Mustain to start at QB for Hogs; Johnson moves to WR

Updated: September 3, 2006, 10:18 PM ET
Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Mitch Mustain's apprenticeship lasted about three quarters.

Mustain was named Arkansas' starting quarterback Sunday, less than 24 hours after the Razorbacks lost their season opener, 50-14, to No. 6 Southern California. The freshman made his college debut in the fourth quarter, leading Arkansas on a touchdown drive but also throwing an interception.

"Mitch has done some good things all through camp," coach Houston Nutt said. "He's been very accurate. He has shown some very good things under pressure. And then he gets in the game and can execute and take us down the field. I just feel like, at this time, you have to give him a shot."

Arkansas hosts Utah State on Saturday.

Mustain was one of the most sought-after recruits in the country last year, and he thrilled Arkansas fans when he decided to stay in his home state and play for the Razorbacks. Mustain threw for 3,817 yards and 47 touchdowns in 2005, leading Springdale High School to a state championship.

Mustain was a backup to junior Robert Johnson on Saturday night, but Johnson went only 12-of-25 for 110 yards with two interceptions. With USC ahead 44-7, Mustain entered in the fourth quarter to a warm ovation from the home crowd.

Arkansas drove 80 yards in five plays in just 1:39, and Mustain scored on a 4-yard run. He threw an interception on the Razorbacks' next possession and finished 4-of-6 for 47 yards.

"We are trying to do what is best for our team," Nutt said. "It has been close all through camp. We went with the experienced guy and I think we did the right thing. Let's just see what happens. I know Robert can still be a very good teammate and play a good role for us."

Nutt said Johnson is being asked to move to wide receiver.

"Robert has so much integrity and class, I really hope he'll have a true role at receiver and I think he can help us," Nutt said. "It's not all his fault. It's not one person's fault, it's a team game. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions."

Johnson started the first seven games of 2005, but with Arkansas at 2-5, Casey Dick took over. Johnson finished the season with 876 yards passing, and Dick threw for 584. The Razorbacks finished 4-7.

Mustain arrived this season -- along with Gus Malzahn, his coach at Springdale. Malzahn had been one of the state's most successful high school coaches when he was hired in December as the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator.

The three quarterbacks competed for the starting job during the preseason. Dick, a sophomore, was bothered by a sore back, and Johnson was chosen over Mustain for the opener.

Arkansas lost to USC 70-17 last season, and the Razorbacks turned the ball over five times in the rematch. Running back Felix Jones had three fumbles in the first half, and the Trojans recovered two of them.

Dick will remain a backup to Mustain.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press