Mustain Era Has Arrived

After one game, the Mitch Mustain Era has officially begun.

A day after watching his offense stall in a 50-14 season-opening loss to No. 6 Southern California, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt decided to make some admittedly tough changes at quarterback.

Mustain was named the starting quarterback for Saturday's home game against Utah State after the freshman impressed Nutt with his ability to come off the bench and jumpstart the offense early in the fourth quarter against USC.

Meanwhile, Nutt informed Robert Johnson during a meeting Sunday afternoon that the junior has been to moved to wide receiver after starting at quarterback against the Trojans.

"Mitch has done some good things all through camp. He's been very accurate, has shown some very good things under pressure and then he gets in the game and executes, takes us down the field," Nutt said. "(I) feel like now at this time you've got to give him this shot at this particular time."

Nutt said he, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and quarterbacks coach Alex Wood met Sunday morning and discussed for "a long, long time" the possibility of making a change at quarterback.

"But I thought about it all night (Saturday) night," Nutt said. With Johnson's move to wide receiver -- where he's expected to work at flanker -- sophomore Casey Dick will take over as Mustain's backup.

Dick entered the fall as Arkansas' No. 1 quarterback after starting the final four games last season. But the sophomore lost the job when he missed most of the preseason practices with a nagging back injury.

"Casey is well," Nutt said, adding that he believes that Dick has fully recovered from his back injury.

Johnson and Mustain, the highly touted freshman from Springdale High, competed in practice to be the starting quarterback. But Johnson earned the job because he had more experience after starting the first seven games last season before getting benched in favor of Dick.

Nutt said his decision to start Johnson against USC was the right one, but the junior struggled to move the offense downfield. He completed only 12-of-25 passes for 110 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Johnson also led the Razorbacks to only one touchdown, a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive toward the end of the first half that was capped by his 1-yard run to the rightside of the end zone. "It's not all (Johnson's) fault. It's just not one person's fault; it's a team game," Nutt said of the offensive struggles. "Sometimes, you've got to make hard, hard decisions and this is a hard one because he worked so hard."

Nutt said he decided to move Johnson to wide receiver rather than make him a backup quarterback because he wanted the junior to remain "involved."

"He was disappointed (by the change), but I'll tell you, his words were, 'I'll do anything for the team,'" Nutt said. "That's a true teammate."

Arkansas' fans started chanting "We want Mitch!" when the offense struggled early in the second quarter. The freshman took over as quarterback with the Razorbacks trailing 44-7 with 10 minutes remaining.

Mustain completed his first pass to wide receiver Marcus Monk for 3 yards, then a crossing route to former Springdale teammate Ben Cleveland for 2 yards.

Following a 24-yard run by Felix Jones, Mustain connected with another former Springdale teammate -- wide receiver Damian Williams -- for a 42-yard pass to the 4-yard line. Mustain scored on a quarterback keeper up-the-middle on the next play. It was one of the lone bright spots for the offense.

"If we're hitting on all cylinders, we may not be having this conversation, but for whatever reason we didn't," Nutt said. "So we're trying to do what's best for our team."


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