FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas football head coach Houston Nutt met with the media to discuss the Hogs’ 9-7 loss to No. 22 Auburn Saturday. The following is a partial transcript of Sunday’s press conference.
“It was a hard-fought game last night. To watch that film, there was a lot of effort out on that field in one of those old-fashioned football games. What I mean by that is it was hard-hitting, both defenses were outstanding, they didn’t get much on offense and we didn’t get much on offense. Our defense did a great job of eliminating big plays. I thought our defense was well prepared. I was very proud of how hard they played.
“Offensively, we put together one good drive and I wish that would have been enough. We’re going to build off that because on that drive we had 11 people doing it the right way all the way down the field. Casey (Dick) threw a beautiful ball to Lucas Miller. That was really positive. We really wanted to kick that ball (on the last kickoff) in the deep corner. We wanted to sky kick it to about the 15 and it got a little wide and went out of bounds, so that hurt.
“But I’m proud of them. I appreciate, first of all, the crowd. I thought the crowd was an excellent 12th man. I don’t know how many people, but it had to be over 72,000 people. They were rocking and I really appreciate them and how hard they participated.
“We’re going to take this game and build off of it to get better and to improve. We have to score more points, no question about it. We have to score more points. We have to keep finding ways of getting Felix (Jones) and (Darren) McFadden room to run and keep working on that passing game to improve that.
“I thought (Marcus) Monk gave us a lift last night in just being out there in pre-game warm up dressed in full pads. He did a good job of being a leader for us knowing that he couldn’t play very much, if at all. We got him one snap and it lifted our team with him on the sideline and being involved. He did a great job. We just have to take it right now. This is the mid-way point (of the season) and we have to go to another level.”
On not capitalizing on field position
“It was frustrating to get the ball on the 45, 50 and have a short field, but not be able to get the ball in the endzone and put points on the board. That was really frustrating. I’m sure (Auburn) was feeling pretty frustrated on the other side, too. It was a tough defensive battle all the way.”
On Marcus Monk’s status
“Talking to (Marcus) briefly last night, I know he wants to play. He wants to play. We’ll have to make a decision because if he is going to redshirt, he can’t play anymore, but deep down inside he wants to play. I want him to play if he’s ready. I know he’s getting closer, I just don’t know how close he is yet. We’ll just have to let Marcus decide and with Dean (Weber) and Don (Decker) and the staff, they’ll keep us informed. Each day he’ll do a little bit more. He’s improved over the last two or three weeks.”
On Darren McFadden
“I thought (Darren) was running very hard. He couldn’t have made a couple of those runs if there was any rib problem that he made last night against that defense. The bottom line is we weren’t blocking. We have to stay on blocks longer. (Auburn) did a great job of getting off blocks, they didn’t stay blocked. We have to do a better job of blocking and blocking good folks and they were good. All of them, up and down that line of scrimmage. They were very, very good. We didn’t get it done there.”
On the passing game
“We’re going to look at a lot of different things this week to try to help our team. There are some things that David Lee and I have already discussed a little bit this morning. We are going to try to get some things going that will hopefully help our football team in the passing game area.
“We’ve looked good at times with that play-action pass to Peyton Hillis, that’s been good. D.J. Williams caught a good ball last night. We have to keep working to get London Crawford involved more. Lucas Miller is coming, he’s getting better. To answer your question, we’re going to keep working on those things to get us better and we have a few wrinkles we feel we can get into this week and hopefully those will help us.
“If you ask Auburn’s offense, they have some pretty good receivers, they had the same thing happen to them—pretty well covered, didn’t get open, get sacked or hurried—and that’s like the mirror we were looking into. It’s a good defense. I have to give them credit. They out-executed us and our defense out-executed them for most of the night.”
On Casey Dick
“After the first nine passes, he was 6-of-9 and doing pretty good. He hit some good plays to Peyton a couple times. He didn’t do that bad. He needs a little bit more help and we all can help him. That’s everybody from coaches to everyone down the line of scrimmage to receivers.”
On keeping the team together
“I’m going to present to (the team) that it’s a brand-new season. We’re at the mid-way point. What we’ve been best at is being able to keep everybody in our circle. We’ve done that since 1998, keeping the team inside this circle with one heartbeat, one family and playing the greatest game in the world—football and have fun. We’ll go back, roll up our sleeves and go to work. We’ll give you a better plan and let’s go execute it. Let’s have fewer penalties. Let’s have few mistakes. Everyone can do a little bit better.”
On fourth-quarter play
“We’ve got to turn that. We have to find a way to win that fourth quarter. We have to win that last minute and a half. It’s easy to get caught up thinking ‘here we go again.’ We have to turn that and I really think we can. Very few times, especially in my career, things have gone against you like that almost back-to-back in fourth quarters where you lose a game like that or a ball doesn’t go your way. I’ve seen Brian Vavra kick that ball (to the) deep, right corner 15 straight times in practice, but for that ball to go out of bounds, that’s tough.”
On third-down management
“What was complicated last night was third-and-ten. That was the most complicated thing. Too many third-and-longs, that’s not our game. We’ve been real good at first down and second down where we have a manageable third-down game and that’s when we’re good. We’re not good right now at third and long. When we’re throwing on first and second, we’re ok. Most people in the SEC are going to have a hard time on a consistent basis on third and long. You want to stay out of that.”
On the Arkansas defense vs. Auburn
“I think we put a lot of emphasis on starting Sunday after a game like we had in Little Rock. I thought that game in Little Rock was perfect timing for the mindset. That’s what it is, a mindset of being physical against a very tough, run-oriented team. We had great preparation and guys worked hard, prepared well and knew it was going to be a battle. We got off blocks. They couldn’t hold their blocks against us a majority of the night.
“You have to give Weston (Dacus) a lot of credit. He was good. Freddie Fairchild had 15 tackles. We’re starting to have more confidence in (Fred) Bledsoe, (Marcus) Shavers, Adrian Davis, (Chris) Wade and those guys. We’re getting them 15-20 snaps per game and they may get even more, so that was good.”
On the WildHog formation
“(Defenses) have had a full year to study it and they’ve caught up with it a little bit, but we still hit a good play with it last night. Darren had a 12 or 14 yard run on a counter that we put in the WildHog, so they still have to defend it.”
On Ole Miss
“Ole Miss is very similar to us. They’re hungry for that first SEC win. They look good. They looked good against Florida. They looked good against Alabama. They played Alabama about the same as we did and got beat by three points. They look very physical running the ball and they look good on defense, so this will be another hard battle.”