Heisman finalists to face off in Cotton Bowl

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | 7:00 p.m. CST; updated 11:10 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

While Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel was in New York for the Heisman Trophy award ceremony, he toured the city with the one man who has the power to single-handedly ruin the Tigers’ hopes of a Cotton Bowl victory, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.

The two college football stars explored the Big Apple along with fellow Heisman finalists Tim Tebow of Florida and Colt Brennan of Hawaii. The foursome took a bus tour of the city, visited historic sites like the Statue of Liberty and ate at an authentic New York deli.

“We had a great time together,” Daniel said.

It was a much more relaxed atmosphere than when Daniel and McFadden see each other again. When the two meet in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day, there will be plenty of big hits and exciting plays from their teams’ explosive offenses.

But rather than focusing on the match up, the two juniors spent most of their time together joking around and enjoying the experience.

“I told him he didn’t need to play (in the Cotton Bowl),” Daniel said. “He’s already proven everything. Just go ahead and sit out and get ready for the pros.”

Much to the dismay of Daniel, McFadden’s odds of sitting out of the Cotton Bowl are slim to none. After putting up sensational numbers the past two seasons, McFadden is projected to be a top NFL draft pick and won’t want to miss what will likely be his final game as a Razorback.

After finishing second to Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in the Heisman race as a sophomore, McFadden had an even better season this year. Running out of Arkansas’s “Wild Hog” formation, McFadden rushed for 1,725 yards with 15 touchdowns in 12 games. He tied an SEC record with 321 rushing yards on Nov. 3 against South Carolina and helped the Razorbacks upend then-No. 1 Louisiana State 20 days later by rushing for 211 yards and accounting for four touchdowns ­— three rushing and one passing — against the Tigers.

Those numbers may not have been good enough to win the Heisman this year (he again finished second, this time to Tebow), but his star power, coupled with Daniels, provides for one of the sexiest match ups of the bowl season.

“It’s going to be a great time,” said Daniel, who finished fourth in the Heisman balloting. “The Cotton Bowl is probably licking their lips to have two Heisman finalists, the only bowl game this year to have that. We’re both offensive juggernauts and it’ll be some fireworks.”

Daniel said he’s glad he doesn’t have to stay awake at night worrying about how he’s going to stop McFadden, who at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds runs with the fury of an angry linebacker.

“Him and (backup running back) Felix Jones are a two-headed monster,” Daniel said. “I’m lucky I’m on offense.”

STAYING OR GOING? MU coach Gary Pinkel didn’t seem concerned when asked on Tuesday whether he expected any of the five players who submitted their names to the NFL draft advisory board to leave early.

“I think it’s a plus for our program and a statement for our program,” he said. “I hope we have five to 10 every year. That’s what you want.”

The five juniors who submitted their names were Daniel, tight end Chase Coffman, free safety William Moore and defensive ends Stryker Sulak and Ziggy Hood.

Daniel said his chances of skipping his senior year were “99 to 1.” So why submit his name, a reporter asked?

“Why not?” he said. “See where you’re at, check out what they’re (NFL teams) thinking about you and what you need to work on for next year.”

One player whose odds of returning might be a little lower is Moore, who garnered attention from pro scouts after shining late in the season when senior safety Pig Brown was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon against Iowa State.

Moore was named an Associated Press second-team All-American after finishing the year with 104 tackles and seven interceptions.

“His stock has really skyrocketed,” Daniel said. “He’s played unbelievable.”

BRACEY ARRESTED: MU senior wide receiver Greg Bracey was arrested early Friday morning on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana and failure to signal at a turn, MU police Capt. Brian Weimer said Tuesday.

Weimer said the arrest occurred at 2:51 a.m. after police observed the car Bracey was driving turn from eastbound Broadway onto Hitt Street without signaling. Bracey was released from the MU police department after posting $500 bond. Weimer said the offenses were listed as municipal offenses and that Bracey was given a court date for next month.

Earlier this week Pinkel suspended Bracey from playing in the Cotton Bowl, ending his career as a Tiger. A seldom-used receiver with great speed, Bracey finishes his career with six catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns.

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