Nutt: ‘My Contract Says 2012'

FAYETTEVILLE — Sunday was Houston Nutt's 50th birthday, but by no means was it a joyous occasion.

The embattled Arkansas football coach spent the afternoon defending his offensive coordinator and discussing his own job security following another close loss.

Saturday's 9-7 loss to No. 18 Auburn in Reynolds Razorback Stadium dropped Arkansas (3-3) to 0-3 in the Southeastern Conference and added even more uncertainty to Nutt's future with the Hogs.

But Nutt said he doesn't want his players listening to the fan criticism or worrying about whether he'll be the coach next season.

"The contract (Arkansas officials) have given me, it's real clear: It says 2012," Nutt said, referring to the one-year contract extension he received in December.

"It doesn't say you're gone (in) 2007, 2008. It says 2012."

But Saturday's loss on national TV didn't do much to calm those impatient fans who have been calling for Nutt to be fired.

The Razorbacks failed to take advantage of good field position in the first half, and offensive coordinator David Lee didn't get much production out of his unit.

Arkansas earned only 11 first downs and a season-low 193 yards of total offense.

Still, the Hogs had a chance to pull out the win when they took their only lead — at 7-6 — on a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Casey Dick to sophomore Lucas Miller with one minute and 36 seconds remaining.

But as has been the case in each of Arkansas' three SEC losses this season, the defense couldn't put together a late stand to preserve the win.

Auburn drove 50 yards on eight plays, setting up kicker Wes Byrum to win the game with a 20-yard field goal with 21 seconds left.

"Last year, we were getting all the bounces. ... I just keep waiting for it to turn," Nutt said. "I really believe it's going to turn and those balls are going to start bouncing in our favor."

Nutt said the mood in the locker room following the loss was noticeably down, especially since Arkansas' coaches and players had briefly "tasted victory" Saturday night.

With the Razorbacks likely out of the SEC West race, Nutt said he planned to tell his players during a team meeting Sunday afternoon that this was the beginning of a new season.

The Auburn loss marked the halfway point of the regular season. Arkansas will try again to get its first SEC win when it takes the field at Ole Miss (2-5, 0-4 SEC) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

"I'm basically going to present to (the players) it's a brand-new season. It's brand-new; you're at the midway point," Nutt said. "What we've been best (at) is being able to keep everybody in our circle.

"We've done that since 1998."

In 2001, the Razorbacks dug themselves out of an 0-3 start in the SEC, winning six consecutive games to finish the regular season with a 7-4 record and an invite to the Cotton Bowl.

Nutt is hoping for a similar turnaround this season. He said the focus over the next few days will be to stay positive, improve on third-down situations and tweak a passing game that continues to struggle.

As for the criticism that has sprung up on Internet message boards and sports talk radio shows, Nutt said he's not paying attention to it.

He acknowledged Sunday that there has been a few occasions when he's heard some of his players discussing the criticism. But he told them to ignore it, adding it's a waste of energy and oxygen.

"My contract says 2012. That's when it says it ends — 2012," Nutt said. "So if you're worried about that, don't worry about that. There is nothing (the critics) can do."

Alex Abrams' AP Ballot

1. Ohio State

2. South Florida

3. Boston College

4. South Carolina

5. Kentucky

6. LSU

7. Oklahoma

8. Arizona State

9. California

10. Oregon

11 West Virginia

12. Missouri

13. Southern Cal

14. Florida

15. Virginia Tech

16. Kansas

17. Auburn

18. Hawaii

19. Georgia

20. Texas

21. Tennessee

22. Cincinnati

23. Kansas State

24. Illinois

25. Penn State

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