Nutt: Two Weeks Toughest of Career

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt closed his eyes for a moment, tipped back his head and tried his best to avoid reliving the past two Saturdays.

"It's probably been the toughest in my career because I never planned on this," Nutt said Tuesday, two hours before Arkansas returned to practice for the first time since the 70-17 loss at USC. "I planned on being 3-0. Or 2-1 at the worst."

But Nutt's Razorbacks have opened the season 1-2 after consecutive losses against Vanderbilt and the top-ranked Trojans. The losses alone haven't burdened Nutt. It's the way Arkansas has sustained them that bothers him.

The Hogs lost an 11-point lead against Vanderbilt, surrendering 180 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the 28-24 loss. They followed it with the worst loss of his career and, arguably, one of the worst in school history at USC.

Nutt has received support from Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles, who watched the first three quarters in the Coliseum before slipping out to "beat the traffic." Broyles said the game was tough to watch, but USC might be the best college team he's ever seen and encouraged Nutt that the Hogs can rebound.

"You have to give encouragement and support because the schedule is so tough," Broyles said. "Our schedule will be in the Top 5 in the nation, the toughest. You're kind of rebuilding, which we are, we've got a lot of young players.

"Houston is an expert at getting fired back up."

That's exactly what Nutt is trying to do this week as the Hogs prepare for No. 20 Alabama on he road. Arkansas has beaten the Crimson Tide the past two meetings, including last season's 27-10 win in Fayetteville.

"He told me to keep it going," Nutt said about his discussion with Broyles. "He said, 'No one can get them up quicker than you. No one can get these young men up and get them believing like you can. Get them believing and let's go.'"

Nutt doesn't think that will be a problem. But shaking the rebirth of a topic that has been brewing since last December won't go away as easily.

The eighth-year coach was asked about his job security during July's Southeastern Conference Media Days. Nutt said he can't control the talk. It re-emerged after the Vanderbilt loss and The Sporting News said this week that Nutt could be "out of a job by December" if the Hogs don't rebound.

Nutt, who said he doesn't read anything like that during the season, isn't concerned. Instead, he's concentrating on Alabama.

"Ya'll said that," Nutt said about media reports questioning his job security. "I don't believe that. I'm here until (his contract ends in) 2011. That's what I believe. You know what I mean?

"I've never worried about the next job. I've never worried about getting fired. I've just exhausted every minute that I've ever had into what I've got. Which is the University of Arkansas, which I feel thankful for, and do the best I can."

Broyles said he has received only three letters from fans after the USC game.

One supported Nutt. One didn't. And one hoped he could do better.

"I think people know that Houston's the man for the job," Broyles said. "He's got integrity. He's got coaching ability. He's a native. He loves his school. He loves the people. Under difficult circumstances, he's done quite well.

"And he'll do better in the future. Wait and see."

Asked if he still believed Nutt was right for the job, Broyles said "no question about it." He said the Hogs started the 2001 season 1-3 before winning six of their final seven to earn a Cotton Bowl berth. They also started SEC play 1-3 in 2002, bounced back and won the SEC Western Division championship.

"I think (the coaches) expect the fans to be upset with the way the team played," Broyles said. "The coaches accept the responsibility and have to get ready for next week. Each game starts the night of the last game. You don't wait until Sunday.

"He knows the players. He knows the momentum and look at his record with turnarounds. He knows how to get the most out of them."

And Broyles is confident Nutt will get the most out of the Razorbacks before the end of the regular season.

"There's a long, long way to go," Broyles said. "There's an old saying: They remember what you do in November. That sets up bowls. That sets up next year."

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