Hogs' Nutt Talks About Cotton Bowl 'Horns Down'

Sometimes you feel like a Nutt; sometimes you just act like one. The last time Orangebloods were in the same stadium as Arkansas coach <B>Houston Nutt</B>, he was gleefully modeling the inverted Hook&#146;em sign in the waning seconds of Texas&#146; disinterested 27-6 loss to the Razorbacks in the 2000 Cotton Bowl. Both Nutt and Texas coach <B>Mack Brown </B>had some things to say about that Monday.

"The one thing that people have to realize is that my being from Arkansas it was such a joyous time, a happy time, an emotional time," Nutt said. "But people who know my heart and know what I’m about know that I would never do the de-Horns sign to a UT player, a coach, or their fans. It was at the very, very end of a ballgame and you’ve got a great feeling that you’ve won one of the biggest games of your life."

Meanwhile Mack Brown, reticent to publicly criticize anyone, said during Monday’s press luncheon that Nutt’s sideline gesture shocked him.

"I see that all the time so it didn’t surprise me to see it," Brown said, "but I’d never seen a coach do it. That surprised me. I mean, I see it all the time from fans because enough fans don’t like The University of Texas."

The Arkansas coach defended himself Monday by saying the gesture was not directed at anyone associated with The University of Texas. But for Nutt, old patterns die hard.

"Since four years of age, I can remember going to Arkansas games and every fan around me was doing the Hook’em Horns sign down in a downward position," Nutt recalled. "At the end of the (Cotton Bowl), where we’re winning with 15 seconds left, you look into the stands -- and there’s only the 45,000 sea of red, Razorback fans that were left -- and they were doing the Hook’em Horns sign that was down. All I did was just answer them back at a joyous and at a happy time, but not at a demeaning time to Coach Brown or his players."

Added Nutt, "I’m sure he’ll use that as motivation, and I probably would too."

Even without Nutt’s gesture, the Cotton Bowl loss ranks as one of Brown’s most bitter disappointments at Texas.

"We had just lost to Texas A&M, we had just lost to Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game," Brown said, "and I think one of the tougher things to do in this league is to lose the Big 12 Championship Game and try to go to a bowl game. Your crowds are disappointed and you’re disappointed. The team is disappointed, and that’s a hard, hard coaching sell for a ball game after you’ve lost what you’ve played all year to get."

As such, "They outplayed us, they outworked us, they out hit us, they were more physical than we were in the fourth quarter," Brown recalled. "They just lined up and absolutely whipped us."

That’s why Brown concluded the 2000 Cotton Bowl was "one of the more negative games, if not the most negative, since we’ve been here."

Oh, some of us can think of at least one game that was just a bit more negative. Still, Nutt’s gesture added insult to injury.

"The bottom line," Nutt concluded, "is with 30 seconds left and with Coach Broyles in the hospital and you’re going to win a big game, and you beat Texas, and if you look at the series closely, Texas has dominated the series, so the upside down Hook'em Horns was never intended in a derogatory manner toward The University of Texas. It’s more from being raised in Arkansas all my life and winning the first big game of my career."


It’s just that Texas has a football coach who (to coin a Royal-ism) acts like he’s won before. Another win over the Hogs would be mighty fine but hardly season-defining. After all, a team actually has to beat Texas more than just 25 percent of the time before Orangebloods care enough to hate them.

The ill-feeling among Razorbacks toward Texas, however, is like the stench from when the cat pees on your new sofa: it just never seems to go away. Part of Brown’s job this week is trying to impress that upon his players.

"I don’t think that we can take something that grew through the 1960s and is no longer a year-to-year rivalry," Brown said, "that can make our guys understand that the whole state of Arkansas hates us."

Added Brown, "I just told them that it’s just like the Oklahoma game."

That’s all he had to say.

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