UA FOOTBALL: WKU Changes Direction


By: Robbie Neiswanger
Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

— Western Kentucky unveiled its new head coach Monday afternoon, but it wasn’t Paul Petrino.

The Hilltoppers named Stanford assistant Willie Taggart, a former WKU player and assistant, its head coach two days after Arkansas’ offensive coordinator interviewed for the job. It came after Petrino issued a statement saying he was no longer in the running for the position.

“I am very appreciative of the interest Western Kentucky University has shown in me,” Petrino said in a statement released by Arkansas on Monday morning. “However, I have withdrawn my name from consideration and my focus is on our remaining games starting this Saturday at LSU.”

Bobby Petrino hits on several topics as Arkansas prepares for its trip to LSU and an opportunity to improve its bowl stock. This is the full, unedited press conference from Nov. 23.

Bobby Petrino press conference

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Petrino, who has been Bobby Petrino’s offensive coordinator since 2003, has not been shy about his desire to become a head coach. He reiterated it after the 42-21 win against Mississippi State, indicating he was “flattered” that Western Kentucky was interested.

Petrino flew to Bowling Green, Ky., and interviewed for the position after Arkansas’ win. According to news reports in Kentucky, Petrino spent four hours in the area before returning to Fayetteville that night.

The two sides never struck a deal, though. But Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said his younger brother will get an opportunity to take over a program at some point.

“Paul is going to be a head coach,” Petrino said. “There’s no question. One thing you have to do is you have to be patient and make sure you take the right job.”

Petrino said going through the interview process could be a valuable experience, however. He also added that it was a good sign for the program when his assistants are considered for head coaching jobs at other schools.

“I think we have coaches that will be head coaches,” Petrino said. “I really believe that. I think when we have success their opportunities go up.”

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett said he was happy to see Paul Petrino still with the program Monday.

“That is a great hold for Arkansas,” Mallett said. “I mean, he is a great coach, a great receivers coach and that is going to help keep building the program.”

Bobby Petrino complimented Western Kentucky for the way it handled the interview process, arranging it so Paul Petrino wouldn’t miss valuable time. Petrino was back in the office Sunday morning to help Arkansas begin its preparation for the regular season finale at LSU.

Petrino said he works with his assistants who are considering other opportunities. He even puts together a manual for his staff. The manual primarily outlines philosophies and expectations for staff members, but Petrino said a section also addresses job interviews.

“I’m not sure who told me this, but it was a long time ago, when you help other people reach their dreams most of your dreams come true,” Petrino said. “I think that’s part of being a head coach, assisting your assistants to develop and eventually become head coaches.”

Bowl Chatter

Arkansas has boosted its bowl status during its four-game win streak. In fact, the Hogs remain in consideration for the Cotton Bowl before its final game.

But Petrino said the Razorbacks aren’t concerned about their bowl status. The only thoughts are on the Tigers.

“We obviously have zero influence on any of the bowl selections, so there’s really no reason to even worry about it,” Petrino said.

Mallett Honored By SEC

Mallett was named Southeastern Conference offensive player of the week for his performance against the Bulldogs. It was the second time in three weeks Mallett was honored by the league office.

Mallett paid a small price for the honor, though, sporting cuts on his nose and forehead when he met with the media Monday. Mallett said he was cut on separate plays against the Bulldogs in a physical game.

“It’s just a couple of scratches,” he said.

Stop the Run?

Arkansas reiterated its surprise with Mississippi State’s defense, which loaded players in the box to take away the Razorbacks’ ground game. Petrino said Arkansas may have struggled running the ball, but managed to take advantage of the Bulldogs in the secondary Saturday.

“They didn’t have a lot to lose so they were very aggressive on their defensive calls and it hurt them at times,” Petrino said. “We did a nice job of, when they made mistakes, we took advantage of them.”


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