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December 2, 2006
CLAUDE FELTON: We've got Jamaal Anderson, Darren McFadden and Marcus Monk. I think we'll start and let's ask each one of the athletes just a couple of general thoughts on the game, and then we'll take your questions. Jamaal, would you like to go first, just general comments on the game?
JAMAAL ANDERSON: It was a well-fought game. We came in and started out kind of slow, but the second half we came out there, we produced, we got up, had the momentum. Just one play right there changed the momentum around and got to them, and it was hard for us to get it back. Just a couple mistakes here and there would have changed the outcome of the game.
MARCUS MONK: We played a good team, a great team, and like Jamaal said, we had a few too many mistakes. We knew coming in, the game wasn't going to be given to us. I felt we came in the second half, played hard, and I felt we played hard the whole game. I mean, someone has to lose, someone has to win, but unfortunately we lost this one. We've just got to stay focused right now and just bounce back because the season is not over yet.
DARREN McFADDEN: Like they said, we had too many mistakes. We had a slow start in the first half, came in third quarter, playing good. We knew coming into the game that they were a good team, so we knew whoever had the fewest mistakes was going to win the ballgame.
Q. Darren or Marcus or any of you guys, did you feel like you had the momentum? The game was in your hands right when they were punting, and then the muffed punt, that took the game away.
DARREN McFADDEN: Right there at that point in the game, I felt like we had the momentum and we had the muffed punt. So it was just a real change in momentum real quick.
MARCUS MONK: You know, there was a certain change in the game. I mean, we had other opportunities, though. You just can't put it out on their plate. But it changed the momentum some.
Q. For any of the players, what turned on the switch at halftime? What happened? It was like the third quarter you came out a different team.
MARCUS MONK: I mean, we compete; we're not going to give up. I felt we fought to the end tonight, too. We went in at halftime and we understood that we gave away points, we just had to come out and play hard until the game was over with, and I felt we did that.
DARREN McFADDEN: Like he said, we had a slow start in the first half, but we knew going into the half that we had to make some adjustments and come out and play our best ball.
JAMAAL ANDERSON: We also had a spark right at the end of the first half with Marcus Monk's touchdown, and I think that gave us a lot of momentum going into the half. We knew that we weren't that far away, and it just sparked the plug in us. We knew that half was over and we had another 30 minutes to play, and we came out there on fire in the beginning.
Q. Darren, why do you think you guys had a tough time getting a consistent running game going and how would you rate Florida's defense this year?
DARREN McFADDEN: Well, they're one of the toughest defenses in the country this year. We came out there and ran the ball, we just didn't get the big runs we wanted.
Q. Kind of talk about what kind of emotions were you guys going through. Obviously you talked about the momentum shift. Talk about being down 17 and then up and then back down 10. What kind of emotions were you going through?
MARCUS MONK: It's been like that all season in a lot of our games. The coaches, they tell us to keep fighting, don't ever give up. We wasn't just going to quit just because we was down at halftime. We kept fighting, just a few mishaps and no telling who would have won.
Q. Darren, on your touchdown pass to Felix Jones, is that a read because it was so far off of him, or was that the play?
DARREN McFADDEN: It was originally a run play for me to run it, and then when he was out there and no one was on him, I threw the ball to him.
Q. Darren, after that touchdown, you looked like you were hobbling a little bit, was your foot bothering you at all tonight?
DARREN McFADDEN: My ankle was just a little sore. It got rolled up on one play and it was just a little sore on me.
Q. Did any of y'all anticipate a game like this where it looked like plays were being drawn up on dirt, all kinds of tricks? Did you feel like everybody would empty the playbook for this game?
MARCUS MONK: I felt like both teams wanted to win, and we knew we weren't going to hold anything back. It's too late in the season and there ain't any sense in it. I knew coming in, it would be a hard-fought game.
Q. Darren, when did you hurt your ankle?
DARREN McFADDEN: It was on a play like I ran, like, a little hitch route on the sideline and it got twisted up.
Q. What quarter was that?
DARREN McFADDEN: It was early in the second quarter, late in the first.
CLAUDE FELTON: We'll continue on with Coach Nutt and we'll ask him to give us just some general comments on the game and then we'll take questions.
HOUSTON NUTT: I'm just really proud of this football team. I really love them. I just love their heart, their determination. They've never given up. They've never let go of the rope. It could have been -- there was two, three, four plays where I really thought we had the momentum there, especially that third quarter, really had the momentum on our side until that fumbled punt. That really hurt.
But I thought we played hard. We played hard, and that's the reason we're in Atlanta. These guys earned it.
It's not easy to get here, guys, as y'all know. It's not easy to get here. I'm just really proud of the way they played and competed.
Q. Houston, obviously tomorrow there's going to be some debate about whether or not Florida is going to be able to move up. USC lost. What's your take on Florida as far as playing for the National Championship? Do you think they deserve to get there?
HOUSTON NUTT: Well, I'm always for our conference. You know, this is the toughest conference in America. If we were sitting on the other sideline we'd be saying absolutely. I wish them all the best and hope they have an opportunity to go.
Q. Houston, they called you on a four-yard carry, what was the key to that for Florida?
HOUSTON NUTT: You've got to give them credit. They did a great job of really getting off blocks. It wasn't any one thing, one particular defense. They crowded the line of scrimmage but everybody has crowded us all year long. They have tremendous athleticism, tremendous position. They did that all year. Their ends and linebackers are very, very quick, and they just did a good job.
Again, we were still able to keep them off balance and score some points on them. We had our opportunity there in the third quarter.
