Nutt said he was proud the Razorbacks laid their "guts on the line" in a hostile environment. Then a locker slammed.
He said they went toe-to-toe with one of the best in the country and didn't act like they were 2-4. Then a frustrated player shouted.
"We lost the game and we're upset," Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said a little later. "We're mad because we could've won the game."
Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden set the school's single-game freshman rushing record with 190 yards and scored two touchdowns. The defense knocked Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley out and shut down the Bulldogs' rushing attack. And the Razorbacks outgained the Bulldogs 332-217, scored more than any Georgia opponent and surrendered their fewest points during Southeastern Conference games.
But it wasn't enough to upset Georgia (7-0, 5-0) in front of 92,746 in Sanford Stadium. The Hogs (2-5) fell to 0-4 in the SEC for the first time since 1996 and must win their final four games to become bowl-eligible.
"I guess (we're stuck) between a rock and a hard place," said fullback Peyton Hillis. "It's really tough, but we know we can beat a lot of teams in the SEC. But we're just not doing it for some reason. We come out against the No. 4 ranked team and put on a good show. But we've still got a lot of missed penalties and a lot of mistakes."
Penalties, turnovers and an inability to make big plays in the passing game proved to be the difference in a game the Razorbacks controlled in the trenches.
Nutt re-opened the starting job at quarterback after the Auburn game and considered Johnson, Alex Mortensen and Casey Dick last week. But he decided on Johnson on Wednesday night and left the sophomore on the field Saturday.
Johnson's primary role was to hand the ball to McFadden, who had a career-high 31 carries. The freshman scored on a 70-yard touchdown run in the first half to help the Hogs pull to within 14-7. His 1-yard score in the fourth quarter made it 23-20.
McFadden went over 100 yards for the third straight game and notched his seventh and eighth touchdowns. He also set Arkansas' single-season freshman rushing record (682), eclipsing the mark Cedric Cobbs set in 1999 (668).
"Darren McFadden hits the hole quicker than anyone," Nutt said. "He's a home run hitter and he proved that (Saturday) against the fourth-ranked team in the country.
"I don't know how many yards he had. But he had enough."
The problem was, the Razorbacks couldn't hand the ball to their weapon when they got the ball at the Arkansas 7 trailing 23-20 with 2:18 remaining.
Johnson couldn't help the Hogs move the ball late, completing 2 of 6 passes for 18 yards on their final drive. Johnson was sacked once, rushed for a five-yard loss and also was penalized for throwing the ball after stepping over the line of scrimmage.
The Hogs' upset bid ended when Johnson heaved an incomplete pass on fourth-and-21 from the Razorbacks' 10 with 55 seconds left. He finished 11 of 19 for 116 yards with 1 interception, but completed only one pass to a wideout.
"Things just aren't going through for us," said Hillis, who led Arkansas in receiving with 5 catches for 43 yards. "We're running the ball effectively and that's a good thing. But our passing game needs to come around."
It didn't help that most of Arkansas' 10 penalties came at key times. So did Arkansas' two turnovers, which led to 10 Georgia points.
Georgia cornerback Tim Jennings intercepted a pass in the first half at the Arkansas 22 and fullback Brannan Southerland put the Bulldogs up 14-0 on a one-yard scoring plunge. Hillis was responsible for the second turnover in the fourth quarter, fumbling a punt at the 19 with Arkansas trailing 20-13.
Georgia kicker Bandon Couto added a 27-yard field goal — his third — to give the ‘Dawgs a 23-13 lead with 7:41 left.
"I looked down just before I caught it and saw a lot of open running room," Hillis said. "I just went a little bit too fast."
Arkansas' biggest concern entering the game was Shockley, the SEC's leader in total yards (281. 3). The fifth-year senior proved worthy early, guiding the Bulldogs to a 6-play, 66-yard touchdown drive on its opening possession.
But Shockley left with a sprained knee in the second quarter and was 6 of 10 for 74 yards. His replacement, Joe Tereshinski III, was 5 of 9 passing for 91 yards.
Tereshinski's biggest play was a 43-yard bomb to receiver Sean Bailey late in the first half. The pass — which was the longest of Tereshinski's career — gave Georgia the ball at Arkansas' 15 with nine seconds left before the break.
"We were screaming that it's going to be a deep ball," Nutt said. "Just a poor play on our part. There's nothing to talk about. It's a bad play."
Coutu knocked in a 32-yard field goal to make it 17-7 at halftime.
"You know they're going to be a team that's going to run the ball," Georgia coach Mark Richt said about the Razorbacks. "Our goal was to score enough points to where they couldn't stick with their game plan."
But the Bulldogs couldn't pull away in the second half thanks to two turnovers and an Arkansas defense that refused to let Georgia back in the end zone.
Tailback Thomas Brown's fumble on the first play of the third quarter was recovered by defensive end Jamaal Anderson at the Bulldogs' 16. Guard Jonathan Luigs was penalized for holding on first down, Johnson was sacked on the next and the Hogs settled for Chris Balseiro's 33-yard field goal to make it 17-10.
Cornerback Michael Grant intercepted a pass at the Bulldogs' 32 with Arkansas trailing 20-13. But a holding penalty backed up the Hogs and Balseiro missed a 45-yard attempt with 12:22 left.
Arkansas, which surrendered 233 rushing yards to Auburn last Saturday, held the Bulldogs to 52 on 30 attempts Saturday. Georgia also was 3 of 11 on third down.
But it wasn't enough for the Razorbacks, who dropped their 10th straight to a ranked opponent and are 0-5 against Georgia under Nutt.
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