Nutt Promises More Creativity

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas' anemic offensive performance in the 9-7 loss to Auburn didn't sit well with coach Houston Nutt.



In fact, Nutt hinted that the unimpressive effort will change the way the Razorbacks approach the second half of the season.

"You will see more creativity," Nutt said. "I encouraged (offensive coordinator) David (Lee) last night, ‘Turn it loose. Let it go. Don't hold anything back now.' You'll probably see more of that especially since people are going to start crowding and crowding and crowding the box."

Arkansas' offense struggled to get anything accomplished against the Tigers and finished with 193 yards (67 rushing, 126 passing). Even more, the Razorbacks gained 71 yards on their scoring drive late in the game.

It was Arkansas' lowest offensive output since a 139-yard effort in the 30-3 loss to Georgia in the 2002 SEC Championship Game.

Most of the problems Saturday night came on third down, when the Razorbacks converted just 3 of 13 times. The Hogs went three-and-out on four of 12 possessions. Their longest drive lasted seven plays.

"Too many third and longs," Nutt said. "That's not our game. We've been real good at first down and second down and we have a manageable third down game. That's when we're good. We're not good right now at third and long."

Nutt said there are no personnel changes planned. Instead, he said the offensive line must stay on its blocks longer for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, receivers must make plays in one-on-one coverage and quarterback Casey Dick must make better throws.

Nutt said the run game, obviously, will remain the focal point because it is Arkansas' strong suit despite the recent struggles.

"You don't call a play to McFadden and think, ‘OK, this is going to go for just one,'" Nutt said. "It's easy to say, ‘They're running it up the middle again.' You wouldn't say that if he creases it like Felix or McFadden does last week and they hit down the sideline. ... You never know when these guys are going to break."

But their chances of busting loose will increase with some creativity, which didn't appear until the fourth quarter last Saturday.

Arkansas opened their scoring drive with McFadden throwing a pass out of the Wild Hog formation, which drew a pass interference penalty. The next play, receiver Robert Johnson completed a pass to fullback Peyton Hillis.

"We're going to keep working on those things to get us better," Nutt said about the passing offense. "We've got a few wrinkles we feel like we can get into this week hopefully to help us."



HEISMAN HOPES DASHED?

Arkansas' hopes aren't the only thing that took another hit with the Auburn loss. So did McFadden's Heisman Trophy campaign.

The junior rushed for 43 yards on 17 carries in front of a national television audience, which was his lowest performance since a 42-yard effort against Southern Cal in 2006.

"I think one good game will get him right back in it," Nutt said of the Heisman Trophy race. "If you did a comparison everybody's had maybe one game where it wasn't their best. I don't think it will take him long at all to get back in it."

McFadden, who still leads in the SEC in rushing (822 yards), won't get another chance to impress on television for now. Arkansas' next two games against Ole Miss and Florida International won't be televised.



MONK DECISION

Receiver Marcus Monk made his season debut when he stepped on the field for one play during the first drive. How much he'll play this week — if at all — hasn't been determined.

"He wants to play and we'll have to make a decision," Nutt said. "If he is going to redshirt, he can't play anymore."

Monk, who sustained a right knee injury in the preseason and has undergone two surgeries, said he has no plans to redshirt this season. Nutt said the senior's health has improved the past few weeks and believes he's inching closer to full strength.

"I know he's getting close, I just don't know how close he is yet," Nutt said. "So we'll just have to let Marcus decide."



PUNT RETURN WOES

Arkansas' ongoing search for a reliable punt returner will continue after cornerback Jerell Norton muffed two punts against the Tigers.

The sophomore recovered both fumbles, but Nutt said his shaky play is unacceptable. Norton and receiver Reggie Fish will be competing for the job in practice this week.

"It's been the most difficult thing we've had to do the last couple years is get a consistent punt returner," Nutt said. "You feel like you got one, now Jerell puts it on the ground. ... We've got to get some consistency."



EXTRA POINTS

The Razorbacks lost a game in which they didn't allow a touchdown for the first time since 1993, when Arkansas suffered a 6-0 setback against Memphis State. ... Jones touched the ball 10 times against Auburn (6 rushes, 2 catches, 2 kickoff returns). It was the first time in 14 games he has had 10 touches or fewer. ... The rushing offense fell from No. 2 to No. 3 in the nation after the 67-yard performance against Auburn. The Razorbacks (293.2) now trail Navy and West Virginia in rushing yards a game.

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