Houston Nutt doesn’t know Sam Pittman at all, but he got a ringing endorsement years ago and it’s something he remembers well about the new Arkansas coach.
It came from the late Pat Gazzola, the owner of The Catfish Hole, several years ago when Pittman was an assistant under Bret Bielema.
“He couldn’t say enough about coach Pittman,” Nutt said Wednesday afternoon to Derek Ruscin and Zach Arns (Ruscin & Zach) on ESPN Arkansas.
Nutt, now working with the CBS Sports Network as a college football analyst, has heard about Pittman and had nothing but praise.
“When I listen to him talk he just embraces it,” Nutt said about Pittman’s genuine love for the state and the team. “That comes through.”
It’s something that’s been missing over a string of coaches that have basically run the football program into the ground.
Nutt was 75-49 (60.5 percent) over a decade with two SEC Championship Game appearances. Since then, the Hogs have gone 71-79 (47.3 percent) that includes a two-year run of 21-5.
Don’t bring the excuse it would have continued if there hadn’t been a motorcycle in the ditch near Elkins because it wasn’t. Bobby Petrino never sustained success anywhere he has landed and the talent level (especially on defense) was running low in a hurry.
Nutt didn’t talk about any of that, but nobody since then has truly embraced the unique situation that is Razorback football (and it is whether you believe it or not).
“When you go corner to corner in this state, go into a restaurant and somewhere in there is a Razorback,” Nutt said. “I remember growing up in Little Rock and coming across channel 7 KATV and they start calling the Hogs.
“It gives you the chills when you’re 7 or 8 years old. That’s big when you have a state that gets behind your team.”
Things have changed over the last 50 years. Mostly the number of wins.
Arkansas has tried it several different ways over 12 seasons since Nutt departed Fayetteville but there hasn’t been much consistency.
Petrino was all offense and not much defense at a time when he won over 10 games two seasons in a row and still finished third in the SEC West. He never could win the games you had to win to get to Atlanta.
Don’t ask me what the other guys were trying to do because it appeared they didn’t really have a clue. None really understood Arkansas and tried to re-create successful programs elsewhere … which has never worked.
Even Frank Broyles discovered that. His first season he tried running the offense that was the hot item at the time (the Delaware Wing-T) but gave up at the halfway point of the season and went back to what he knew.
Broyles even dabbled with the Wishbone and won one game that counted (1974 over USC in Little Rock) before committing to the Veer and reaching the Cotton Bowl.
Nutt won with a dropback passer in Clint Stoerner, a scrambler in Matt Jones and a running attack with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. It was crazy to do anything but run D-Mac and Felix, in my opinion unless you wanted to try a pass to let them catch their breath.
Nutt knew how to win at Arkansas and Broyles was the only one with more wins.
And he offered some encouraging words for fans.
“It can turn in a minute,” he said.
Which is what fans are hoping happens.