Q. Not just the muffed punt but some other special teams mistakes, how bad does that really hurt y'all chances tonight?
HOUSTON NUTT: It always hurts in a big game. Any time you're in a championship game and you get a punt blocked and then -- well, you drop one for them for an easy score -- you can't give away points. We all know that. That really hurt.
Q. How much did Darren's injury in the first half hurt you guys in the first half?
HOUSTON NUTT: I wasn't going to use it as an excuse on the previous man's question, but y'all know Darren McFadden wasn't the same from the first quarter on. He got hurt -- we threw the ball out there to him on the quick uncovered, he got his ankle rolled up and he wasn't full speed and wasn't himself, so that had a lot to do with it.
Q. Yesterday you were saying that your kind of game is a 20-point, 30, kind of game. Were you surprised that it kind of became like this?
HOUSTON NUTT: A little bit, but the blocked punt I'm surprised about more. I'm surprised more about the muffed punt. That's what I'm surprised more about.
You know, we had our opportunities, and we were toe to toe with them, especially in that third quarter. We had a lead, momentum, we had everything in our favor.
You just can't make mistakes like that in this type of game, in a heavyweight type of game. And you can't give away seven points for sure.
Q. Did you have a game plan for Percy Harvin, and how much of a back-breaker was that run in the fourth quarter?
HOUSTON NUTT: We definitely game-planned for him. He is very, very difficult to stop because he can catch the football. They run screens with him and they move him back as a running back, a lot like we do with Darren McFadden. It's hard to cover your bases with all the speed on the field, and you've got to do a great job. But I thought in the third quarter our defense really came on like they've done all year long. They continued to fight, they played hard, and they don't give up. So I was proud of that point.
There's two to three mistakes that you take away seven points that you give them, it's a different game. It's a three-point game now, it's a different game. There's a lot of ways you can analyze it and we'll be thinking about it a lot.
Here's the thing to me that's really the key: The first time we came here we felt like we were just glad to be here. Guys, we came to win the trophy. Our guys came to win a trophy. It wasn't 30 to 3 like in years past. Last time Arkansas played here it wasn't a real ballgame. This was a real ballgame tonight.
Q. How important was Payton's absence in terms of blocking and not being able to return punts?
HOUSTON NUTT: The last three or four games you can see that you miss him, but you only can go there with the guys that are there full of speed fighting their guts out, Mitch Petrus, Farod Jackson were playing their guts out because they were playing as hard as they can.
Q. On the missed punt, was that where he was on the field?
HOUSTON NUTT: Absolutely, yeah.
Q. And how much did that take away from the team's enthusiasm after all those big defensive plays?
HOUSTON NUTT: It was a momentum swing. Naturally when you're ahead and things are in your favor, you're going to get good field position. They ran the reverse on us there, the fake punt, and that hurt. But then the defense still stops them, and then you fumble that ball on the three yard line, you just lost track of where he was, you can't do that, and then that's seven points given gift wrapped. That just hurts.
Q. Third quarter Weston Dacus gets the interception, then it gets returned for a touchdown. Talk about the defense, and what did Coach Herring say at halftime, if you can say, to get these guys going?
HOUSTON NUTT: He didn't say much. The one thing that this guy has done, if you've watched this team all year long, they've always fought for four quarters. They played hard. They knew they were in a championship game. They wanted to win the trophy, like I mentioned earlier. All they did was compete and they competed hard for 60 minutes. There's a lot of heart in that dressing room.
The meaning I want to get across is they just didn't show up. They just didn't say, I'm glad to be here. They were a true champion that came through the front door on the western side of the division and could have easily been winners tonight, but you can't make mistakes at crucial times.
Q. Do you have any idea what your Bowl situation is and do you have any preference?
HOUSTON NUTT: No, I just think this team deserves the best, the best available because they deserve it, January 1st. A January 1st Bowl, they deserve it.
Q. Would that be the Capital One Bowl?
HOUSTON NUTT: I don't know that.
Q. Do you think most of the people or all the people that vote in these polls, do you think they understand how difficult it is to go 12 and 1, as Florida did playing in this league?
HOUSTON NUTT: No. I really wish everybody had the opportunity to go to Auburn, to go to Florida, to go to Arkansas, to go to LSU or let us come to their place, and you do that, and we got the lead eight times, and play that schedule. It's a hard schedule, really hard. It's hard to get to this game. Not one of y'all picked us to be in this game, not one, and it's hard.
So to answer your question, I just feel like it's absolutely one of the most difficult things to do, to have one loss in this league.
Q. Obviously you guys game-planned for Florida, but do you think you were caught off guard a little bit when they took that 17-0 lead?
HOUSTON NUTT: No, no. The only thing that hurt us a little bit was Darren wasn't 100 percent. That hurt us a little bit. That caught us off guard. But we knew they were athletic, they knew they were explosive. They're a big-play team. That's how they make their points. They have tremendous athletes at each position and they make big plays. You just keep fighting, keep competing, and that's what this group did.
Q. After winning ten straight games and then losing these last two heart-breaking losses, how does that affect your team's psyche?
HOUSTON NUTT: Well, the good thing about it is we've got some time now, some time to get a week away and be a student, maybe gets some bumps and bruises healed. I just got through telling them that I'm very, very proud of them and we're going to a great Bowl, and we're going to get excited about it when that time comes. Nobody likes to lose. These guys won ten straight, hadn't lost in three months. We really had intentions of bringing home that trophy. I really wanted to hand that trophy to Coach Broyles tonight, and I didn't get to do that.
End of FastScripts