But the light workload didn’t stop coach Houston Nutt from calling the junior’s performance the best of his career Sunday. Dick completed 8-of-10 passes for 86 yards with two touchdowns against the Gamecocks. The numbers were solid, but Nutt said the most impressive part of the quarterback’s performance was his ability to manage the game.
“He checked out of some plays we had to,” Nutt said. “They were going to be negative yardage plays or maybe get the line of scrimmage or one-yard or a bad play. Those things don’t really go into the stat book, but, boy, he did a good job of that.”
In particular, Nutt said Dick got the Razorbacks out of a precarious situation early in the game by checking out of a pass that would’ve resulted in a sack.
“(Offensive coordinator) David (Lee) is hollering, ‘Oh no, bad call, bad call, bad call,’ and there he goes moving (fullback) Peyton (Hillis) back in the I-formation,” Nutt said. “I said, ‘He’s taking care of you tonight.’ It’s something they practiced on and worked on, but it’s easy to get lost in that. For a young quarterback, it’s hard for them to do that.”
But Nutt also added the passes Dick did throw were “right on the money.”
One of them was the trick play out of the WildHog formation in which Dick lined up at receiver, took a pitch from running back Felix Jones and launched a 35-scoring strike to an open Lucas Miller. He also was 2-for-2, including a four-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Monk on third-and-goal, during the Hogs’ opening possession.
Dick’s two touchdown passes give him 13 this season, which is tied for seventh-best on the school’s single-season chart. He also moved into a tie for fourth with Quinn Grovey and Bill Montgomery on Arkansas’ career touchdown passing list. Dick has 29 touchdown passes.
Dial It Up
Arkansas ran the ball on 28 of its 29 plays in the second half. The only pass was Darren McFadden’s touchdown toss Robert Johnson out of the WildHog formation.
Apparently, keeping the ball on the ground the entire half wasn’t exactly Lee’s decision.
“David wanted to throw it,” Nutt said. “He kept asking to throw it. I just felt like the running game was so good. I said, ‘Just keep dialing your runs right now. We’re eating this clock up. We’re hitting eight, nine, 10 yards a pop.’ I really thought (South Carolina) got tired.”
But Lee’s offense did get one big throw off in the first half when Dick tossed the touchdown to Lucas on a trick play. Nutt said the trick has been in the playbook, but the Razorbacks were waiting for the right time to call the play. That came Saturday.
“He’s been hollering for this play the last game or two,” Nutt said. “He said, ‘Hey, when we cross this (50-yard line) I’m dialing it up.’ We said, ‘Dial it up.’”
In the Trenches
Arkansas gave up season-highs of 364 passing yards and 489 total yards, but Nutt said he was impressed by the play of the defensive line.
Starters Malcolm Sheppard, Ernest Mitchell, Marcus Harrison and Adrian Davis led the way for the line. The Razorbacks only collected two sacks, but the line applied pressure to South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell most of the night.
“Especially in the first half,” Nutt said. “Anybody that was put in the game, they played at a high level. That excites me. Effort and laying your heart out there always excites me.”
Monk caught two passes — including the game’s first touchdown — in the first half Saturday night. But he didn’t play after the break. Nutt said it had nothing to do with his surgically repaired knee, which has sidelined him much of the season.
“He got his calf hit, kicked, something,” Nutt said. “It wasn’t his knee. It was his calf.”
In other injury news, Nutt said he’s not sure of the status of free safety Kevin Woods, who suffered a separated shoulder in the first half. Woods was replaced by backup Rashaad Johnson, who finished with a team-high 13 tackles. But Woods did return to the game.
“He’s been playing hurt for like the last four weeks,” Nutt said. “Boy, what a competitor. We’ve got to watch and make sure. We don’t want to do anything to ruin that shoulder.”
Arkansas’ win against then-No. 23 South Carolina snapped its five-game skid against ranked teams. The Hogs had lost to Auburn and Kentucky this year. They also ended 2006 with consecutive losses to LSU, Florida and Wisconsin.
The South Carolina win helped Arkansas inch closer to the Top 25, too. The Razorbacks are among the teams receiving votes in this week’s Associated Press poll.
“These guys have done a good job of staying together,” Nutt said. “I thought they really fought hard for all these coaches. They’ve done what we asked them to do and stayed together, pulled together. This will teach them far more than football.”