Controversial Call Sets Tone For Latest Loss

It may have been appropriate that Southeastern Conference official Conrad Carney had an "H" on the back of his striped shirt Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium. Could it have stood for "horrible?"

But it would be hard to pin Arkansas' 35-32 loss to South Carolina on Carney, the head linesman who blew a play dead that should have been a muffed kick Arkansas recovered deep in Carolina territory early in the game.

Inadvertent whistles are part of the game of college football and happen every week at some venue across the nation. They usually don't reverse the outcome of a play, and rarely mean one team might win or the other might lose.

I'm not sure that happened this time, but I bet there are some on the Arkansas team or on its coaching staff that feel that way today.

It was obvious Houston Nutt, the UA head coach, was still upset about that play when referee Matt Austin came to him on the sideline in the closing seconds to tell him that he had no more timeouts. Nutt's brother, running backs coach Danny Nutt, sprinted straight to Austin as the final seconds ticked away to give him a piece of his mind.

I'm guessing Austin had little to say to either one of the coaches except an apology for a blown call.

I'm guessing he didn't want to tell Nutt his crew had "made a terrible mistake" when it happened some three hours earlier. Nutt said that's what he was told.

With all that said, as inadvertent whistles go, this was a bad one, but not the worst I've ever seen. I saw an Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference title decided on an inadvertent whistle when the winning touchdown was waved off on a play in the last 30 seconds.

In that game, a referee thought a running back had been tackled short of the goal line on a dive over the top of the line. The problem that time was that the quarterback had the ball and he was running around the end when the whistle blew the play dead.

Nutt said he had never seen a similar inadvertent whistle before, but Mike Markuson, his line coach, remembers one in a high school game that erased a touchdown by the other team.

"That was in a game I was playing in, a long, long time ago," Markuson said. "I just can't believe it happened on a kicking play like it did today. Never saw that before.

"There's nothing you can do about it, and you can't let it get to the point that it affects the outcome. We did today. We made mistakes. We had turnovers. We shouldn't have let it be a part of what happened, but we did.

"It gives you a real sick feeling. A lot of things happened today and that was something you are going to remember."

Cornerback Chris Houston said it was a play that "took the wind out of our sails for awhile." Ultimately, it was another strange play that Houston will be thinking about. He thought he had "slung" USC receiver Noah Whiteside to the ground for what would have been a short gain on a critical play in the Gamecocks' winning drive.

"The tackle I made, or the one I thought I made, I thought the man was down," Houston said. "I had him wrapped up and just slung him down. I thought he went down, but I guess he didn't.

"I guess it was one of those lucky plays. We had some lucky plays go against us today. That's all I can say. We didn't get the right breaks today.

"You can't worry about it now. I know that's what coach Nutt told us when he called timeout (after the inadvertent whistle). He told us it was obvious that (the refs) weren't going to give us nothing and we had to forget it."

That's probably what the Hogs will be told today.

Forget it. Play on. There are three more games to play. That's easier said than done. "We have to just fight our way out of this hole," said tight end Jared Hicks. "Every loss is hard, but the things that happened to us today make this one really hard."

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