What Might Have Been: Houston Nutt

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In 1998, Houston Nutt left Boise State after one season to become head coach for Frank Broyles at the University of Arkansas. Out of Little Rock, Nutt was the final scholarship offer for Broyles as a head coach of the Razorbacks. After not finding his way, Nutt decided to transfer to his father’s alma mater, Oklahoma State. Nutt proclaimed in his introductory press conference that this was his dream job and never wanted to be anywhere else. Nutt was a likable, happy, energetic, bled Razorback red and was always approachable. Nutt was passionate in his “love that helmet”. “He called those plays, Chuck!” “You better put his player in the Heisman!” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4BxKNcsUZHIThere were times he may have dropped a few games in the final moments that could have been monumental during his tenure and then there were other games he could coach and motivate players to their full potential to upset the highly ranked teams. What if Houston’s act never wore on the fans? What if he did win big with the Springdale Five and the ruckus never really started? Here is cheers to those who wonder, “What might’ve been?”
The SEC in the last 11 seasons has strengthened into a juggernaut of a conference. Arkansas was a solid team during the time of Nutt and he showed Arkansas could be competitive in the SEC with the right coach. He had a solid running game annually and hard hitting, fundamental defenses. Arkansas’ SEC rivals feared facing the Hogs when they were on the schedule. Many fans and media called him the “Right Reverend”, “Hootie”, “HDN”. What ever you called him does not compare to being called, “The Second Winningest Coach in Razorback History”.
Looking back, the fact that that part of the fan base was totally against keeping him on as the Head Hog makes me wonder, what could have been in the 2006 and 2007 seasons? What if the Gus/Mitch/Nutt drama was resolved during the season. Would Arkansas have beaten LSU, Florida and Wisconsin? Arkansas had arguably one of the top three best offensive backfields in college football history. Arkansas should have won a championship with that backfield. Especially that 2006 team. Every position group on that team was stacked and even with the turmoil in the locker room, Arkansas still managed to win ten games.
Without the drama, could the great 2006 catapulted Arkansas to one just as great in 2007? What if Arkansas and beaten Alabama under first year coach, Nick Saban? That would have helped the Hogs not fall apart in the fourth quarter after a kickoff return touchdown by Felix Jones. Would the Kentucky win help the offense be more potent against Auburn? Winning those three games would have helped the Hogs to another 10+ win season with an upset of LSU in Baton Rouge.
Nutt who would be 81-42 (48-32) after the 2007 season would never have been fired or forced to resign resigned at Arkansas. We don’t live in a dream world, though but it is fun to look back and think what might have been. Nutt finished his Arkansas career with a 75-48 (42-38) record. Good enough for second most in school history. What might have been?
It is the 2008 season and fresh off a 10 win season, Mustain has a completely different receiving core to throw to. Coming off a national championship run in 2007, Arkansas lost DMAC, Jones, Hillis and Monk but Smith emerges as the number one back. The state of Arkansas produced big time at receiver in the 2008 class with Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, Chris Gragg & Joe Adams. Although they were young, Arkansas had London Crawford, Lucas Miller and D.J. Williams to lean on. The offense and defense suffered key losses in the offseason. Arkansas finished 7-6 and with the transitional year, 2009 was set to be an electric season especially with the return of Mustain, a great group of backs and great receivers. They will definitely push the Hogs back into SEC contention.
Mustain, a senior quarterback with Michael Smith, Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis at running back. Childs, Wright, Adams, DJ Williams and Chris Gragg would make a push for the National Championship, again. The 2009 game at Florida would be the first game between the two who hoped would meet in the SEC Championship game. The Gainesville game would not be controversial due to Arkansas being the heavy favorite on the road. The Hogs also made a trip to LSU where history was made in a monumental upset two years prior. Arkansas put up a magical game again in Baton Rouge with Mustain passing for 300 yards. Michael Smith and Dennis Johnson combined for 215 yards on the ground to seal the offensive shootout in Death Valley. Arkansas met Oklahoma for the National Championship. With a game for the ages from Mustain, it solidified him as the one of the greatest Arkansas quarterbacks ever.
Arkansas broke through in the 2009 season with a second national championship in three seasons. Houston Nutt retired as the head coach of the Razorbacks. Mustain graduated as the all-time winningest quarterback, most yards and touchdowns in a career in Arkansas Razorback football history. Greenwood’s own, Tyler Wilson a sophomore, is set to inherit the record breaking quarterback’s position. The rest was history.
After retirement, who would have replaced Nutt? Would the momentum still hold with a new coaching staff on “The Hill”? What we do know, is if the drama never happened, Arkansas could have been set up beautifully for the next decade.
Disclaimer: This story was written for fun and not to be taken seriously. Read it and thank about what could have happened if the Houston, Gus, Mitch drama never happened like it did.

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