Malzahn: Arkansas 'committed' to QB plan

Updated: December 30, 2006, 6:41 PM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Arkansas' decision to start Casey Dick at quarterback -- with Mitch Mustain entering for the third series -- led to an obvious question.

What if Dick plays great on the first two drives?

Mustain will come in anyway, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn says.

"We're committed to that," Malzahn said Saturday, two days before the No. 12 Razorbacks face No. 6 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.

"And after that third series, we'll see how it goes."

Mustain, a freshman, started eight games this season -- all wins. Dick, a sophomore, has started four and gone 2-2, although the losses were against elite opponents in LSU and Florida.

Coach Houston Nutt announced earlier this month that both would play against Wisconsin.

"We script out (plays for) the first few series, and obviously, when Mitch Mustain comes in, third series, he'll have his own script," Malzahn said. "We'll start out the game like we normally do, and third series we'll kind of be starting over."

Wisconsin defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz said the two quarterbacks are similar. Their stats reflect that -- Dick has completed 50.5 percent of his passes for 893 yards and nine touchdowns this season, and Mustain has completed 52.5 percent for 853 yards and 10 TDs. The younger Mustain has eight interceptions to Dick's five.

Hankwitz said Arkansas' offense looks pretty much the same no matter who is at quarterback.

"We tried to look at things they did when they were both in there and didn't see a discernible difference in what they did," Hankwitz said.

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PIGS IN SLOP: Arkansas is preparing for the possibility of rain Monday -- the Razorbacks used wet balls in practice Saturday.

Arkansas' practice field at an Orlando high school has been soggy this week. The weather was rainy Tuesday, although it has been beautiful since then.

"The good thing is, we've been practicing on a wet field, a soggy field, for the last week," Malzahn said. "It may be a blessing in disguise that when we got here, there was a lot of rain. Our guys got used to the surface. We're a little concerned about your legs -- any time you practice that long on a bad field. We've done some things to kind of back off our guys and to make sure they have fresh legs come the game."

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WILD WORLD: Wisconsin has had plenty of time to prepare for Arkansas' "Wildcat" set in which running back Darren McFadden lines up at quarterback. McFadden, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, has bewildered opposing defenses from that formation. He can run, hand off or throw -- he was an occasional quarterback in high school.

"I think we've taken about 5 million reps in the Wildcat formation," Wisconsin linebacker Mark Zalewski said.

The Razorbacks have run several trick plays this season, from a swinging gate play against Alabama in September to receiver Cedric Washington's touchdown pass in the Southeastern Conference championship game this month.

"We've practiced everything we've seen them do and some things we think they might do," Hankwitz said. "That's about all you can do."

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THE ODD COUPLE: The contrast between Malzahn and defensive coordinator Reggie Herring was in full view when they sat next to each other at Saturday's news conference.

Malzahn's opening statement lasted 8 seconds. Herring's lasted 2 minutes, 3 seconds.

Malzahn, in his first season with the Razorbacks, gives away little when talking to the media. Herring, on the other hand, has been providing constant sound bites since arriving at Arkansas before the 2005 season.

Herring has been saying for a while his team can expect a physical game Monday against the Big Ten's Badgers.

"It's a brawl, and it should be a brawl," he said Saturday. "And the only way it won't be is if we don't come to play, because we know what we're going to get out of Wisconsin."

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ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER: Nutt talked to reporters after practice, but they don't seem to have much more to ask him about when it comes to the game. Nutt took questions for a couple minutes, then the gathered media went silent.

"We're about talked out, aren't we guys?" Nutt said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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