FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas football head coach Houston Nutt met with local media Sunday to discuss the Razorbacks’ win over Mississippi State. The Hogs defeated the Bulldogs 45-31 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark. The following is a partial transcript of the head coach’s weekly press conference.
“I was really proud of our team. I was proud of the effort. Our seniors probably played their best ball game if you just graded all our seniors. They left it out there, from Farod Jackson to Marcus Harrison, Marcus Monk, those guys really just played very hard and did a good job of leading our team. You can just go on and on and on. Fred Bledsoe probably played the best game since he’s been here as a Razorback. All those things just add up to this. You have a team that has a lot of heart. They have a lot of desire and I just love the effort they gave us and it took everybody on that sideline.
“(Mississippi State) is a good football team. We earned every yard. I want to give Mississippi State a lot of credit. You can see why they beat Auburn, Kentucky and Alabama. It’s simple to see. They are very, very good, especially on defense. They are very strong. Then, offensively, we geared up to stop the run. (Michael Grant) tweaks his hamstring and not a full speed. You lose Jerell Norton early and all of a sudden, they’re throwing the ball up and down the field. We have to get that corrected. We can’t give up cheap touchdowns.
“It’s a short week with a quick turnaround. We’re used to this position at this time of year. We have a lot of bumps and bruises with a lot of guys banged up. It’s just that time of year. Eleven straight weeks of football will do that. We get the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the nation, so we’re excited about it.”
On maintaining team concentration
“The one thing I don’t believe our players get enough credit for is when I’ve asked them to tune in to us, they’ve done that. When I’ve asked these guys to stay together, no matter what happens, they’ve done that. That’s what I’m proud of. To see those faces in the locker room after the game is why you coach. That’s what it’s all about. So it tells you, no matter what rumor or what is being said, that these guys have a lot of pride and a lot of heart. They want to please and excel at their highest level and that’s what I’m so proud of. I’m going to tell them today again, I don’t care what you hear, until you hear it from me, we’re going to concentrate on one thing we have left to do this regular season: our 12th game, LSU.”
“He’s on crutches right now, talking about Jerell Norton. He took a helmet to the knee. I just don’t know. I know he won’t practice tomorrow or if he does, it will be very limited. You have Malcolm Sheppard with an ankle (injury) and Robert Johnson with the same, but he’ll get geared up and get ready to go. I know guys like Robert Johnson and the heart they’ve shown, you just know they’re going to do everything they can to get on the field. That’s what you love and appreciate. Hopefully we’ll get (Felix) back. I expect him to be better.”
On playing LSU
“The offensive and defensive lines are so talented. They’ve done a tremendous job of keep their (in-state recruits) at home. They have speed behind these big guys and I mean real speed. Then on defense, a guy like Glenn Dorsey—there’s not too many guys like Dorsey. Dorsey is a disruptive force. So at every position, you don’t see average. You see greatness. They’re very, very good. It’s easy to see why they’re No. 1 and they’ve won this many games. They’ve done it for awhile. It goes back to recruiting and they keep their base at home. They’re fortunate to have that many Division I (players) in the state of Louisiana each year and they’ve done a good job of evaluating and keeping them at home.”
On the Arkansas offensive line
“We’ll start out the same way (with Robert Felton at left tackle). We’ll see how Jose (Valdez) is and hopefully get him working in there again. I was really proud of Robert Felton. He has been the most valuable player as far as going from position to position to position and always being on standby. I thought DeMarcus Love showed a lot of toughness in there at right guard. He fell off a block a few times, but he is a fighter and he is going to be a good football player.”
On Arkansas’ offensive production
“The biggest difference is Marcus Monk. That’s what makes you wish you could play September over again. He’s the biggest difference. When you have a weapon like that out there and then Robert Johnson is healthy and London (Crawford) is healthy, you would love to see what would happen with Crosby Tucky, a healthy London the whole time, a healthy Robert and a healthy Monk. It’s a different scenario because you’re able to throw balls up. You’re able to take more shots. You’re not afraid to take shots when he’s on the field and they have to respect that.
“Then when you have a backfield like Felix Jones, Peyton Hill and (Darren) McFadden and Casey Dick playing as efficient as he’s playing, that’s why we were able to score some points. You saw glimpses of it, but not the consistency because you lacked the passing game, but Saturday was good. You have to give it to Marcus Monk, I think. That helps the most. I don’t think he played but 10 or 12 plays, but they were important and critical and it keeps people off balance. Then with McFadden probably taking it to another level with the option play, I think those two combinations have really helped.”
On coaching at the University of Arkansas and in the Southeastern Conference
“All you want to do is coach football. One of my dreams has been to coach at the University of Arkansas and I’ve had the privilege to do it for ten years. I’m very thankful for that. All I want to do is concentrate on LSU. That’s all I want to do. I just don’t see any need to try to get into the conversation about ‘why this’ or ‘why would you do that.’ To me, it’s just wasted oxygen at this point, it really is, and it just takes away from our team and players and that’s what is upsetting.
“When you win a (Western division) championship last year and win ten (games)—and I don’t think our people sometimes realize how hard it is to get to Atlanta. LSU didn’t get to Atlanta last year. Auburn didn’t get to (Atlanta). LSU is playing with about the same people. Arkansas got to Atlanta last year. To win a championship and win ten (games) in this league is hard. How many teams in the SEC go back-to-back? Florida is not going back to Atlanta. It’s hard. You want to give your players credit. Your players deserve the credit of playing in the toughest league in America. They’re winning games and they’re going to a bowl game again. I just appreciate their effort. I think attention needs to be brought to those guys.”
On Arkansas’ play when backs are against the wall
“I think (the players) know that I’m very honest with them and they know that I love them. They know that I have their best interest. They know we’re trying to make sure they get a degree. It’s not just for four years or five years. When we make a commitment to a young man, it’s for life. So you’re able to pull back and pull on their hearts and say ‘I need your best.’ It’s been a good trademark for our program to be able to play in the toughest league. If you ask Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier, national championship coaches, I think they’ll tell you. This is a tough league.”