Dick Remains Starter Despite Struggles

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Houston Nutt shot down any possibility of a quarterback controversy developing the week of the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.

Sophomore Casey Dick is no doubt his starter. Still, the quarterback position was a hot topic Sunday, two days after Dick suffered through his worst game as Arkansas' starting quarterback. The first seven questions Nutt faced during his weekly news conference related to the sophomore's struggles in Friday's 31-26 loss to No. 5 LSU and whether the coach considered turning to backup Mitch Mustain when things clearly weren't working. "I thought about it just a little bit," Nutt said. "But I thought it would be unfair to put Mitch in that situation in the second half against a defense like that." Nutt decided to stick with Dick at quarterback, even though the sophomore threw for only 29 yards and one touchdown on 3 of 9 passing in the first half. All but eight of those yards came when wide receiver Marcus Monk caught a short pass thrown behind him and powered his way into the end zone for a 21-yard score with 7:07 remaining in the second quarter. Dick, making his third start of the season and seventh of his career, didn't complete a single pass in the second half and finished 3-for-17 for 29 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Running back Darren McFadden, meanwhile, completed both of his passes attempts for 33 yards. Despite Dick's struggles, Nutt said he'll start the sophomore when No. 8 Arkansas (10-2, 7-1 SEC) faces No. 4 Florida (11-1, 7-1) at 5 p.m. Saturday in the SEC Championship Game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. "We'll start out with Casey. Now, Mitch will get more reps this week than he did the previous two weeks," Nutt said. "But right now, we're going to start out with Casey, and (we) just want him to go back to playing his game. No one hates it more than he does." Before Friday, Dick had mostly shown poise as Arkansas' starting quarterback. He brought a calming presence to the position after replacing Mustain following the team's first possession in a 26-20 win at South Carolina on Nov. 4. Mustain won his first eight games as the starter this season, but the former Springdale High quarterback was benched after throwing an interception on his only pass attempt against the Gamecocks. Dick was named the starter the next day. Nutt justified the decision by saying he had a "quick hook" when it came to quarterbacks. But Nutt decided not to bench Dick against LSU, though the coach admitted that he briefly considered it in the third quarter after watching the sophomore struggle with his accuracy and decision-making. Nutt said he didn't make a quarterback change because he thought Dick would eventually get into a groove. He also felt that Mustain wasn't ready to face LSU's top-ranked defense after taking only 20 percent of the snaps in practice in the week leading up to the game. "I just kept thinking that (Dick's) going to hit the next (pass), or we're going to hit a play here," Nutt said. "It's a tough game to bring in a freshman against the No. 1 defense in the country, (especially) the way they were defending the pass." After the game, Dick acknowledged that he had had a "rough day," but he never considered the possibility of getting benched. "That wasn't in my mind," Dick said. "The coaches are going to make that decision. So if they make that decision, they make it." Nutt said offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and quarterbacks coach Alex Wood wanted Dick to stay in the lineup against LSU. But after taking roughly 80 percent of the snaps in practice last week, Dick is expected to get 60 percent this week. Mustain will get the remaining 40 percent of the reps so that he'll be better prepared in case a change is needed against Florida. "Casey will be the first to tell you, he's got to play better," Nutt said. "Mitch will get more reps this week, and we'll go from there. "... We're going to put the quarterback in there that gives us the best chance to win." A Slow Start Sophomore quarterback Casey Dick struggled with his accuracy and decision-making in Friday's 31-26 loss to No. 5 LSU. Freshman Mitch Mustain also had his share of problems as a starter this season. Here is how the two quarterbacks have compared in games they have started this season: Mustain Opponent Comp. Att. Yds TDs Int. Utah State 9 17 119 1 0 Vanderbilt 13 20 224 3 1 Alabama 7 22 97 1 3 Auburn 7 10 87 1 0 SEMO 5 13 51 1 0 Ole Miss 12 15 157 1 0 ULM 7 18 71 2 2 South Carolina 0 1 0 0 1 Dick Opponent Comp. Att. Yds TDs Int. Tennessee 10 15 154 1 0 Miss. St. 8 17 112 2 1 LSU 3 17 29 1 1

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