Nutt Not Second-Guessing Play Call

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt may have only gotten an hour or two of sleep after the Razorbacks' gut-wrenching 22-20 loss to Texas, but he didn't toss and turn over his play call on Matt Jones' fateful fumble.

On third-and-8 from the Texas 13 and needing just a field goal to take the lead with less than three minutes to play, Nutt called a sprint out for Jones.

The play is designed for Jones to roll right to sell the play, tight end Jared Hicks pretends to fall down to create the appearance of a broken play and fellow tight end Payne Hall tries to sneak unnoticed to the left side of the end zone.

"We were being aggressive," Nutt said. "But if it's not there, the greatest thing about it is Matt has people in front of him and he can turn that into a scramble. So it's a built in scramble play, too.

"We had the best of both worlds. If you go back and check since he's been playing, that play has been 90 percent positive. Something positive is going to happen."

Unfortunately for Arkansas, that last best chance for the Razorbacks against No. 7 Texas was the one in 10 play when something negative happened.

Jones scrambled left and got caught around the ankles by cornerback Michael Huff. As he was trying to pull away for extra yards, defensive tackle Larry Dibbles caught Jones from behind and stripped the ball from his right arm.

Nutt said the play would have worked had Texas been in man-to-man coverage, as it was on his first play call on third down before he called a timeout with the Razorbacks in the wrong formation.

Nutt said he thought about the safe play of running up the middle to set up the field goal, but wasn't second-guessing himself.

"We discussed both of them," Nutt said. "But we thought it was a very safe play because you're sprinting out with people in front of you. It's either going to be wide open or he's going to take off running."

When the Razorbacks retook the field for the fateful play, Nutt saw Texas had shifted to a two-deep shell coverage. Nutt said Sunday he tried to call a timeout, but the referee on his sideline couldn't give it to him in time.

"We'd probably do that same thing again," Nutt said. "Because you got the ball in No. 9's hands in a different formation and a different look. But they guessed right. They had a good coverage. If it had been man, like it had been previous, I think we score or get a first down."

Nutt also refused to second guess his star senior quarterback, who has guided the Razorbacks to many an improbable win in his career.

Jones, who has also lost fumbles at crucial times against Auburn, Ole Miss and Oklahoma in his career by carrying the ball one-handed, had the ball tucked away, Nutt said. But Dibbles made a great effort play to catch up to Jones and jar the ball loose.

"Somebody (Huff) has him and the ball is put way with three points of pressure," Nutt said. "The tackle chasing from the backside comes up through (Jones' arm) as hard as he can go. That's hard. You're trying to turn to get the extra yard and somebody comes up through and knocks it out.

"Again, if (Jones) was careless with it, that's one thing. But if you put up the plays he's made versus the ones he didn't, he has made so many plays. We wouldn't be down on that end if it wasn't for him.

"He was hurt (after the game). I don't think I've ever seen him hurt that much."

Nutt found out what most teams go through getting ready to face Jones every week in its work leading up to the contest against Texas quarterback Vince Young.

Arkansas spent most of its preparation for Texas working against what Nutt called "radar", or the shotgun option.

Nutt said the Razorbacks defense contained Young for the most part, but it wasn't prepared to stop tailback Cedric Benson.

"Hindsight is always 20/20, but that's all they'd shown," Nutt said. "So we stopped that (the shotgun option) and they went to an alternate plan of getting under center and handing it to a big bruiser seven yards deep, 235 pounds, runs 4.4, 4.5. It's downhill and they basically did it between the tackles.

"They doubled us on the point of attack, then worked up to the linebacker and created some creases."

Benson pounded out 94 of his 188 yards in the first quarter with a long of 60 to set up his 3-yard touchdown to put Texas up 16-7.

The Razorbacks adjusted by bringing their safeties down a bit to force Texas to throw and the adjustments paid off in the second half, especially late in the fourth quarter when Arkansas forced consecutive three-and-outs to set up good field position for the offense.

"You get that (option) stopped and they go to Plan B," Nutt said. "They came after us and gutted us. But the good news is once we kind of said, ‘OK, here they come with Plan B. Let's adjust, stack the box here.'

"There were times, some critical times, when our defense got three-and-outs, to give us field position and give us a chance to win the game. That's what I'm most proud of."

Young was just 11 of 22 for 150 yards against Arkansas, but he did exploit Razorback linebackers and safeties against the Longhorn tight ends.

Texas' tight ends combined for three catches, a touchdown and 85 of Young's 150 passing yards. Two of Texas' four conversions on third down came to the tight ends.

Arkansas strong safety Lerienzo Robinson vacated the middle of the field going to the sideline receiver when Young hit David Thomas for a 49-yard post route touchdown in the first quarter.

On another first-down completion to Thomas, it was middle linebacker Clarke Moore who took the wrong angle underneath to give up a 21-yard gain on third-and-12 in the second quarter.

Near the end of the third, it was Bo Scaife running a hairpin route to lose Vickiel Vaughn in the middle of the field on third-and-9 to gain 15 yards.

"The times they hit us with the tight end, we were in the right place, but our eyes were terrible," Nutt said. "We were looking outside at the one receiver, kind of looking at the quarterback. Just play your position. Stay sound. Don't try to guess.

"That's what we got caught into."

Senior receiver Carlos Ousley -- a former high school quarterback -- played four positions against Texas.

He was a receiver on his two catches for 43 yards, a tailback on his one rush for 2 and a quarterback on his 34-yard throwback pass touchdown to DeCori Birmingham. Ousley also was a defensive back when he broke up a possible interception by Huff in the third quarter to preserve Arkansas' field goal drive.

The Razorbacks have been working on the trick play from Jones to Ousley to Birmingham since the end of two-a-days. It originally was designed for former quarterback Cedric Washington to throw a pass, but the sophomore had an injured finger during two-a-days so Nutt asked for volunteers and found Ousley.

Nutt wasn't surprised it worked, but he was surprised by how well Texas had it covered.

"They have such good recovery time," he said. "They were sucked into the play on the quick screen. They start going that way and then all of a sudden they turn on a dead sprint and it looks like it's well covered. They have it double covered.

"We needed that. Against great teams, a little trickery is not bad."

Arkansas assistant strength and conditioning coach Brent Lane remains in intensive care at Washington Regional Hospital in critical condition after a motorcycle accident early Saturday morning.

Lane has been at Arkansas for five years as an assistant strength coach after stints as a student assistant and graduate assistant.

He earned his exercise science degree in 1997 from UA and is working toward a masters in sports management.

Vaughn has a high right ankle sprain and did not practice Sunday.

Defensive tackle Jeremy Harrell had his right ankle in a boot Sunday and also did not practice.

Hicks, who was thought to be questionable heading into the Texas game, played most of the night Saturday and was in action Sunday at practice.

Junior outside linebacker Michael Robinson, who suffered a seizure the Wednesday before playing New Mexico State, is still not practicing with the team and can only do light jogging, Nutt said.

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