A Quarterback Controversy? Maybe Not

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Mitch Mustain improved his record to 8-0 when he's in the lineup as Arkansas' starting quarterback.

But judging by the way sophomore Casey Dick came in Saturday night and brought some much-needed balance to the offense, it appears that Mustain's time as the starter might have come to an end.

Arkansas quarterbacks coach Alex Wood didn't want to speculate on any position changes, and coach Houston Nutt wanted to wait a day before making any decisions on who will be his starter.

But Nutt might not have a quarterback controversy after all. The answer could be obvious.

Dick may earned the starting job after he helped the No. 12 Razorbacks build a 20-point lead and then hold on for a 26-20 win in front of a crowd of 74,926 in Williams-Brice Stadium.

"It was just a gut feeling," Nutt said of his decision to bench Mustain after the team's first offensive series. "(I) love Mitch, (but) this is a very critical time in November.

"I could just tell (we) needed a little more experience and had to go with Casey. He did a good job."

Dick admits he was surprised that Nutt decided to put him in the game after Mustain threw an interception on his only pass attempt of the night. But the sophomore was told ahead of time to be ready at a moment's notice, and the former starter showed his poise throughout.

Dick led Arkansas (8-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) to touchdowns on his first two possessions in the lineup. He completed a miracle 50-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Monk at the end of the first half. And the sophomore helped seal the Razorbacks' eighth straight win with a critical pass to Monk on third-and-8 in the final minutes.

"I didn't really have any jitters," said Dick, who completed 11 of 19 passes for 228 yards with one touchdown and one interception. "You just kind of go out there, and you've got to be yourself.

"You can't let anything get to you."

That type of composure helped Arkansas remain atop the SEC West with three games remaining, and it likely earned Dick the starting job for the remainder of the team's critical November stretch.

"We won't speculate on that," Wood said. "We'll go back, meet as a team, look at the film and decide something later."

Mustain began the game as the starter, but his outing lasted just one possession. Following a pair of McFadden runs on first and second down, Mustain attempted his only pass of the night on third-and-2.

But the former Springdale High star overthrew Monk -- the team's tallest wide receiver at 6-foot-6 -- and the pass sailed into the arms of South Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

"When you miss that (route), my gut instinct I thought I needed to make a move," Nutt said, adding that the interception came on a play that Mustain had been working on since "day one."

It was the third interception that Mustain had thrown in the first quarter of the last two games, and it gave him eight picks on the season.

A week ago, Mustain was briefly benched after he threw more interceptions (2) than completions (1) in the first quarter against Louisiana-Monroe. He returned to lead the Razorbacks to an easy 44-10 win in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.

But Arkansas' coaching staff didn't give Mustain the chance to redeem himself.

"He's fine, he knows it's football," Wood said of Mustain. "Hey, you do well and you're up and down but never out. So he's OK.

"I'm sure he's disappointed in what happened, but he's OK."

Mustain appeared clearly upset in the locker room following the game, and when asked if he was surprised he didn't return get a second chance, the freshman said, "I'd like to (get another chance), but that's not my decision."

Dick tried to avoid bringing any more controversy to the quarterback situation.

When asked if he thought his performance opened up a competition in practice, Dick said, "I can't answer that. ... It's something the coaches are going to have to decide."

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