FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The following is a transcript of Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt’s press conference with the media on Sunday following the 10-7 victory over No. 9 South Carolina.
“It was a great feeling in the dressing room after the game. It was a great ballgame. It was a monumental effort from start to finish.
“Curt Davis, Jermaine Brooks and Raymond House don’t get all the stats, but they put in on the line against much bigger people. They are quick and they play hard and they don’t stop. I’m very proud of the way we played on defense.
“Our seniors probably had their best game. It was their last game in Little Rock. Davis, Carlos Hall, Sacha Lancaster, Jermaine Petty, D’Andre Berry, all those guys had a great game.
“Tony Bua played very hard. It seems like Ahmad Carroll is going to make seven or eight tackles a game. Even on the play they made on him, he was in good position. You just don’t see a lot of people getting past our secondary.
“Offensively, our line was outstanding. We had a back go over 100 yards for the second straight week (Fred Talley). South Carolina didn’t give up a lot, they are a good team.
“The big thing was the 15 play drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock. Our defense never took the field with South Carolina leading in the game and that is a good sign.”
Talk about Marvin Jackson’s impact on the team?
“He is the best punt returner I have ever seen in my life. He never bobbles the ball. We moved him back to kickoff return and helped us get the touchdown return last week. He is a smart football player and he loves the game. I’d like to get him on offense, but coach Wommack won’t let me because he wants to keep him. He is just a super skilled athlete who can make plays on both sides of the ball. “
Talk about Matt Jones’ performance vs. South Carolina:
“We have said for a long time that he his a good player. He doesn’t get nervous or worried in the game. He moves faster than you think. If you try to run with him it’s like he is getting five yards and you are only getting two. He is effortless. Plus he made a big catch for us over the middle. He is a big time player.”
What about the rest of the schedule?
“It’s unbelievable to think that we have Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia behind us, then you see Ole Miss beat Alabama and Auburn beats Florida. But I’m not going to let anything ruin what we accomplished yesterday. But, that’s how this conference is. Anybody can beat anybody on any Saturday.”
Is the offense developing some continuity?
“I think if we forced South Carolina to punt when they are backed up in their end zone we would have gotten a touchdown. Our offense had a lot of confidence and was ready to go in and knock them off the ball. We have come a long way considering we don’t have a true senior to step up and make plays. But Zak (Clark) did a good job yesterday. We missed some throws and we don’t need to stop ourselves, but I’m pleased with our execution.”
Are you doing anything different on offense?
“We’re using the middle more because teams are giving it to us. They are taking away the sidelines which we have had open a lot the last couple of years. You wish you had a true difference maker that could take it up the middle and that’s what we are lacking.”
Did you consider going with Ryan Sorahan?
“I thought about it in the second quarter when Zak struggled a little bit. I told Zak we needed a good third quarter from him and he did that. Plus, we put Matt Jones in and he gave them a change of pace and mixed it up a little.”
Would you rather be playing this week or have the two weeks off?
“I’d like to be playing. But, the time off will help our injury situation. We lost Steven Harris for the year with a torn ACL in his right leg. People like Cedric Cobbs, Brandon Holmes need the off week before we get into the final stretch.”
Do you feel like the team’s chances are wide open in the SEC?
“I think if you look at the SEC West it is. We wish we could have a couple of those early games back after we had some confidence and momentum, but you can’t. There are enough games left on the schedule and three of them are at home so we’ll see.”
Talk about the quarterback combination of Clark and Jones:
“The thing we feel good about is that we have Sorahan and Tarvaris Jackson who can still play. Each of them brings different abilities to the table. They are all good and we will need all of them. But I can’t tell you exactly how we’ll use them. Zak will start the Auburn game, but we will have to see what happens.”
Talk about South Carolina’s drive in the second half:
“We talked about the reverse at halftime and earlier in the week on Wednesday, and then they run it and get 40 yards. When they put Corey Jenkins in, it changed the pace of the game. But, we responded and kept them from getting anything going.”
How is Richard Smith progressing?
“We expect a lot from him. We just need him to be consistent. He is a true player. He made some big catches for us and that is what we need from him.”
How do you keep the momentum going?
“Just remind them of the payoff and that’s winning. We need to keep working towards getting better. We didn’t turn the ball over and didn’t kill ourselves with penalties and we will keep reminding them of what happens when we do that. This raises the confidence of our players. It’s our fist SEC win and we hope this is a signal for betting things.”
Talk about the blocked field goal:
“Curt Davis, Raymond House, Jermaine Brooks don’t get enough credit. They got enough push to where Carlos (Hall) took a step almost in the line of scrimmage and then use that 40″ vertical jump. We knew he could jump that high.”
It seems this team plays better with their backs to the wall. Why is that?
“I think it’s this group of coaches. We don’t ever stop believing in them. We rally the troops and keep them working hard. Then you’ve got guys that have been there, like Hall and Davis, and you can make things happen. It’s just effort and believing.”
Talk about the freshmen class:
“They are not freshmen anymore. They have played against half the SEC and they have grown up. There is a lot of positives. They are out there making plays and making things happen for us. It’s a good feeling to think about where they will be in two years. But, you have to live in the now and we are only as good as our last game.”
What is the injury situation?
“Mark Pierce has a swollen ankle. Brandon Holmes started walking last week, hopefully he will get better. Everybody else is just bumps and bruises. Cedric Cobbs didn’t look as quick as he has been, but he felt good in warm-ups.”
Talk about Fred Talley:
“He has played tailback all his life. He knows how to read the holes. He knows the schemes and had done a great job for us. He has had over 100 yards the last two weeks and has been a positive force on this team.”
Who will replace Steven Harris?
“Sparky Hamilton, Sam Breeden and Gerald Howard have got to step up. And they can do it. Decori Birmingham might go back if Holmes and Cobbs are healthy.”