Nutt Not Second Guessing Decision

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt didn't second guess his decision to go for it on fourth and goal from the one-yard line in the first quarter of Saturday's 28-24 loss against Vanderbilt.

But a third straight handoff to Peyton Hillis was stuffed short of the goal line as Vanderbilt stacked the line with 10 of its 11 defenders.

"If we give Peyton a running start, he's going to get it and he's going to make a yard," Nutt said during his Sunday press conference. "There's no doubt in my mind, that's the way I would have done it 10 times over again."

Nutt said missed blocks on the play and penetration by linebackers shooting the gaps was enough to disrupt Hillis' momentum in the backfield. In fact, the Razorbacks' tailback never even made it back to the original line of scrimmage.

"They were in the gaps and they were crashing, which they hadn't shown and that was a little different for us," Nutt said. "The linebackers got through. It's tough when you're jammed in there toe-to-toe. It's tough to get to the linebacker and they had two linebackers that came over the top and got through untouched and that's why Peyton couldn't get a running start."

While Nutt believed the fourth down call was the correct one, he did wish he would have tried something different sooner in the goal-line series.

"On the earlier down, of course if I had it to do over again, I probably would've faked it and let Robert keep it or something," Nutt said. "It's easy on Sunday (to second guess), but when things are happening within 25 seconds, you just have so much confidence in the offensive line and (fullback) Brandon Kennedy that we're going to get a yard."



Learning Curve

Nutt and Hogs quarterback Robert Johnson wish they could have had back two more of the 73 offensive plays run during the loss.

Both came late as Johnson, after gaining a first down, was forced out of bounds to stop the clock and save time for the Commodores' game-winning drive. He then threw an interception as the Hogs tried to move into field-goal range at the end of the game.

"Robert was trying to stay in bounds and it was pretty close, it wasn't like he just ran out of bounds," Nutt said. "He had one leg in there and one leg out and I've seen a lot of times where the official will still run that clock. You can't make it close, though. You've got to stay in bounds.

"Those were the two decisions that he made to me that were bad."

Nutt said Johnson, making his second career start, showed marked improvement over his performance in a season-opening 49-17 win against Missouri State. He was especially sharp passing on the move and, for the most part, made smart decisions until the final two possessions.

Using seven different receivers, Johnson was 17 of 28 for a career-high 204 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a couple of passes dropped and three balls batted down, something Nutt blamed on the offensive line.

"We've got to get hands down on that," Nutt said. "That's a three-step (drop) and we've got to chop there at the line of scrimmage to let (Johnson) have a throwing lane. But I thought he threw some pretty good balls there. I thought he threw a beautiful one to Marcus Monk on a corner route in the pocket and he came down to the (tailback) a couple of times.

"For two games, I really see a guy that's starting to feel some confidence. There's times out there where he looks like a veteran quarterback."



Questioning Calls

While Nutt has to keep his comments guarded when talking about officials in order not to be reprimanded by the Southeastern Conference, he did express displeasure in two penalties on Vanderbilt's game-winning drive.

"I wish the official would have kept his flag in his pocket a few times," Nutt said. "Two of penalties were very questionable. I don't know how they call them, I really don't."

Cornerback Darius Vinnett was whistled for holding to give the Commodores a first down on the second play of the drive, but the most glaring was a pass interference call on safety Randy Kelley as he trailed Vandy's Marlon White on a pass that appeared to be overthrown.

"The receiver doesn't try to catch it," Nutt said. "The ball is clearly over his head. Randy is just playing the play. He's not even grabbing or holding, he's just running with him.

"Darius Vinnett's was pretty close, but I probably shouldn't even talk about that."



Are You Experienced?

Talented true freshmen tailbacks Darren McFadden and Felix Jones received only one rushing attempt each as Nutt relied on Hillis and senior De'Arrius Howard for the bulk of the carries.

"When the score is like it is, you need experience," Nutt said. "The thing about De'Arrius Howard is we feel like he's going to lock onto the ball. There's no question about it. And he was running good."

Nutt obviously trusts the true freshmen to secure the ball on special teams as both returned every kickoff. After a couple of muffs by Michael Coe, Jones also fielded the final punt return and now has "the upper hand" on Coe for that job.

Jones did have the ball slip out of his hands on his only rushing attempt, but officials ruled him down before the fumble.

"They stripped him and the ball came out way too easy," Nutt said. "That makes you nervous on the sidelines. We've got a lot of confidence in Felix Jones, we really do, but in a game like that, De'Arrius was giving us good, hard effort and so was Peyton."



Injury Report

Five Razorbacks did not dress for Saturday's game because of injuries. They were Chris Baker (knee), Jared Hicks (ankle), Zac Tubbs (ankle), Michael Smith (hamstring) and Cody Green (back). Nutt said he's doubtful that Hicks and Tubbs will be ready to play at Southern Cal on Saturday.

Baker had a magnetic resonance imaging scan performed Saturday morning, but the results were not available on Sunday.

Although they did dress, tight end Wes Murphy (ankle) and defensive tackle Jeremy Harrell (thigh bruise) did not play Saturday.

Only two injuries were reported after the game. They were center Kyle Roper (sprained ribs) and linebacker Pierre Brown (sprained knee). Both returned after suffering the injuries and neither are expected to miss any action this week.



Charitable Teamwork

Players on the traveling squad and staff members combined to donate $1,000 for Hurricane Katrina victims. Nutt matched that amount to raise the total donation from the Razorbacks to $2,000.

In addition, the University of Arkansas teamed with the Northwest Arkansas chapter of the American Red Cross to raise a total of $34,795 to aid relief efforts during the past two games.


Hawgs Daily Top Stories