Rebel Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin said he understood what Houston Nutt was going through this week.
Austin left the CFL after winning a Grey Cup championship last year to come to Ole Miss and he struggled with the decision and the aftermath of emotions.
"It was an emotional week for everyone. I uniquely understand what he was going through and the players did too," said Austin. "He's a great head coach. The players love him and wanted to win this game for him badly. I was very proud of the way our guys played, but I also give Arkansas a lot of credit. They played their guts out."
The Rebels – from an offensive standpoint – essentially sealed the game with a rugged inside running attack in the second half that ate up some clock, opened up some crucial passing lanes and effectively put the game on ice – or so it seemed before a frenzied and gallant comeback by the Razorbacks.
"We got in a situation where we had a little bit of a lead and we wanted to run some clock, but as we had some success, we just stuck with it and had even more success," Kent stated. "We continued to call the run game, but we still needed some big throws and we were able to get them in man coverage situations. We got a big throw and catch on a sprint/stutter route to Mike (Wallace) – that was a key play for us."
The Rebels threw some wrinkles at Arkansas' defense. One, Dexter McCluster was used at straight tailback and responded with 52 yards on the ground, mostly out of the I formation. Two, big OL Bradley Sowell was used as a tight end and helped solidify the run blocking with another big body in the lineup.
"We had a gameplan going in and figured out what was working. Then we made the necessary halftime adjustments and got some things going," he continued. "We've been a pretty good halftime adjustment team this year and the things we changed at halftime worked.
"Dexter has great vision and can find the seams. He can squirt through the holes before they collapse. We can't use him there all the time, but he certainly adds a different element to our offense."
The Rebels tried several deep passes and finally in the second half connected on a couple - both to Wallace.
"We thought we could run by their corners. We also switched to some different routes as well. We made enough of them to win – they were key plays," Austin noted.
Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix watched his defense play sound and solid for three-and-a-half quarters and then watched them nearly collapse.
"I was wondering if we were going to make a play at the end there. Our secondary was jumping too early and that allowed Arkansas to make some plays on us at the end," Nix said. "That's what was frustrating – we have to learn to play four quarters. You have to do that in this league and they have to understand that. We're sitting here with a win, and I am very happy about that, but we could have closed that game out a lot earlier instead of hanging on for dear life."
Nix was very pleased with the play of his defensive line anchor – Peria Jerry.
"He's a ballplayer. He comes to work everyday and is one of our leaders. I am very happy for Peria and am really glad he's playing well," Tyrone said. "Marcus Tillman had a good game as well and has been one of our most consistent players this year. He does everything to the best of his ability and does what he's coached to do."
Tyrone was not surprised Hog Tailback Michael Smith had a big night, rushing for 129 yards and a TD on just 19 carries.
"He's a very good ballplayer. He's another in a long line of great running backs Arkansas has had," Nix stated. "We didn't tackle real well in the first half, but we did a little better in the second half. Give him credit – he made us miss."
Nix said he was not really affected too much by aura surrounding the game as much as the coaches who had been at Arkansas.
"I thought everyone held that in check and prepared the same way, but it was an emotional week for a lot of guys on our staff," he commented. "Overall, we played well for over three quarters and we got away from here with a ‘W' but we did not do a good job with the ball in the air.
"I feel that is something we can correct and get better at doing."
Nix believes the Rebels are getting better, overall, but he knows they can do an even better job.
"We did a pretty good job, for the most part, tonight, but there are still things we can do better. We should have closed the door on them at the end instead of letting them back in the game, but most of our problems came with the ball in the air and, as I said, we can correct that, I believe," he closed.
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