Sunday Teleconference with HDN

One game past the halfway point in the 2009 season, the Rebels are going in the right direction at the right time after defeating Arkansas 30-17 yesterday and putting together back-to-back good games. See what Rebel Coach Houston Nutt said in his Sunday teleconference inside.

The following is a transcript of Coach Houston Nutt's Sunday teleconference after the 30-17 win over Arkansas in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium yesterday.

Nutt's Opening Statement: After watching the film, both the offensive and defensive lines graded out well. The OL - this was our best game physically and as far as assignments and effort. We had good holes and protection. The only thing we are disappointed in was that we left too many points on the field. We have to get that corrected, especially inside the five. We stopped ourselves and have to get much better doing some things. Jevan, again, threw the ball away when he needed to, got us in the right plays and was very accurate most of the day. He was also very efficient on third down. And then, there was Dexter. He dominated the game with carries, catches, yards after contact - I was so proud of him. Our defense continues, as they have all year long, to put pressure on the quarterback. This was the best quarterback we have faced and you can't give him time. We are excited about this victory, but it's over. We have a very tough opponent coming up.

Q: The struggles inside the five - was it execution or the guys up front not being physical enough?

HDN: There were a couple of things. One, the Arkansas defense is number one in our league red zone defense. They are really good down there. Two, I thought we blocked well out in the field, but we missed a block or two down deep. We got hung up on a naked route when Andy Hartmann got jammed up and I think that's a TD. I think we can execute better and we can be more physical down there, but I also have to give that defense credit. Bottom line, I know we can do better.

Q: How are you injury wise?

HDN: Pretty good. We'll see about Kentrell Lockett is this week. I expect him to be ready, but you just don't know. He's got a knee issue and we'll see how much swelling is involved. He won't go today, but hopefully we will get him back Tuesday. He got a helmet on the knee or got caught up in a pile. We hope he's OK because he's very important to us with his 40-50 plays a game and his consistency against the run and the pass. D.T. Shackelford banged up his ankle a bit and it seems like it won't get healed. He's out there about 75% and it's the same thing today. He'll probably finish the year out that way. He's tough and will play through it, but that thing won't ever get well because he keeps getting hit on it.

Q: We know the Arkansas game is emotional to you. Are there any of those same feelings with Gus Malzahn being at Auburn?

HDN: I don't look at it that way. We can't approach that game worrying about him. It's the biggest game of the year because it's the next one on our schedule.

Q: Is Rishaw Johnson going to start in this game or will you stick with Brandon Green?

HDN: We will stick with Brandon. Rishaw will be available, but we have some real chemistry going right now with Brandon. John Jerry and Daverin Geralds, who played his best game, really trust Brandon in there. I think if you watch him play by play, what an effort guy. He and Gerald Harris sprung the 64-yard screen that Dexter had.

Q: Despite playing so well offensively, you still had three turnovers. How do you address that?

HDN: The one before the half, Jevan got some pressure and rushed his throw. If he doesn't get rushed, I think he throws that in the end zone. The other one I am concerned about because he had a wide open Dexter. Jevan made good decisions all day long except that one, so in my book he had one turnover. Then, Cordera Eason fumbled during a good drive and you just can't do that. That really hurts your momentum and scoring the way we were moving the ball at the time. As I said, we just left points on the field. The score should have been worse because we were executing good. We just have to take a little better care of the ball. Through the season, we have protected the ball well other than the interceptions. The backs and wide receivers have taken care of the ball once it was in their hands. Derrick Nix and Ron Dickerson have done a good job with that. Everyone has been very ball conscious, which you have to be in our league because everyone hit hard and defenders are taught to strip the ball. We've done a good job with that and we will continue stressing winning the turnover margin.

Q: Coming into the season, you were pretty high on the defense, but did you even imagine they'd be as good as they are?

HDN: I felt if we stayed healthy we'd be a very good defense, but maybe not as good as they have played. I just have so much confidence in them. They run to the ball, Tyrone does a great job of mixing things up and keeping offenses off-balance. I'm excited about them. I just want to finish this thing right. I didn't know we'd be this good because I always worry about injury and we are thin in the secondary and at linebacker. So far, they have held up well, knock on wood. It would be a blow if we don't have Lockett though, as I said.

Q: Can Greg Hardy go that many plays?

HDN: He's going to have to.

Q: Do you feel like, for the first time this year, your team has momentum?

HDN: Yes. This is what we wanted at the start of the year, but it didn't work out. What was difficult was 31 guys with flu and a short week for South Carolina. That game burst our bubble and we had to build back up and stay together. I give a lot of credit to the seniors. They have kept this team together. They care about each other and they are unselfish. Now, we had the feeling in that locker room after the game - the togetherness, the celebrated locker room. That's momentum and that's the way you want it.

Q: You are back in the rankings. Is the team better prepared to handle that now?

HDN: We are not even looking at that. We went through that before. We are going to play one game at a time and worry about the bowls and the polls at the end of the season.

Q: What are your thoughts on Auburn?

HDN: I have watched one game so far. It seems like they are currently struggling a little on offense, but we know the talent level they have, the type of athletes they have. I know how good they are defensively. They are physical and it's a tough atmosphere. We have to get ready to play our best game, no question about it.

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