Hogs Face Shades of ‘05

FAYETTEVILLE — Three years ago, Casey Dick was a relatively unknown freshman quarterback making the third start of his career against Mississippi State.

By that point in the season, Arkansas' hopes of making a bowl game had been dashed after suffering six losses — some by small margins and others embarrassingly one-sided.

And while Dick couldn't keep the Razorbacks from finishing with a losing record, he offered at least some excitement by leading them to a 44-10 win over the Bulldogs on Nov. 19, 2005.

Nearly three years later, Arkansas finds itself in a similar situation as it prepares to face MSU at 1:30 p.m. today in Davis-Wade Stadium. But there are some considerable differences this time around.

For the first time since Dick's freshman season, the Hogs have six losses heading into mid-November and face the possibility of finishing with their second losing record in four years.

But here's where things differ from 2005: Arkansas (4-6, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) still has a chance to play its way into a bowl game and Dick could be the veteran quarterback who gets benched in favor of a freshman.

"I've been here two years and I've played in two bowl games; I can't imagine not playing in one this year," Arkansas defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard said. "Hopefully, that doesn't stop this year. Nobody wants to be sitting at home around Christmas and watching everybody else play."

The Razorbacks must win their final two games against MSU (3-7, 1-5 SEC) and No. 18 LSU next week to get the six victories needed to become bowl eligible.

It's a position that Arkansas' players didn't expect to be in three months ago when they opened the Bobby Petrino era with hopes of becoming a surprising player in the SEC race.

"We all know the magic number is six (wins) to be bowl eligible. (That) doesn't mean you're gonna get in a bowl game, but to be bowl eligible," Petrino said. "You know you have to win this one first."

And while the Hogs haven't won back-to-back games since the opening weeks of the season, at least they face an opponent today that they've had success with over the past decade.

Arkansas has won the past nine meetings against MSU, including five games decided by seven points or less. The Bulldogs' last win in the series came in a 22-21 upset in Starkville in 1998.

"We haven't beaten them in a long time," MSU coach Sylvester Croom said. "But what's happened the last nine years isn't going to have an impact on (today)."

Dick is 3-0 as a starter against the Bulldogs, but there's reason to believe that he might not be behind center Jonathan Luigs to take Arkansas' first snap this afternoon.

Dick and his younger brother, redshirt freshman Nathan Dick, have spent the past few days competing in practice for the starting job. The winner faces the challenge of trying to jumpstart the Razorbacks' struggling offense.

And while Petrino said he'll likely play both quarterbacks against MSU, he's keeping his decision on which one will start a closely guarded secret.

"We all believe in (Casey), we all believe in Nathan and it's just whoever coach puts out there is who's going to get it," Arkansas wide receiver Lucas Miller. "And the team's behind it."

The Bulldogs have also experienced their own inconsistency at quarterback this season with junior Tyson Lee and sophomore Wesley Carroll. But unlike Arkansas, MSU's long shot at making a bowl game came to an end with last week's 32-7 loss at top-ranked Alabama.

So today is simply an opportunity for Croom and his team to play the role of spoiler, something they couldn't do in 2006 when the Razorbacks clinched the SEC West championship with a 28-14 win in Starkville.

"Without a big win (today), we're not going to be able to go to a bowl game," Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette said. "So we have to take care of this one before we can look ahead."

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