OXFORD – The emotions surrounding Houston Nutt’s departure as head coach at Arkansas have died down for the most part.
At least that’s what Nutt, in his third season as Ole Miss coach, believes to be true as he takes the Rebels for the second time to visit the school at which he compiled a 75-48 record in 10 seasons.
Arkansas is still looking for its first win against Nutt. Ole Miss defeated the Razorbacks 23-21 in Fayetteville two years ago, 30-17 in Oxford last year.
Nutt paused and chose his words carefully when asked if this week’s game was of extra importance among Arkansas fans who want to “beat Houston.”
“I think it’s died down, but I’m sure there’s a few that want to see that,” he said.
The last Ole Miss trip to Fayetteville included Ole Miss fans late in the game yelling, “Houston Nutt, Houston Nutt …” and Arkansas fans responding with shouts of “Bobby, Bobby …”
Ole Miss tailback Brandon Bolden, a freshman on the 2008 team, has vivid memories of his first trip to Arkansas.
“I think it will be just as hot, because they came here and got beat last year, and now we’re going back there, and I’m pretty sure they still don’t like coach Nutt, just like we don’t like them. We’ll just go out there and see,” he said.
Bolden called the atmosphere at Reynolds Razorback Stadium “crazy” for that game.
It was the first season for both coaches at their new schools.
The Rebels (3-3, 1-2 SEC) and Razorbacks (4-2, 1-2) kick off at 11:21 a.m., for the SEC Network (WCBI) telecast.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino says his team needs emotion to play a big part but not negative emotion that may come from Razorbacks fans eager to see their team win against their former coach.
“We need our crowd to get up early, come here, fire us up, like they did for the Alabama game, have that same type of atmosphere because that was awesome. Let the whole state, university and football team be upbeat, happy, and go play football like we know how.”
Mallett expected to play, Petrino and Masoli
n Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett sustained a concussion in the 65-43 loss to Auburn, a loss that dropped the Razorbacks to No. 21 in this week’s AP Top 25.
Mallett has shown no lingering symptoms and could be back at practice as soon as today, Petrino said.
“He’s had no problems, and if that continues, he might get to practice,” Petrino said. “That’s what I’m hoping anyway.”
Petrino says Ole Miss is a very different offense with Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback.
Struggling with turnovers earlier in the season, Masoli has had just one in the last two weeks, a tipped ball that was picked off at Alabama.
“They’re incorporating a lot of the read-zone stuff, and quarterback runs, more spread formations, I guess. When we’ve played them the last couple of years, they’ve been more of a power-running game,” Petrino said.
Petrino was introduced to Masoli in the fall of 2008, as Masoli took a quick recruiting visit before signing with Oregon.
“He was on campus here for 24 hours. That was really it,” he said.
Watching Hogs and Tigers
n Ole Miss players, like most people, had to look twice at the Arkansas-Auburn score, a 65-43 Auburn victory decided just a little while before the 8:15 p.m. kick for the Ole Miss-Alabama game.
“When I first looked it I was like this must be a basketball game they just played,” Bolden said. “It was two powerful offenses going against each other. I expected there to be points, but I didn’t expect there to be that many points.”
Nutt called it “unbelievable, not like anything I’ve seen in the SEC.”
Arkansas quarterback Cam Newton rushed for 188 yards on 25 attempts and inserted himself strongly into the Heisman Trophy discussion.
There were 55 first downs, 1,036 yards and 36 fourth-quarter points scored, 28 of them by Auburn.
n Ole Miss rushed for 133 yards on 26 carries against Alabama, an average gain of 5.1 yards. The Rebels rushed for 72 yards on 23 carries against Alabama last season.
Bolden said the biggest difference was how the offensive line responded after halftime.
“I don’t want to say they came out timid, but we had to adjust how Alabama was playing. They were just running to the linemen and reading the direction the ball was going. After we came in at halftime, we fixed that problem and were able to move it a lot better,” Bolden said.
Ole Miss follows this week’s game at Arkansas with a home game against Auburn.
Bolden said the offensive numbers Auburn put up against Arkansas – 330 rushing yards, three runners averaging better than 7 yards a carry – gives him confidence in what the Rebels’ rushing game might accomplish.
“It gives you a lot of confidence when you watch another team with a similar offense move the ball against them. Auburn didn’t have many blown assignments,” he said.
Ole Miss ranks No. 2 in the SEC in rushing, No. 19 nationally, with 215.5 yards a game.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600
PARRISH ALFORD / NEMS Daily Journal