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October 23, 2015

(STATS) - Kade Harrington will allow himself a handful of Double Stuf Oreos and milk at times during this season, dipping each cookie until it's good and soft. If he had to choose just one dessert for the rest of his life, this would be it.

Lamar's junior running back won't indulge himself to the level that's brought fits of laughter from his friends in the past, when he would polish off a bag in one sitting without realizing it. Then again, who hasn't accidentally turned a snack into a meal?

Harrington figures he's done enough running and maintaining his physique throughout the week to reward himself with a small treat.

He's earned quite a few with his performances in the first four Southland Conference games. Harrington has run for an amazing 1,011 yards and 10 touchdowns while registering three of the top four rushing performances in program history. The highlight was a conference-record 347 yards in a 44-28 win over Abilene Christian on Oct. 10, which earned him high praise on Twitter from former NFL receiver Donald Driver.

"347 yds rushing yards in one game. Congratulations kid! Maybe we will see u on Sunday."

Harrington followed that performance with a school-record five touchdowns and 282 yards at Northwestern State last Saturday, but the Cardinals' conference title hopes took a major hit with a 48-35 loss to the previously winless Demons.

Only LSU's Heisman Trophy frontrunner Leonard Fournette has more yards (1,202) than Harrington's 1,115 across both the FBS and FCS. For his efforts, Harrington was named to the STATS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List this week.

"It's been unreal, especially the past couple of games. We're coming together as an offense, as a unit," he said. "It makes it a lot of fun, playing with a bunch of guys that I can truly call some of my best friends."

A healthier body has played a part in this season's dynamic performances. Harrington missed three games last season because of a partially torn knee ligament en route to finishing with 740 yards and 11 TDs.

Slated for a redshirt when he came to Lamar, Harrington instead ran for 880 yards, had 376 receiving on 48 catches and scored 12 touchdowns while earning Southland freshman of the year honors.

The Cardinals also have a new coordinator, Chuck Langston, and Harrington is quick to point to an offensive line that's performed with surprising cohesiveness despite starting as many as three transfers.

Before going to Louisiana-Monroe, center Matthew Oubre was high school teammates with punter Juan Carranco, and that helped made his transition to Lamar easier. Harrington said left tackle Cody Elenz got immediate respect because of his previous starting role at Idaho.

The Cardinals also have two stalwarts, Justin Brock and Bret Treadway, on a unit that's given up just three sacks while opening holes for Harrington.

"Yes, my name is on the stats, but it's a team effort," Harrington said. "There are 10 other guys out there that are working together to make a touchdown happen, to make a big play happen. Everyone has to come together and just do their job and good things happen."

In their attempt to bounce back Saturday night, Harrington and the Cardinals (3-3, 2-2) will face what's statistically the conference's second-best defense in visiting Central Arkansas (3-3, 3-1). They'll see one of FCS' stingiest teams, conference leader McNeese State, in the regular-season finale Nov. 21.

Central Arkansas is one of two Southland teams along with McNeese allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards per game at 96.8. The Bears missed their chance to take sole possession of the conference lead last Saturday with a 28-13 loss to the Cowboys.

They held McNeese to 160 yards - its fewest in 10 years - and yielded 47 in the first half, but a 45-yard fumble return early in the fourth quarter began the Cowboys' string of 21 unanswered points.

Sophomore quarterback Hayden Hildebrand reportedly hurt his left shoulder in that contest but is expected to go Saturday as is one of the Bears' leading receivers, Jatavious Wilson (ankle).

In his last meeting with UCA on Nov. 8, Harrington fumbled in overtime in a 44-41 loss that dropped Lamar to 0-4 in the all-time series. He had seven catches for 77 yards - both the second-highest marks of his career - but only ran for 65 yards on 15 carries.

Harrington's longest run in his two matchups with Central Arkansas was a 24-yarder in a 26-24 home loss in October 2013, but he's had at least one sprint of 55-plus yards in each of his past four games.

Harrington has tallied four touchdown runs of 60 yards or greater in that stretch. He also had a 77-yard reception for a score in the Cardinals' most impressive victory since reviving their program in 2010, a 49-46 upset at then-No. 3 Sam Houston State on Sept. 19.

"We played him last year, and he was an outstanding back, tremendous, but he looks a step faster," UCA coach Steve Campbell said. "He gets in the open field, and he's hitting home runs this year."

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