This is why coaches get gray hair."

The Bulldogs stopped the Razorbacks on offense, but defense and special teams carried Arkansas to the West title and a spot against No. 3 Florida on Dec. 2 in Atlanta.

Chris Houston returned a first-quarter interception 87 yards for one score and quarterback Casey Dick threw two touchdowns to help Arkansas win its 10th straight after a season-opening 50-14 loss to No. 4 Southern Cal. It is the school's longest winning streak since 1988.

Mississippi State held McFadden to 84 yards - about 36 below his average. But after the Bulldogs scored to make it 7-7, McFadden took the kickoff at the 8 and ran up the left sideline for the score. It was just McFadden's seventh kickoff return of the season and his first for a touchdown.

No. 9 LSU 23, Mississippi 20 (OT)

BATON ROUGE, La. - Colt David kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime for LSU.

JaMarcus Russell and Dwayne Bowe hooked up on a fourth-down touchdown pass in the final seconds of regulation.

LSU could have won in regulation after the TD, but Mississippi blocked the extra point.

Mississippi opened overtime on offense, but LSU's Daniel Francis forced Ole Miss quarterback Brent Schaeffer to fumble and Tyson Jackson recovered.

LSU trailed 20-7 when Russell marched the Tigers down the field in 2:27, hitting Early Doucet on a 4-yard pass to make the score 20-14.

LSU's final drive reached the 5, and three straight incompletions left Mississippi one play from victory. But Russell and Bowe connected for the second time in the game.

No. 15 Auburn 22, Alabama 15

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Brandon Cox threw a 22-yard touchdown in the third quarter, David Irons had an interception and the Tigers won their fifth straight in the rivalry.

Irons picked off a John Parker Wilson pass with 1:17 left to preserve the Tigers' victory.

The Tide went for it on fourth and 15 from Auburn's 18-yard line with five minutes left. Wilson's pass to Nikita Stover fell incomplete in the end zone.

Alabama had initially sent the field-goal team in but coach Mike Shula called timeout and reconsidered. The Tide outgained Auburn 364-261 but also had three fumbles and the interception.

No. 22 Tennessee 39, Vanderbilt 10

NASHVILLE - In hindsight, maybe that DVD celebrating Vanderbilt's first win over Tennessee since 1982 wasn't such a good idea.

Erik Ainge threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns, LaMarcus Coker ran for two more, and the Vols ended a two-game skid.

"They made videos about us last year," Tennessee receiver Robert Meachem said. "That stuck in our mind."

That DVD was titled Victory in Knoxville and detailed a 28-24 win last season.

USC 52, MIDDLE TENN. 7: Blake Mitchell passed for a career-high 388 yards and four touchdowns in Columbia and the host Gamecocks became bowl eligible for the second straight year under Steve Spurrier.

KY. 42, LA.-MONROE 40: Wide receiver Keenan Burton caught multiple touchdown passes for a school-record fourth straight game as the host Wildcats held on in Lexington to clinch their first winning season since 2002. Burton's three scoring catches broke the streak that Dicky Lyons Jr. set in the season's first three games.