State of the Hogs: Emotional Locker Room

Arkansas outlasted top-ranked LSU, 50-48, in triple overtime. Not surprisingly, the emotions flowed in the aftermath.

Not all locker rooms in the SEC are open after football games. For example, at LSU players are brought to an interview room with athletic department personnel present to keep things on the straight and narrow.

That's not the way it is at Arkansas. After a cooling off period, the media enters, often in a swarm.

Thank goodness or we'd all have missed the Robert Felton show and the emotion that flowed from every corner of the Razorback locker room after the 50-48 victory over top-ranked LSU. The senior offensive tackle from Houston cracked up some of his teammates, mocking LSU coach Les Miles for the way he mispronounced Arkansas – putting a heavy emphasis on Kansas. And, he had something for the Arkansas fans who have criticized head coach Houston Nutt.

"Les Miles disrespected our team and our state," Felton screamed. "We disrespected the state of Louisiana today. It's Arkansas, not ArKANSAS!"

Then, he turned to his coach and the heat from fans.

"We played this game for Coach Nutt," Felton said. "No one gave us a chance. Not even our fans. Not anyone on ESPN, no one anywhere gave us a chance. We did it for him. And, we shoved it down their throat. I'm done. We shoved it down their throat."

Fullback Peyton Hillis didn't talk down to Arkansas fans, but he had a message for them, too -- and, for Miles.

"We got one for the team, the University of Arkansas," Hillis said. "It's AR-kansas. If you are from Arkansas and you watched the Razorbacks play this game, you have to love this team, this game of football. We played for ya'll.

"If I never play another game, this is the way to go out."

With that, Hillis saw Nutt wading through the crowd towards the coaches' locker room. He thanked his coach for calling his number even after some of his chances didn't work out.

"They showed faith in me and I'm thankful," Hillis said. "They put the ball in my hands on the fourth-down play. We'd run that play just three plays before that and I didn't get it done. I did the next time.

"I'm very appreciative of the opportunities. They put me in position to make some plays. They asked me to make a big catch and I did."

Just earlier, Hillis was asked if it was his best performance. He said, "Certainly, my most emotional. It was my Super Bowl. It was to keep a team from winning the national championship, beating No. 1. Very emotional."

The emotion flowed from Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson, too. He's been with Nutt for most of his coaching career, including all 10 years at Arkansas.

"It's been unbelievable, all the stuff that's happened the last year, unbelievable," Markuson said. "It's a joke what some have done to him, a joke and I'm not kidding. I've been with Coach Nutt as long as anyone and I think I know him pretty well. It's been unbelievable what he's endured in the last year and he's just kept coaching, kept working for the University of Arkansas and this state. He's done every speaking engagement. He's handled it all with class.

"And, he's had this team with him every step of the way. We didn't win some of the games that were so close this year, but this team has played for him and played hard. The one exception might be Tennessee.

"Houston Nutt is a great person, a great coach and a great family man. As an assistant coach, you couldn't ask for someone better to work with and for. He's awesome. The environment he creates is awesome.

"This staff and these players fought for him today. The players know what has been going on. The staff knows it. This is an emotional locker room. This was an emotional game. Our players love him. These coaches love him."

And, they loved the way they won the game.

"This is our kind of game," Markuson said. "We played our kind of football, winning in overtime. On the headsets talking with David Lee in the box, I told him when we got to overtime it was our time. We've done this before. We felt that on the sideline."

Safety Matt Hewitt also recalled the sideline atmosphere during the overtime.

"I wasn't here for all those long, overtime games," Hewitt said. "But I know the history. Coach Nutt has told us the history before, that we are good in these games. I saw him smiling when we got to OT. It was a big smile. We knew then we had them."

Lee, the playcaller, said he didn't sense any of that on the headsets. If it was there, he was ignoring it.

"My job in the box is to stay calm, call the plays," he said. "That's why you want to be in the box to be away from that emotion."

And, that's what he did, even changing some of the game plan at halftime.

"There it is, still on the board over there," Lee said of the critical second-half adjustments. "They came in playing the WildHog and Darren at quarterback different than last year. We saw that they weren't putting an outside linebacker over our left tackle and were letting the free safety come up. We put a play in at the half that wasn't in the plan. That is the one that Darren went (73 yards) on them in the third quarter. That unsettled them. We had them on their heels the rest of the way."

Just as last week, Lee asked McFadden to read the triple option.

"We read it a bunch," Lee said. "Darren wasn't perfect with it. He left it with Peyton a few times when if he kept it, it would have been big. But he read it pretty well. He played great."

They all did. That goes for LSU, too.

"That's what I like about this game, that LSU didn't give it to us," said tight end Andrew Davie. "They didn't have turnovers (except for the final two-point play), didn't have penalties (just four for the game) and made us earn it. And, we did. We earned it. We took this one from the No. 1 team. It's a great, great game."

Just about then, Robert Felton greeted another reporter in the other corner.

"He's Muhammed Ali, it's his Muhammed Ali act," a teammate proclaimed just behind Felton.

Felton never proclaimed to be the greatest, or did anything in rhyme. But he did put on a show, just like the Razorbacks.

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