Big Win Over Ole Miss Started In UA Meeting

FAYETTEVILLE — Last September, Arkansas' players gathered in the team meeting room on the Sunday following an embarrassing loss to Southern California on national TV.

Several players spoke their minds, and everyone else listened. The message was clear: The season was not lost.

That meeting has been credited as the catalyst that helped the Razorbacks turn around their 2006 season. Arkansas coach Houston Nutt is now hoping for much of the same luck.

Nutt said Sunday that the seeds for Saturday's 44-8 win at Ole Miss were planted a week earlier when he met with his players to discuss the future.

His message to them following a disappointing 9-7 loss to Auburn: It's a new season, so don't worry about the past.

"We were in a hole, our backs against the wall," Nutt said. "(I told them), ‘If you believe everything that some people may tell you, we could go backward in a hurry. Or we could really stick together, stay together and really try to get better and go play our best ballgame.'"

The message got through — at least for one week.

Facing a must-win situation, Arkansas (4-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) put together a dominant performance on both sides of the ball and cruised to the 36-point win over Ole Miss.

Even Nutt admitted he was surprised by how easily his team won in Oxford.

Arkansas' defense forced four interceptions, recorded six sacks and flustered Ole Miss quarterback Seth Adams throughout the afternoon. The offense, meanwhile, rebounded from its sluggish performance a week earlier against Auburn.

As a result, the Razorbacks earned their first conference win to avoid falling into last place in the SEC West. More importantly, though, the victory gave the players a much-needed boost of confidence.

"This was an important game, we all knew that. This was a very, very important game — big," Nutt said Sunday afternoon. "I told our guys, ‘This will really define us, this week in Oxford, about which way we're going to go.'

"I think the schedule is set up (to where) we can win all our games. We can win every one. It's going to take great effort, great attitude, great focus, all of that."

Win out? That might be asking a lot.

Arkansas faces its most difficult stretch in the schedule following this Saturday's game against Florida International (0-7) in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

In November, the Hogs host No. 16 South Carolina, travel to Tennessee, play Mississippi State in Little Rock and then end the regular season with a highly anticipated game at No. 3 LSU.

"It's a new season. We've got five games left, so we've got to keep things rolling," Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick said. "Hopefully, it will be a snowball effect and keep things going."

Nutt credited senior players like fullback Peyton Hillis, wide receiver Robert Johnson and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison for stepping up over the past week and providing the type of leadership that was noticeably lacking over the first half of the season.

The result was perhaps Arkansas' most complete game of the season.

"It was a solid day. We needed that type of feeling, that celebrated locker room," Nutt said of the Ole Miss victory. "It was a good feeling."

Alex Abrams' AP Ballot

1. Ohio State

2. Boston College

3. LSU

4. Oklahoma

5. Arizona State

6. Oregon

7. West Virginia

8. Southern Cal

9. Florida

10. Kansas

11. South Florida

12. Missouri

13. Virginia Tech

14. Kentucky

15. Virginia

16. South Carolina

17. Hawaii

18. California

19. Georgia

20. Texas

21. Rutgers

22. Alabama

23. Auburn

24. Michigan

25. Penn State

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