Nutt: It's always good to win, but I was very proud our team was very focused. We talked about this being a trap game where you play around and put the ball on the ground and don't execute. It gets to be a hard-fought game that goes four quarters. That's what I was proud of today. I was proud of our defense, how hard they played. Didn't give up anything big. Offensively we executed, especially on the ground. Our offensive line really moved the pile. They controlled the line of scrimmage. Our backs ran hard. And we were able to hit a few passes. But I was just really proud of our team. If you could see our dressing room, there's nothing like a celebrating dressing room. The price, the sacrifice they paid. Now the reward comes. With two tough weeks left, the good news is we're bowl eligible, so let's go play our best ball. Because when they remember is in November. That's kind of been our theme.
Q: Did you sense before the game your team was ready?
Nutt: Yes. I felt good after the open week, but I said well that's just the open week. The next week every day I came to you guys and said ‘We had a real good day.' So I knew, because it's always about the way you go about practice. Our guys practiced the right way. They knew how big this game was. Extremely focused and the intensity was there. It starts with our seniors. Jason Cook, who did not play today except on an extra point because of a concussion, still just so vocal as a leader for us. Jamarca Sanford, Michael Oher, Peria Jerry, boy they're leading our team. Really proud of them.
Q: You always wanted these seniors to experience a bowl game and now they will. What was it like to see those players, those seniors, a few minutes ago in that locker room?
Nutt: That's what it's all about. To see the joy of an 18-19-20 year old, the guys who have been here four or five years that have had very little success, that have never experienced a bowl. It's hard to say in words exactly what a bowl does. It does so much for your program. Recruiting. The extra 20 practices. Your freshmen that are being redshirted. They get that extra time and attention. To see the joy, it's just the joy of winning and feeling good about themselves. That's what it's about.
Q: How does it feel to accomplish one of your goals, a bowl game, with two games left?
Nutt: Well it feels good. Again, it's not me. It's the staff. It's our trainers. It's our managers. It's our video guys. It's a team effort, and that's what we talk about all the time. It's 11-man football on offense, 11-man football on defense and special teams. It's a family. We talk about one heartbeat. You're starting to see it now. When I first got here, I really felt like we had a lot of good individuals that were more to themselves, that it was pretty much an individual-type team. I feel like today you see the togetherness and chemistry, you feel like, man, they do have one heartbeat. They do more things together, and that's what the family's about. That's what the band of brothers is about. Now we can keep building on that.
Q: Your offense was impressive, but your defense only gave up 131 yards.
Nutt: You can't give our defense enough credit. When they're stopping them like that and you're getting that many three-and-outs, and you're getting great field position, we played three-fourths of that game 50 yard line this way. Doesn't take as much to execute on a short field. That's winning the field position war. Credit goes to our defense. They played hard. We've talked about Peria Jerry and Ted Laurent. Lockett keeps coming. Our backers are really improved. Ashlee Palmer, Tony Fein, Allen Walker, Patrick Trahan, and it was good to see Greg Hardy get back out on the field. You know what he can do when he's healthy. And he did it today. He's hard to block.
Q: Dustin Mouzon started today. Talk about the competition there.
Nutt: He's earned it. Boy, there's nothing like competition. Our obligation is to play the best players. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions and move people down. That doesn't mean we don't love you anymore. We want you to compete harder. We want you to play smarter. We want you to be a better player. Dustin Mouzon, Marshay, Cassius, we're going to need those guys. It's been good for him to come back the way he's come back. It would have been easy for him to pout and say I'm a senior. But he was a gunner, a gunner on a punt team, and he made every play. That's what you love. You're starting to see some unselfishness. His feet have always been good. Excellent agility. But his eyes were getting him on the deep ball. Boy he's been playing good.
Q: You ran a bunch and passed a little. Was that by design or the way it worked out today?
Nutt: Kind of worked out that way. You always try to have balance. We wanted to start the game off by sending a message that we're going to be very physical and try to put a helmet on a helmet and our backs run hard, like we're running through glass. That was our mindset. But we thought we'd throw a little bit more. The way the game was going and the way we were moving the line of scrimmage, we just depended on our run today.
Q: Was there ever a time this season you doubted this team might get bowl eligible?
Nutt: I'm always a pretty positive person. I get that from my mother. But I started having a little bit of doubt creep in when we let go of that Vanderbilt game. That really bothered me that night. I thought we'd win that one and expected to win. But you can't turn it over that many times and when you're going in to win. I was worried at that point that if we didn't flip it, flip the turnovers, because it seemed like the script was play real good for four or five series and then have two or three bad series and be charitable and give it to the other team. That's when I knew we had a real job to do to flip that. When you haven't had much success it's easy to say here we go again. That was the obstacle. It was a long journey but a good journey. We're protecting the ball better. When we turn it over one time or less, we're 6-0. We could be sitting here just as easily with nine or ten wins. But we'll take what we have and let's keep going.
Q: How big was Cordera Eason in setting the running game tone today?
Nutt: Cordera was huge. He's getting better each week. He's running with his pads over his toes and he's running with his eyes. He understands the schemes, the blocking schemes. He made a block on a passing play today that was just beautiful. He's playing really good football right now.
Q: Do you believe that with six wins and a bowl bid, your team is still hungry for more?
Nutt: We ask them is that the best we can do after each game. I want them to always be hungry and thinking they can do better. That's the attitude you have to have. Go back out there tomorrow and practice and get ready for a tough football team on the road before 94,000 hostile fans. You have to get ready. Our guys are hungry. I think they smell it now. They have good heads on their shoulders. We've got to keep working.
Q: How much did you refer to the fact that ULM beat Alabama last year prior to this game?
Nutt: Did a little bit, a couple of times. And we pointed out the film where Arkansas was down 27-6 (to ULM this year) with six or seven minutes left. We watched that film. There's nothing like visual. They'd see that and they would know, "Uh-oh. Rat trap game." Anybody can beat anybody. So about a couple of times during the week. That's what I like about our seniors. They took it upon themselves with ownership to say, "Hey, no playing around." Couple of times this week Jamarca Sanford, Peria, Michael would quiet somebody down during team part of practice which hadn't happened that much before until this week.
Houston Nutt postgame
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