FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The following is a partial transcript of Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt’s Sunday press conference.
“I’m really proud of our football team and I know we’re all still very disappointed because we didn’t win. They put a lot of heart and soul in that game against Auburn. We loose that one and then we get on the bus to play the fourth-ranked team. We put ourselves in a position to win the game and that’s the most disappointing thing. I loved the effort. I love the heart of our team to keep fighting. I think this is really the game that we can point to where we played the entire football game. We played for 60 minutes, all four quarters. We put an emphasis on that in the third quarter and I think our guys really answered the bell. I was proud of them.
“Defensively, I thought it was probably our best game of the year. We got some key stops against a very good offense with a lot of weapons. Besides the one throw right before the half. We were in four across the board and they called a time out. It’s no secret that everybody knows they’re going to take a shot now. Let’s get deep. Actually the tight end blocked and we had a safety and a corner. We just didn’t play it right. We have to correct that.
“We’ve got to hit a field goal and not miss one. We’ve got to catch the punt; that was critical. There were a lot of little things. We got an illegal procedure penalty. You can’t stop yourselves. I’ve said it before and that’s just a fact. You have to keep fighting and playing with that kind of attitude and passion. I really think there are good things around the corner and that’s what we’re going to build on.”
On the quarterback situation:
“After the Auburn game we opened this thing up to reevaluate the position. We put a lot of emphasis on each play, the philosophy and everything we were doing. Who gives us the best chance to win? It was just decided by Wednesday Robert (Johnson) gave us the best chance to win this particular time going into this hostile of an environment. It was going to be primarily a running game. He gives the ball back to the tailback, where the tailback can see the running lanes. Then we were going to do a little play action, sprint out, and boots. That fit Robert the best. That was the base of it. I think he got refocused a little bit and did some good things. He still has to improve. You can’t turn the football over. The teams we play in this league are too good.
“We’re going to keep working this week and we’ll talk about that hard tomorrow. We’ll study South Carolina starting tomorrow. We’ll keep working with each quarterback and give them the reps. I think they are at a point they know each day is critical. The one that responds the best is the guy. I think everybody has to have the attitude of we have to improve.”
On the defense:
“You have to give credit to the offense for keeping the ball on the field for 36 minutes, so they (the defense) stayed rested. Then again the defense was getting three and out. Jamaal Anderson, Marcus Harrison, Keith Jackson and Desmond Sims made a couple good sacks and rushed the quarterback, caused a turnover we should have got. Besides the one ball before the half, I thought the secondary played good. Our linebackers have always been solid, like Pierre Brown and Sam Olajubutu. Freddie Fairchild is getting much better.
“I thought the defense played extremely well and everyone graded out very well. We stopped the run and that was our No.1 goal and don’t give up the big play. Besides the first drive when they hit a pass on us, I thought our defense played with a lot of emotion and heart. They did a good job and got us a couple turnovers.”
On Darren McFadden:
“He’s a big time back. If you look at Alabama and Tennessee’s score, Tennessee scored three on Alabama. Each one of these games against a big time defense Darren McFadden has gone on an 80-yard run, a 70-yard run. Not too many people can do that. I’m proud of Felix Jones and what the offense line is doing for these backs.
“Darren has such an acceleration to the line of scrimmage and he hits the holes with such quickness. He’s on top of the linebackers before they realize and once he gets past the safeties they must take the proper angle or he’s gone.”
On South Carolina:
“South Carolina looks like they are improving. Their offense is starting to score more points. They’ve hit a couple teams that they have beat, like Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Now they have to go on the road for two weeks. It looks like their quarterback has gotten better. It looked like their defense is getting better. I’m anxious to really study them and see how they do this week against Tennessee.”