FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas football head coach Houston Nutt met with media Sunday following the Razorbacks’ 41-38 loss at Alabama. Below is a partial transcript as Nutt discussed Saturday’s game.
“(This loss) is a tough pill to swallow. We went in knowing the first five minutes of the game would be key to handle all the craziness, (Alabama’s) emotion and frenzy they would be in, but we gave them 21-0 and that’s a tough way to start. We didn’t execute very well. We turned it over early and put our defense in a bad spot. I was really proud of the way they played and came back. We started to put a couple of drives together in the second quarter. Then, all of a sudden, you start to feel like ‘we’re going to win this ballgame.’
“(Darren) McFadden, I think, is the best back in the country. I haven’t seen everybody every day, but I’ve seen him. With him, Felix (Jones), Peyton (Hillis) and Michael (Smith), we have an outstanding backfield. It’s what we do best.
“I thought they fought extremely hard to bring (the game) all the way back to 38-31 and I just knew in my heart that (Alabama) would have a hard time going 75 yards to score with two minutes. But we can’t wallow around in it. We have to get going because we have a tough game this week and that’s what I’m going to meet with them about today. We’ll go out and practice today and correct and we can get better, that’s the good thing about it. What’s tough after a loss is there are a lot of things you see on film—you like doing it when you win—and there are a lot of things that could have gone either way. That’s what (Nick) Saban is telling his guys, but he has the luxury of doing it with a win.
“Our guys will benefit from this because we know there were a lot of good things we did. We have to make plays when it counts, especially there at the end. We have to execute, whether it be making a first down or knocking the ball down. There are so many different things you can look at that would make the score different, but the bottom line is we have to get better.”
On Casey Dick
“Casey (Dick) had a good ballgame. He really did a fine job of managing and checking us out of a bad play to get us into the right one. I thought he threw the crossing routes very accurate. The pass to Crosby Tuck was huge on third-and-one, a good call by David Lee to draw them in with a fake to Felix. It looks like a run in a running formation and we ran a stop-and-go. He hit Peyton on a beautiful crossing route.
“I’ve always felt that he has come a long way and improved. This game ought to help him. I think Coach Lee and the entire staff really believe in him. I think he’s only going to get better from this day forward. This was the kind of game he needed. In some crucial situations, he did some good things. I was really proud of him.”
On Darren McFadden
“What a fierce competitor, unbelievable fighter, warrior—all the adjectives you want. That’s why he went to New York last year. This guy is special. He’ll be out there and we’ll be smart with him. We’ve got to get him ready for 5 p.m. Saturday against Kentucky, that’s the bottom line.”
On Ernest Mitchell
“I don’t know the policy (of the SEC stepping in) on that. That’s so ridiculous. That’s the most disappointing thing of the game for me. We don’t teach that. You can’t lose your cool like that. We’ll look at things and make the right decision.”
On the secondary
“We’re going to talk about that today. We might make a couple of changes there. Give us a day to really think about that and study it. There may be some personnel moves there to try to do the best thing for us.
“(Michael Grant) has the speed to play (cornerback) and we knew that, and he’s so good back there (at safety), but it might be better for us to move him up there. We’re going to look at that.”
The message moving on after loss
“After watching the film, I’m really proud of them. I’m really proud of the way they fought. There would have been a lot of teams that would have looked up at the scoreboard and said ‘I give.’ That’s I’m proud of. We hung in there and fought all the way back from 31-10 and stayed with it. The defense got two turnovers that set us up beautifully. Momentum switched and that crowd got quiet and we know how deafening it can be. The offensive line really started to push them around and get them tired. McFadden ran like I’ve never seen before. Felix comes in and gives us another big lift.
“So I’m going to tell them how proud I am of them, but we’ve got to be able to rise up and make a play here or there to finish the play. We need to try to keep the penalties to a minimum and make good decisions.”
“We’ll try to talk about the positives and about the plays that we have to make. They executed, we didn’t. They catch a jump ball, we didn’t knock it down. Those types of things we practice and work on them. We scored 38 points and got those two turnovers. I thought our run defense was good, so there are a lot of positives. We’ll try to put four quarters together and keep building on it.”
Sticking with the running game at 21-0 deficit
“It’s the best thing we do. David (Lee) did a good job of mixing it up. The Crosby Tuck play was a huge call. I thought that was perfect timing. We probably wouldn’t have called that at third-and-one, but he wanted it and was adamant about it.”
On Ben Cleveland
“He should be ready. We’re going to try him back this week.”
On the play of the offensive line
“I would say this was (Mitch) Petrus’ best game. He played extremely hard. Robert Felton had about 12 or 13 knockdowns. Petrus might have been knocked down, but I can’t tell you how many times he pulled in 78 plays, but he was hitting the opposite color jersey.”