Hogs Air It Out -- Finally

FAYETTEVILLE -- Turns out, Arkansas has a passing game after all. Or at least for one night.

For the first time this season, quarterback Casey Dick didn't need to spend any time after a game answering questions about what he did wrong.

He instead smiled, laughed and proved to be the popular man in Arkansas' locker room following Saturday night's 66-7 rout of North Texas in front of a crowd of 66,343 in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

For the first time in a while, he had fun. And Arkansas had a passing game to match its dominant running attack.

"It feels wonderful. It feels like you just had a ton of bricks lifted off your back," Dick said. "We went out there and played well."

Over the past two weeks, the junior has received much of the blame for back-to-back narrow losses to No. 22 Alabama and No. 14 Kentucky. But the Razorbacks won Saturday in part because of Dick -- not in spite of him.

He connected with wide receiver London Crawford on a 61-yard touchdown strike only 5 minutes, 9 seconds into the game. And he found Robert Johnson on a 37-yard touchdown pass that extended Arkansas' lead to 31-0 at the start of the second quarter.

With Dick throwing both short passes and the deep ball, the Razorbacks (2-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) racked up 713 yards of total offense to snap their two-game losing streak.

The passing game accounted for 267 yards, finally giving Arkansas the balanced offense its coaches have been striving for.

"I'm thankful and grateful for the win," Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee said. "But more importantly, we got some confidence in the passing game, which is what this football team needed."

Dick showed an ability to roll out of the pocket, throw the deep ball and pick a part a North Texas (0-4) defense that ranked 115th nationally in pass defense and 118th in total defense.

His 191 yards passing in the first half were more than he had thrown for in each of the first three games this season.

Dick completed 12-of-21 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions before being replaced by backup Nathan Emert toward the end of the third quarter.

"It was wonderful. We practiced that all week. It's good to practice and then come out and do well," Dick said. "We've got to continue to do that same thing."

Before Saturday, Dick had thrown for more than 200 yards only once in his previous 17 games.

He passed for a career-high 228 yards after replacing former Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain early in a 26-20 win at South Carolina on Nov. 4.

"Honestly, Casey Dick is a great, great quarterback," said Crawford, who finished with two catches for 70 yards and a score. "You've got to make him right; you've got to win his confidence.

"Once you win the quarterback's confidence, it's not hard for him to go out there and throw the ball."

Saturday was Dick's best performance of the season. He passed for 108 yards against Troy, 145 at Alabama and 157 in last Saturday's loss to Kentucky.

But he got into an early rhythm Saturday by throwing short, high-percentage passes that Lee had put in this week to help the quarterback's confidence.

Running back Felix Jones gained 16 yards on a screen pass from Dick on Arkansas' first play from scrimmage, and the Razorbacks showed a commitment early on to the passing game.

Jones and fellow tailback Darren McFadden provided the running attack with a combined 270 yards and four touchdowns.

"It was real good," said Johnson, Arkansas' leading receiver with four catches for 71 yards and one touchdown. "(The passing game) keeps a lot of pressure off McFadden and Felix and the running backs, and it gives Casey the chance to throw the ball and let his confidence build up."

With Arkansas leading 52-7 with 4:28 remaining in the third quarter, Emert replaced Dick at quarterback. Emert, the former Shiloh Christian standout, added another 57 yards on 3-of-4 passing.

That was more than enough for Arkansas' defense.

The Razorbacks surrendered only 26 yards and one first down in the first quarter, and they never gave North Texas coach Todd Dodge a chance to get his pass-friendly, Spread offense going.

Dodge rotated quarterbacks throughout the night, but it didn't do much good. All the Razorbacks needed was one quarterback to finally jumpstart their sluggish passing game.

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