FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The following is a transcript of Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt’s Sunday press conference following the Razorback’s 42-17 victory over Auburn.
“We’re very happy with the win and the improvement in all aspects of our team. We have talked about turnovers a lot this season and the last two games we have not turned the ball over. Our defense got some turnovers at some big moments yesterday. There were a lot of heroes and everybody gave great effort.
“Tony Bua, Jermaine Petty, Ken Hamlin and a bunch of other guys just played hard yesterday. And I was glad to see No. 4 (Cedric Cobbs) back out there. I would have liked for his numbers to be better, but this year is not about stats, just wins.
“We had some young players step-up. Mark Pierce has made some plays in place of Brandon Holmes on punt teams. Our special teams played well yesterday. Auburn has blocked some kicks this year and our guys did a good job with their protection, snaps and coverage.
“It was a team effort. Auburn is explosive and you felt like at any time they could go the distance. We gave up some yards, but when it got down to it we stopped them. Jermaine Petty is having an unbelievable senior year. He has moved around and it’s not easy to make that switch. I’d hate to think about where we would be without him. He has been a team leader all year.”
Where do you see the offense at this point of the season?
“We knew there had to be some improvement since August. With all the youth we have, especially at quarterback, it’s hard to just go out there and move the ball up and down the field. We’re just giving our team the best chance to win we can. I think the biggest thing is that we are starting to come together as a team and have all phases hit at the same time, offense, defense and special teams.”
Talk about Zak Clark:
“You can see his confidence growing. He had an excellent first half. He’s not turning the ball over and getting us in the right plays. He hit some big plays and kept moving the ball.”
How will you use Matt Jones the rest of the year?
“I think it’s just a feeling on when to put him in the game. You kind of know when the team needs a change of direction. And now you know he’s not just one dimensional. You have to account for him throwing the ball as well. We’ll give him a little bit more to do this week.”
Talk about playing on the road this week vs. Ole Miss:
“We’ll start talking about that with the team today. Good teams stay consistent. I feel like we are getting to that point. Good teams have to win on the road. You have to play with confidence. It’s easy in front of your fans, but when it’s the other team’s fans it is a different situation. Ole Miss won a big game on the road against LSU, so this will be a tough challenge for us.”
Talk about the running game:
“Auburn has a very good defense and they were going to take away our power game. They knew Fred Talley could take it 80 yards like he did last year, so they wanted to take him out of the game. They had not seen us run the mid-line option this year so that surprised them and Matt Jones throwing. You have to give them credit for stopping the run yesterday, they are a good defense.”
What has the two wins over ranked teams done for your confidence?
“It’s been very, very good. Our schedule this year is different than it has been. If we could have had the North Texas game, we could have been a little better against Alabama. But we didn’t have that luxury. Weber State kind of gave us a little bit of confidence that helped us get ready for the next two games.”
Auburn was able to run the ball a lot, what were they doing against the defense?
“They are just a good team. You can see why they beat Florida and had not lost a game in the conference. Their running backs are the real deal, especially Carnell Williams. He’s a player and is fast. You have to play against the run and pass and sometimes they got us when we were thinking pass. We’ve got to do better because they hit some big plays.”
Is Arkansas still in the race for the SEC West with three losses?
“I think we are. I really do. If you look at who everybody has to play anything can happen. Auburn is still in the driver’s seat, but they still have a tough road to go. We just need to worry about our team and who we have to play.”
What is Brandon Holmes’ status?
“I’d like to get him back at practice this week, but I have to check on his progress. He will not play this week, it would be just practice. I have not set a time frame. I told him to not think about playing, just work on getting things right.”
What is the injury situation?
“Nothing serious, just bumps and bruises.”
How will the young players handle playing in Ole Miss?
“It will be a hostile place. It seems like they gear up for us because we are so close. I can’t tell you the number of people that say they work with an Ole Miss fan, so it’s a big game. You’ve got to be very focused. It’s been a tough place for us to play.”
What do you think about Clint Stoerner getting the start for Dallas?
“It’s exciting. He tried to call me the other day, but I missed his call. He talked to Curt Davis and is fired up. I can’t wait to watch him.”
Talk about Ole Miss:
“Eli Manning is good. Bloodlines filter down. He throws to all his receivers, backs and tight ends. He doesn’t flinch. They have opened up the offense more. They use five wideouts and uses more of a true drop-back quarterback offense. At Tennessee, Cutcliffe ran the ball more and ran a lot of curls, but they are wide open at Ole Miss.”
Talk a little more about Matt Jones:
“He is a true athlete. He has the whole package. He can hand it off, sprint out and run it or throw it. It doesn’t look like he’s running hard, in practice or on film. But he is so smooth and long legged, it just sneaks up on you.”