FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas football head coach Houston Nutt met with local media to discuss the Hogs’ 34-13 loss to No. 22 Tennessee Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. The following is a partial transcript of the weekly press conference.
“It was a disappointing Saturday. I thought we had good preparation during the week and that was probably our worst offensive line play we’ve had all year. It just wasn’t very physical. We knew Jose Valdez was going to be hurt, and probably should have taken him out (of the game) a little bit earlier. We beat ourselves. We beat ourselves with way too many penalties, especially on the first drive. There’s no excuse for that. We’re going to get that corrected.
“We have to put that behind us in a hurry. We’re going to watch that film today. We’re going to go out on the field today and correct some things and we’re going to start getting ready for Mississippi State very, very quickly. Overall, we were not at the same level that we were the week before (against South Carolina). That’s the one thing about SEC football. You have to be at a very high level every single Saturday because, as you know, anybody can beat anybody. It’s the team with the right focus and frame of mind, the team that makes the fewest mistakes. That’s the team that is going win during those three hours.
“Those were the things that were the most disappointing, the things that could be corrected. We know when you’re giving out free gifts, free first downs, when you jump off sides, when you don’t line up right, those are the things that we know how to correct. We know how to line up.
“In the very first five minutes (of the game), one of the things we talked about so hard, (Tennessee is) very good when they get going and the exact opposite happened. We gave them some good gifts and we have to get that turned. When we start out fast and get in our rhythm, we are at our best. We didn’t do that Saturday and that was disappointing. Also on special teams, I thought we had some breakdowns there that really changed the field.
“And of course, Felix (Jones) got hurt. Felix actually got hurt on the very first play of the game. He tried to go a few more plays in the second quarter, but it kept getting tighter and tighter. We’ll know more this week how extensive, how tough an injury that will be for him. He’s working on it right now and hopefully we’ll get him back. You could sure tell the difference when he went out.”
On the offense without Felix Jones
“We probably won’t be able to do everything with all the different types of formations we had with Felix and that’s the thing that hurt us a little bit without having that threat. They could pile up on No. 5 (Darren McFadden), of course. The thing about Felix is he’s the one that takes attention away from Darren a little bit. They work so good together. That combination is tough to stop. Without him, you can tell they were ganging up a little bit more on Darren. You know Marcus (Monk) is not full speed. You can tell that, but it’s good to have him out there. He’s catching some key balls, but you just know there are a couple of those balls he could have gotten to if he was full speed.”
On the extent of Felix Jones injury
“We’re hoping it’s not (as deep as thigh bruise Peyton Hillis had last year). We’re hoping it’s not as deep. Peyton’s was a very deep, deep bruise. (Felix) didn’t think anything about it, but it kept getting tighter and tighter as the game went on.”
“The film will fool you and we really tried to guard against that because there are some films where they didn’t look very good or didn’t have the type of effort and concentration they had against Georgia, so there weren’t four and five films like Georgia. There was one or two, but it should have been enough though. It should have been enough. You know they’re fighting to go to (the SEC Championship game in) Atlanta and try to hit on all those things. That’s the thing about this league. You better come to play.
On possible personnel changes on the offensive line
“If Jose is still limping around, we’ll probably look real hard at that position, whether to go (Robert) Felton there or keep Ray Dominguez there. If we move Felton to tackle, then you move DeMarcus Love up, but you just have to wait and see. We still have a day or two to make those decisions.”
On the play of the offensive line
“You have to be physical. You have to stay on your block. The reason we’ve led the league in rushing the five out of six years is because we’ve been physical and fundamentally sound. We weren’t those things Saturday. We were not. I hate to say that to you, but we weren’t.”
On the Razorbacks’ next opponent, Mississippi State
“(Mississippi State) looks real good. They look real good. (Head coach) Sylvester (Croom) has done a good job of really getting those guy where they are right now. They’re playing hard. On defense, it seems like they’ve always been good throughout the years. Offensively is where they’re winning a lot of games because they don’t turn the ball over. You know what they’re going to run. They’re going to run right at you. They’re going to (run) play action. This will be a game of who wants to be the toughest and who wants to have the right frame of mind Saturday at 1 p.m.”
On quarterback moves during Tennessee game
“(We brought Nathan Emert in) just to change things up, just to get a spark when you have that many three-and-outs. Casey missed a few balls that I expected him to connect on. We were trying to do anything to try to get something going right there.”
On fourth-down conversion attempt in second quarter
“We have to be able to get a yard or less. Peyton has gotten a lot of first downs for us throughout the year with a yard or less. We were hoping just to get those six inches and get the first down like we’d normally done. They all slanted to that side. The nose (player) crossed our face. We missed the backside blocks and didn’t get it done.”
On opening the game with pass plays
“We started off hitting Peyton Hillis. The first drive was good. We just didn’t finish it. We knew (Tennessee) had spent a lot of time on the WildHog. We knew they spent a lot of time on the running game with Darren, so we just wanted to come out and make sure they were covering their bases. They had a younger secondary and we were going to try to hit some throws and open the run game by getting them to think about passing a little bit.”
On Tennessee’s defense
“Don’t think for a minute that just because these (SEC) stats and (Tennessee) is not listed way up there like they normally are, don’t take that for granted. These guys are capable of playing at a very high level. They’ve been under a lot of heat, so they’re playing for their coach with their backs against the wall. We’ve all been there. We knew they could play. Again, you have to find a way to put this one behind you and now go get to the next one.”
On playing in Little Rock against Mississippi State
“I’m excited about going to Little Rock. Our guys are going to have their best week of practice this week. We’re going to try to play our best game these week. Little Rock has always been a great atmosphere for us and it’ll be a good way for the seniors to go out that way. We went out the right way here. We need to go out the right way in Little Rock.”