FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The following is a partial transcript of Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt’s Sunday press conference.
“This is a very sick feeling this morning. We got up and that score didn’t go away. You watch the film and there were so many opportunities that we had and chances to put the game away. I guess that’s the most frustrating thing.
“There were times we looked good and our guys played extremely hard, they really wanted this ball game. That’s what hurts the most. When you play that hard and you don’t finish it. I thought we were in a rhythm at times on offense. We kind of went both ways. We kept the ball during the first quarter for about 10 or 11 minutes. Then they had it for 10 or 11 minutes. That’s what made it tough. We couldn’t get off the field.
“We went up 23-14 and had a trick play that could have been big, but we overthrew Peyton Hillis down the sideline. There were so many plays you can pick out and you say, if, could of, would of and that shows you there’s a fine line between winning and losing. We have to correct and improve and go play this other team called USC.”
Other mistakes that stood out:
“On the goal line. We can’t miss blocks. We have so much confidence in our offensive line and running game I would have never thought Peyton couldn’t get those two yards. The linebackers got through untouched and that’s why Peyton couldn’t get a running start. You have to score there.”
On the running backs:
“When the score is like it is, you need experience. The one thing about De’Arrius Howard is we feel like he’s going to lock onto the ball, no question about it and he was running good. He made a good touchdown run and was being physical.
“What doesn’t help matters is when we put Felix Jones in and the ball comes out and fumbles. There’s still enough youth where you need as many veterans on the field as possible. We’re still not afraid to put those guys in there and they’ll get more depending on the situation. They had a good night.”
On the fourth quarter:
“They kept the ball for 11 minutes and we have to get off the field. We outscored them in the third quarter. We have to finish. We’re always talking about winning the fourth quarter. That’s why 5:30 a.m. drills are called fourth quarter. I’m going to tell our players today, ‘they made a play when they had to and we didn’t.’ On fourth and 10 they made a perfect play.”
On how to prepare for USC:
“The biggest thing is to make sure they stay tuned in to us, not outside. Don’t listen or read so much, because there will be a lot of people who are going to jump off the wagon and become negative. What’s key is there is a whole season in front of us. We need to stay together and keep working and improving. It’s a great opportunity (to play USC). I don’t expect to have any problems (motivating the team).
“What’s important for us is to worry about ourselves. I really think we helped Vanderbilt get in the win column. What’s important is that we correct and get after it and take care of our business and let things happen.”
On Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush:
“They’re unbelievable. They’re great football players. They proved that last year and they’re back. They looked as good as ever going off the first game film we got.”
On the defense:
“I know we’re tackling better. I really have a lot of confidence in what we’re doing. There has been one long run the first two games and I want to eliminate that. We’re in position to make a play, to knock down a ball or intercept a ball. That’s how close we are.”
On the offense:
“Here’s where we are offensively and it’s one word and it’s about being consistent. We’ve had two or three bad series and we got out of rhythm. We stopped ourselves by being behind the count after dropping a ball or a snap. There were a couple times where all Robert (Johnson) had to do was dump it off to a back and don’t try to force it. Those are clearly correctable things and we can become a better offense. We have to stay consistent.”
On Robert Johnson:
“He’s doing very good. There were a couple decisions that bothered us. It’s his first time out and we expected that a little bit. He’ll get better. He’s going to learn from it. There are times out there when he looks like a veteran quarterback. He’s managing the team and there hasn’t been any delay of game penalties, so there have been some really good things.”
“(Zac) Tubbs and (Jared) Hicks won’t be playing. We haven’t heard about Chris Baker’s MRI. Kyle Roper is a warrior and he’s got a sore lower back, but he fights through it.”