FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Razorback football team defeated Ole Miss, 44-8, Saturday in Oxford, Miss., to earn its first conference victory of the season. Head coach Houston Nutt met with local media to discuss the game. The following is a partial transcript of the press conference.
“I was really proud of our football team. We went on the road and won a game that took a lot of effort, concentration, focus and they prepared that way all throughout the week. You have to give a lot of credit to guys like Robert Johnson (and) Marcus Monk. Of course, both have been hurt. Robert got a lot of plays in, but his leadership and (that from) guys like Weston Dacus, Marcus Harrison, Jonathan Luigs, (Darren) McFadden, Felix (Jones), Peyton Hillis—they really stepped up this past week because that was a really difficult loss last week (against Auburn). To really get out team focused, get it back on track, I have to give those guys a lot of credit.
“The thing about this game (against Ole Miss) is it was going to be a battle of wills and we knew that. I thought our guys, from the very snap on, really were so in tune and played with a lot of heart, a lot of passion and energy. Aside from the runs in that first drive and after (Ole Miss) missed the field goal, I felt our secondary really played the best it had played this year. (They were) in very good position, played the ball well and got some turnovers. Our run defense can be better, but overall, I thought Reggie (Herring) did a great job of mixing up some calls on blitzes and kept them off balance and we got some pressure and some sacks.
“When we get the ball and the defense sets us up, our guys on offense came out blocking. We executed and took care of the ball. We didn’t have any fumbles. I thought Casey (Dick) played his best game. He was very efficient, managed the clock well (and) threw the ball well. The ball to Peyton was very good. We mixed it up and, of course, when you have a good running game, you’re able to mix it up with the play action. Overall—the kicking, the defense, the special teams, the offense—it was a solid day. We needed that type of feeling to have a celebrating locker room. It was a good feeling.”
On denying the Ole Miss deep threats
“We were in good position all day long and the coaches—Bobby Allen and Chris (Vaughn)—did a good job of preparing them all week with the threat of those receivers. They had us concerned and Seth Adams has been very accurate. When you watch the Florida and Alabama games, Ole Miss was up and down the field and throwing some good balls, so (the secondary) worked hard and they were in good position and made some plays. They are playing better with their eyes. Of course, pressure helps and we were able to rush (Adams) a little bit and get him off balance, that helps.”
On the Arkansas defensive line
“We’re getting better, but we can still get better. Probably the most pleasant thing is you’re not afraid to let (Fred) Bledsoe, (Marcus) Shavers and Adrian Davis get 25-30 snaps. You probably couldn’t say that three or four weeks ago. Those guys are really allowing (Ernest) Mitchell and Marcus Harrison to catch their breath and come in to give us some good snaps. So you’re building some depth there and staying fairly healthy. Hopefully, we can keep it up and keep building.”
On the team’s mindset
“I think it goes back to the meeting we had last Sunday about (being) in a hole and (having) our backs against the wall. And if you believe everything that some people may tell you, we can go back in a hurry. Or we can really stick together, stay together and really try to get better and play our best ballgames. That was really our theme: it’s a new season and it starts in Oxford. Again, I have to give credit to the seniors and the guys I mentioned and their leadership, their care, their want-to and perseverance.”
On the fan support in Oxford
“The fans were great. They had to go travel and want to be there and that’s what you appreciate. Our players really appreciated that and several of them mentioned it to me. I mentioned it today on the TV show, they were very loud and we welcome all of them. They did a great job and it helped us.”
On playing in the SEC
“If you look at our conference, it’s the toughest conference in America. It is, by far, the toughest conference in America from top to bottom. Anybody can beat anybody. If you look at the scores with Vanderbilt beating South Carolina, Tennessee, going to the same place we went, going into Alabama. It can get out of hand in a hurry if your mindset is not right that given day. You don’t have to be the best team, but you better be the best team in that stadium for three hours. That takes focus, no foolish penalties and taking care of the ball. All of those things come into play. Look at the standings, we could easily be sitting here with a much better record, but the fact is that we aren’t, so we have to reach down, have to show a lot of character and keep fighting. That’s why I’m proud of our guys. They reached down and keep fighting.”
On stopping Ole Miss on its first drive
“It was probably the turning point because we’ve all been in that situation where the drive the length of the field, especially in the first series, and you’re feeling good, but when you miss that field goal, it’s like the air is let out and you lose a little bit of energy right there. Then we take the ball down and score. That’s a big momentum switch to our side. Now their crowd is out of it a little bit. Then we score again.
“They had an outstanding drive going and I’m scared to death of BenJarvus (Green-Ellis) and those receivers taking it from the 13-yard line all the way down. Then we get a sack (by Jamar Love), so it’s a little bit farther field goal and they miss it, that’s a big lift for us.”
On momentum heading into second-half of SEC schedule
“This was an important game and we all knew that. I told our guys that this will really define us—this weekend in Oxford—on which way we’re going to go. I think the schedule is set up to where we can win all of our games. We can win every one of them. It’s going to take great effort, great attitude, great focus. All of that. It started in Oxford and it started the week prior to with preparation.”
On the mentality of playing on the road
“As soon as we leave (Fayetteville)—we practice together, we’re here together—as soon as we leave from the practice, we get on the bus together. Then you get on the airplane together. We’re together the entire time. It’s just us. We have 70 people with coaches and it’s against the University of Mississippi. What I mean by that is you have all the time you need to be together. You’re eating, you’re studying, (watching) film, whether you’re practice—you’re together that 24 hours right before kickoff, so that’s a very good thing for us.”
On the Arkansas defense
“I don’t want to say (we’ve turned the corner) just yet. I was really nervous about our run fits there in the first quarter. Where are we? That was my first thought when they took the ball from the 13 all the way down because I know we play the run better than that. We put a lot of emphasis on the pass this week because of the (Ole Miss) receivers and quarterback. I still think we can get better. We can get better and hopefully, turn the corner and keep going during this tough, tough stretch here at the end.”
On Alex Tejada’s FG and PAT misses
“I have a lot of confidence in (Alex), and I think he’ll come back. I don’t think anyone hated it more than he did, but we can’t miss an extra point and he’ll be the first to tell you that. I think his plant foot was way off and out of sync. It was really pulling the ball left and we’re going to get that corrected this week. I’m not alarmed but we’re going to go work on it to get better.”
On Felix Jones and Darren McFadden
“As soon as Darren McFadden gets off the bus, everyone knows exactly where he’s located. All eyes are on him. It’s amazing to watch from the sideline when we get into the WildHog, they’re yelling and screaming. You know they’ve been working on (defending) it all week and they’re focused on him. The reason Felix Jones scored on the very first one with Darren McFadden at quarterback in that particular set, if you watch the film, there are two, almost three, guys waiting on Darren to come outside, but he hands it off and it’s well-blocked up the middle. Darren McFadden has to get an assist for that. You might as well give him half a touchdown. “But I don’t want to take anything away from Felix. Felix is playing good football. He looks very, very fast, much faster than this time last year, so I’m really excited about that going down the home stretch.”
On Andrew Davie
“Andrew is another guy I don’t throw his name in here enough. Andrew is an older guy who is very mature. He’s been a very good leader for us. He’s a good block, point-of-attack blocker, for us and then they forget about him. We start with the run and get the ball out there to Darren and Felix, he’s good for those types of plays. The fall-down play was well-executed.
“Andrew did a great job of acting, of falling down, getting lost and then he comes out the backdoor.”