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. It was a good win for us. I just love the effort and the heart that was shown Saturday afternoon. I really want to thank our fans. I think we have the best road fans. We can compete with anybody in the SEC. When you go away from home and you see the thousands of fans that are into the game. We felt like it was a home game in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense played outstanding. They deserve the game ball, every one of them. They played from start to finish, but especially in the first half when our offense was contributing very, very little. They hung in there, stopped the run and didn’t give up the big play until right at the very end, but still kept them from getting in the end zone. That was huge.
“The defensive line continues to get better. Keith Jackson had one of his better days as a Razorback. Desmond Sims, Marcus Harrison, Antwain Robinson got in there and had 15 snaps. Ernest Mitchell got a sack. There were a lot of positives. Jamaal Anderson continues to get better.
“Offensively, you have to give Ole Miss’ defense a lot of credit, because they were outstanding. You can see why teams have a hard time going against Ole Miss. Their front is all seniors and they are very athletic. They play with a passion and disrupt with twists, movements, rocking and stunts. They are very tough.
“I really feel like Casey Dick grew as a quarterback. We lose Kyle Roper and moved Jonathan Luigs over to center. We had to have Jeremy Harrell at right guard, who came in a fought. He made some mistakes, but the thing you love about him is he is playing 100 miles per hour.
“Tony Ugoh and Stephen Parker were limping around, so it was a tough day offensively, but when we had to have drives. We got it done. That’s what is exciting. To have that many young guys out there away from home and have a guy go 17 for 24 and hit some big plays. Marcus Monk was outstanding and so was Cedric Washington and Cedric Logan. David Thompson made some big blocks. I think it took everybody.
“Peyton Hillis probably had his best game as a Razorback. He’s on the kick-off team and he’s flying down the field. We’re 2-6 and you always worry about the guys keep playing, but you don’t have to worry about this bunch. They will keep playing. Peyton Hillis had two tackles on the kick-off, he’s a punt returner and he ran key balls with toughness. He did all those things and I’m really proud of him.
“It was a total team effort and it starts with defense.”
What was the difference in Casey Dick in the first half and the second half?
“I think the biggest thing was that we told him we’re going to have to throw the ball and you’re not going to have much time. You’re going to have to step up with quick, short steps in the pocket and you have and get rid of that football. It’s going to be man-to-man coverage most of the time, so you’re going to have some one-on-one throws and you’re going to get hit.
“I think once we told him that he accepted it and after he made that first completion he got on a role. He has a lot of confidence in Marcus Monk and Cedric Washington. He gained confidence and it’s hard to do that unless you have something like that happen and that’s exactly what happened.”
What does Saturday’s win do for Casey Dick?
“I think it does two things. The first thing it does is really gives him that sense of confidence of ‘I can quarterback on this level.’ He was just playing high school not too long ago and he was able to go on the road in the SEC and handle things.
“The other thing is leadership and that experience of delivering the ball and getting hit. Hanging in the pocket until the last possible second. Throwing timing routes. All those things add up to a great learning curve. He’s only going to get better.”
On Mississippi State:
“They’re pretty good. We just got started on them, so I don’t know much. It looks like their defense is very tough and athletic. Willie Evans makes a lot of plays. I know their defense gave Alabama some fits.”