Two Quarterbacks, One Game, No Clear Starter

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Mitch Mustain has never had to work within a two-quarterback system, and he admits it could be a bit awkward at first.

But at least the freshman knows he'll get a chance to play in the Capital One Bowl no matter what.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt announced two weeks ago that sophomore Casey Dick will make his fifth straight start Monday against No. 6 Wisconsin, except the news came with a twist.

Dick will play the first two offensive series, then step aside to let Mustain play the third possession. Whichever quarterback plays better early on will get the majority of the snaps after that.

"If I go in there and do good and don't see the field again, that's fine," Mustain said. "I'm just going to do what (the coaches) allow me to do. Hopefully, I get a chance again."

Initially, Nutt had said that he wanted to wait until the Razorbacks started practicing in Orlando before naming a starting quarterback. But Dick said he was glad the decision was made sooner than later.

It took some pressure off the sophomore to know that he no longer had to compete in practice for the starting job. But at the same time, the decision to go with both Dick and Mustain against Wisconsin could cause some problems for the quarterbacks.

Arkansas' coaches insist they'll stick with their plan to insert Mustain into the lineup for the third series of the game, even if Dick manages to get into an early rhythm.

"We'll just have to wait and see how everything goes, but it would be tough to just come out," Dick said. "But we'll try to jump back in there and pick up where we left off. So that's just something we're going to have to do."

Dick has struggled with his accuracy in two straight losses to No. 4 LSU and No. 2 Florida, but Nutt said Friday that the sophomore has been "extremely sharp" in practice. Nutt also noted that both quarterbacks have had great attitudes as the bowl game approaches.

Still, Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said he has no intentions of deviating from the two-quarterback game plan that Nutt announced earlier this month. Regardless of how Dick plays, Mustain is taking over on the third series.

"We made a commitment. We're going to do that third series," Malzahn said. "We believe in both those guys. Both those guys helped us get to where we're at, and we expect them both to play well."

Malzahn said he's noticed a sense of "urgency" and "a little excitement" from Mustain since the former Springdale High star learned that he would get a chance to play in the Capital One Bowl.

After taking over as the starting quarterback following a season-opening loss to Southern California, Mustain became the first freshman in Arkansas history to go 8-0 as a starter.

But in his eighth start, a 26-20 win at South Carolina on Nov. 4, he was replaced by Dick after throwing an interception on his only pass attempt.

While Dick has started the last four games -- with varying results -- Mustain has played sparingly as the backup and not attempted a single pass.

"I'm happy I get to play. I think that's the biggest thing," Mustain said. "It kind of helps me out here prepare and kind of get that starter mentality back. I get a chance for sure."

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said he can't tell much difference between the two quarterbacks. But Mustain admits that splitting time with another quarterback in the same game could be a bit awkward.

"I've never done it, but I would imagine it would be a little bit difficult just from the fact that we play a lot of our game off rhythm and being able to get into a groove," Mustain said. "But that's something we'll have to deal with. ... Hopefully, we make the most of it."

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