Mallett's Wait Nearly Over

FAYETTEVILLE — Ryan Mallett hasn't played in a long time. Anyone that knows anything about Arkansas football is well aware of that fact. But just in case it wasn't clear, the Razorbacks' starting quarterback made sure everyone listening to coach Bobby Petrino's radio show knew it Wednesday night.

"It's been 658 days since I've been in live action," said Mallett, generating a round of laughter. "So I can't wait to get back."

The quarterback's much-anticipated Arkansas debut finally arrives Saturday night, when the Razorbacks play Missouri State in the season opener in Little Rock. It will be the first time Mallett has played in a game since Nov. 17, 2007, when the Michigan freshman completed 1 of 3 passes against Ohio State.

Mallett — who transferred from Michigan to Arkansas after the 2007 season — said the layoff has been difficult to stomach.

"I wanted to be out there with my teammates," Mallett said of 2008. "I worked with them in the weight room and in the offseason. I knew I wasn't going to be able to be out there, but the whole sitting on the sideline was kind of disappointing."

Running back Michael Smith said the Razorbacks knew how much Mallett missed playing last year. It was obvious whenever they watched film, recognizing Mallett's antics on the sideline.

"Sometimes I thought that he was going to run out onto the field," running back Michael Smith said. "When we watched film, you could see him on the sideline jumping up and down. He's tall, so you could point him out pretty easily."

Mallett will be even more visible when he steps under center Saturday. The moment will be watched closely. Petrino said he just wants Mallett to operate the offense, something he has done in practice this week.

"He's ready to play," Petrino said Thursday. "It's time to go play and show it in a game. I couldn't be more happy with his preparation. He knows exactly what we want to do. ... Now it's time to go out, relax, one play at a time and do his job well."

Mallett said he plans on doing just that. He wants the offense to come out shooting in his debut, determined to make his first game in nearly two years a memorable one.

"I think it's going to be an exciting experience," Mallett told a group of reporters Monday. "I can't wait to come back next Monday, or whenever we meet again, and tell you how it was."

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