FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After the Hogs’ 58-10 victory over Florida International, head coach Houston Nutt met with local media Sunday to discuss Arkansas’ performance. The following is a partial transcript of the weekly press conference.
“I was really proud of our team. Those are tough games to play. I thought, for the most part, we had great preparation during the week and our guys came out ready to play. Our defense made it very easy because of the short field (because) we kept getting interceptions and fumbles. We’ve done a really good job the last few games with turnovers. That’s really helped everything.
“It was good to see Marcus Monk back out there. I think that really gave us a lift. Even though he’s dressed out a couple of times, we didn’t know if he’d get one or two plays here and there. We knew during the week when he made a couple practice days that he was going to for sure play. That was a big lift. I think the one thing you see is there’s that respect for No. 85. That’s one thing that probably helped Darren (McFadden) and Felix (Jones) a lot last year, you take for granted, are the about 1,000 yards worth (in receiving). I think very few people can practice one week and go in and catch a touchdown pass. That’s what he gives you. He gives you that experience, that leadership. He gives you that route-running ability and all those things. I’m glad to have him back.
“Casey, I think he’ll be ready to go tomorrow. He’s just a little sore (with) a little bruise. I think he’ll be fine. I was really proud of Nathan Emert. I thought he came in and did a good job of taking control of the huddle and executing. He’s highly intelligent and he’s always studied and prepared as if he’s going to play every game. That’s what you love about him. He’s very mature. It’s not like that was his first game and you could tell. He’s played before, understand the game and I was just really proud of him.
“I thought Peyton Hillis did a good job catching the football, whether it be over his shoulder or throwing the underneath routes to him. He’s really become a weapon for us. I’m really proud of his play, both with and without the ball. He’s been very unselfish and done a great job blocking for Felix and Darren.
“Our defense is doing some good things and keeping the (opposing) offenses off balance and keeping them behind the count. We’re getting some pressure. Now, as we jump back into the SEC, we have to play our best football. Our guys no that. We have to have a great week getting ready for South Carolina.”
On Nathan Emert
“You’re not afraid to put (Nathan) in if (Casey can’t play), but we’re not looking for that to happen. Hopefully, Casey is ready to go. They’ll both get work like they’ve been doing and we’ll play it from there.
On Marcus Monk
“I’m hoping that (Marcus) can go in and give us seven to nine (catches). The other thing is that he’s a threat and people are going to have to respect that he’s out there. I like it when they double cover him. That helps everything. Again, I don’t know how sore he is. He really put (work) in last week and really pushed himself physically. We’ll see how he feels today and hopefully he’s out at practice.
“This situation is a little bit different because Marcus has never been hurt, so he had to have confidence that he could come down, he could go up for a ball, he could plant, come out of breaks and separate. He needed that and he’s gotten that. I suspect that he wants to be out there to keep things going. It’s not like it’s just a Charlie horse, he’s coming off major surgery. This is uncharted waters for him, but Saturday helped him a great deal. I could look in his eyes and I could tell he felt like ‘I’ve accomplished something here. I’m back here with my teammates and I can play and feel good about my leg. I have confidence,’ so he’s worked hard at it.”
On South Carolina QB Blake Mitchell
“(Blake) is a very accurate passer. He has (Kenny) McKinley, and two good backs in (Mike) Davis and (Cory) Boyd. They’re a good football team. They beat Georgia. They beat Kentucky, so they’ve beat some good teams. You know the caliber of athletes they have. Blake has done a good job and we know firsthand how he can throw the football.”
On the Arkansas secondary
“I think Coach (Chris) Vaugh and Coach (Bobby) Allen deserve a lot of credit. They spend a lot of time throwing balls to these guys for the last five or six weeks and it’s paying off. We jumped up in turnover margin. We’re at about plus-five and it’s because of those guys and the pressure by our defensive line and linebackers. These guys have worked hard. We put a lot of emphasis on playing the ball with your eyes and turning your head around. You can see the improvement from week one to now. All those guys—Matterral Richardson, Jerell (Norton), Jamar Love, Michael Grant, (Matt) Hewitt, Rashaad Johnson—have gotten better at playing the ball and that’s what I’m excited about. Walner (Leandre) has come in and given us a lift. He’s getting better.”
On defensive coordinator Reggie Herring being upset with the defense after the game
“(Defensive coordinator) Reggie (Herring) is such a competitor and he doesn’t like to give up long runs and he doesn’t like missed tackles at this time of the year. Couple that with (Florida International) calling timeouts at the end, but it was more our guys. He’s such a competitor and has a lot passion about it. He doesn’t like missed tackles and the quarterback draw plays really bothered him, but I think (the defense) got the message and played much better in the second half.”
On the Southeastern Conference schedule
“I watched every play (of the South Carolina-Tennessee game). I probably watched every play of every game that was on TV last night. I know Coach (Steve) Spurrier had every intention, like the rest of us, of going to Atlanta to the (SEC) Championship game. This league, especially this year, is so crazy and it’s such a competitive league. Each Saturday anyone (can beat anyone). Everything has changed from top to bottom. You’re looking at maybe eleven teams that have a chance to go to a bowl game. They all have a chance. I’m not saying they will go, but they have a chance. So this is a tough, tough, tough league.”
On London Crawford and Robert Johnson
“(London and Robert) are doing better. We’re expecting them to be ready to practice, hopefully, by today and if not, then by Tuesday. They should be ready to go.”
On the South Carolina defense
“They’re faster (than they were last year). (Eric) Norwood, their defensive end, really stands out. They have a safety, (Emanuel) Cook, that really stands out. I watched them a little today. They fly around the ball and you see they’re not giving up many points. They don’t give up any explosive plays. I don’t see any big plays. They have the No. 1 secondary in the conference in pass defense. They’ve done a great job of getting everything together. They lost one of the Brinkley brothers, but they are physical and they are fast. Much faster than last year and the secondary seems to be better.”