Dick Gets Chance At Redemption

FAYETTEVILLE -- Casey Dick remembers quite a bit of last year's game, though no one could blame him if he wanted to block out memories of LSU.

After all, not too many pleasant thoughts come to mind when the Arkansas quarterback recalls how he spent the day after Thanksgiving in 2006.

"It was probably the worst game I've been a part of since I've been playing football, to be quite honest with everybody," Dick said this week.

As he puts it, Nov. 24, 2006 was simply a "horrible day," one which he hasn't talked much about with his teammates. There has been no reason to bring it up.

Besides, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said the junior has come a long way since he completed only 3-of-17 passes for 29 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 31-26 loss to then-No. 9 LSU in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.

"He's not even the same guy," Nutt said.

Dick has plenty to be thankful for today.

He has returned from a frustrating back injury that derailed the start of his sophomore season. He has a girlfriend whom he spends so much time with that teammates like to joke that he's practically married.

"They're not ever separate from each other," said Nathan Dick, Casey's younger brother and a quarterback who's redshirting this season for the Razorbacks.

And perhaps most importantly for Arkansas, Dick has a chance at 1:30 p.m. Friday to get redemption for his dismal performance against the Tigers last November.

A Horrible Day

The quarterback received much of the blame for the close LSU loss, which knocked then-No. 5 Arkansas out of the national championship race. It also marked the beginning of a three-game losing streak that capped an otherwise productive season.

This time, though, the Razorbacks (7-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) are cast in the role of spoiler.

LSU (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) is ranked No. 1 heading into Friday's game in front of a national TV audience (CBS), as well as a crowd of more than 90,000 in Baton Rouge, La.

It's no secret that Arkansas' offense will be based around Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden, but the presence of a passing attack would help the Hogs' chances of pulling off the upset and reclaiming the Golden Boot trophy.

"I'm not going to make excuses for stuff that happened (a year ago), but it was basically I had a horrible day. I was 3-for-17 or something like that," Dick said. "But I remember that day and I don't think it will happen again."

Nothing seemed to go right for Dick during last year's showdown with LSU. He completed his first pass for seven yards to McFadden, but he connected on only two more passes for 22 yards the remainder of the afternoon.

The Razorbacks remained in the game thanks to a combined 319 yards rushing from McFadden and fellow tailback Felix Jones.

But as Dick continued to struggle, the question became obvious: When would Nutt bench him in favor of former Springdale High star Mitch Mustain?

Dick never got pulled. He remained in the game, though he never broke out of his funk, as Nutt had expected he would.

"I think he wasn't on and you've got to give LSU credit," Nutt said. "They're very good."

Still, Arkansas had a chance to drive downfield in the final minutes for the game-winning touchdown. But four consecutive incomplete passes by Dick ended the day and led to questions about a possible quarterback controversy.

Dick remained the starter. He briefly spoke about the loss with Nutt in the days after it happened, but it has not been brought up with his brother or with close friend and Arkansas wide receiver Robert Johnson.

"Usually when games are behind you, you let them go," Johnson said. "We talk about this LSU game because we know what we have to do."

Much Improved

Dick can come across as guarded around reporters. He tends to talk about having fun, putting the team first and simply doing his job as if he were some employee who quietly goes about his work.

But coaches and teammates describe him as a playful guy who likes to wear his baseball cap backward and rap along to songs. He's also very competitive.

"Growing up, we were just all real competitive about everything -- basketball, football, everything," Nathan Dick said. "But once it comes down to it, we're brothers."

Even an activity as simple as fishing can get competitive for Dick. He and Johnson often compete while fishing on a pond on Nutt's property to see who can catch the most fish.

"He always thinks he can fish better than me, but I out-fished him the last couple of times we went together," Johnson said.

After three seasons as a starting quarterback at Arkansas, Dick has learned to deal with the criticism that no doubt has been directed his way. He simply blocks it out.

"He's proved to me (he can handle it) because the two people who are going to be the most criticized -- I always tell him before the year -- are going to be you and me," Nutt said. "The head coach and the quarterback."

Coincidentally, Dick will face LSU less than a week after perhaps the best game of his career.

He was named the SEC's offensive player of the week for the first time Monday following his four-touchdown performance in last Saturday's 45-31 win over Mississippi State in Little Rock.

He was nearly perfect, completing 14-of-17 passes for 199 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

"I'm glad it happened for him. He's fought a lot of things since he's been here, like a lot of us have," Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee said. "He richly deserves it."

And as for this week's rematch with LSU?

"I think it will be a better game this year," Dick said.

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