FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Casey Dick stayed pretty much under the radar in his first start of the season.
And that's just what his coach wanted.
Dick didn't make many spectacular plays Saturday in No. 11 Arkansas' 31-14 victory over No. 13 Tennessee, but he also avoided the early mistakes that his predecessor had made the last couple of weeks.
The sophomore went 10-of-15 for 154 yards with one touchdown pass and no interceptions as the Razorbacks (9-1, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) inched closer to the Western Division title. Arkansas can clinch the West with a victory at Mississippi State next weekend.
"Casey did an excellent job of managing the game," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "He got us out of bad plays and threw well."
Although this marked Dick's start of the season, he had played most of the game last week in Arkansas' 26-20 victory at South Carolina. He has spent the majority of the season backing up true freshman Mitch Mustain.
The quarterback switch seemed like a bit of a gamble because Arkansas had taken over first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with Mustain under center.
Arkansas had won all eight games Mustain had started, which shouldn't have come as a surprise. The freshman phenom owns a 60-2 record as a starting quarterback since the eighth grade.
But the former five-star prospect had begun showing signs of inexperience. His first pass was intercepted each of the past two weeks.
That prompted Nutt to make the change.
Although Dick is only one year ahead of Mustain, the sophomore gained experience playing late-season games when he started the final four weeks of the 2005 season. His experience paid off Saturday. He never looked nervous, despite facing a ranked foe in his first start of the year.
On Arkansas' second series of the night, Dick threw a 12-yard pass to Marcus Monk in the left corner of the end zone that gave the Razorbacks a 7-0 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"Our offensive line did a tremendous job of creating holes and giving me time to find open receivers," Dick said. "The first touchdown set the tone and really got us going."
Dick wasn't even on the field for two of the Razorbacks' other touchdowns.
Darren McFadden lined up at quarterback and ran for a 17-yard touchdown off a direct snap early in the second quarter. On the Razorbacks' next series, McFadden took a direct snap and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Monk.
TOUGH NIGHT: Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton never established much of a rhythm in his first career start.
Crompton threw two touchdown passes for the second consecutive week and was intercepted just once. But the redshirt freshman also completed less than half his passes and was sacked four times while filling in for Erik Ainge, who missed the game with an ankle injury.
"(Arkansas' pass rush) got there, but I had time to get the ball off," Crompton said. "Most of those sacks were my fault."
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound junior recorded three sacks in the first half. His presence also coaxed Tennessee right tackle Eric Young into a false-start penalty.
Anderson now has recorded at least one sack in six of his last seven games. He has 10 sacks this season.
"Our d-backs did a tremendous job shutting their receivers down," Anderson said. "That forced the quarterback to hold the ball and let us get back there."
MEACHEM REACHES 1,000: Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem caught four passes for 67 yards to go over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He scored the Volunteers' first touchdown when he caught a 27-yard pass on a third-and-17 play in the second quarter.
Meachem joined Joey Kent (1995 and 1996), Marcus Nash (1997) and Kelley Washington (2001) as the only Tennessee players to compile 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. Meachem has 1,056 receiving yards, which puts him 114 yards away from Nash's single-season school record.
DYNAMIC DEBUT: Arkansas junior free safety Kevin Woods made his first career start Saturday in place of Michael Grant, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament last week.
Woods blamed himself for one of Tennessee's touchdown passes, but he also delivered an interception that led to Jeremy Davis' 28-yard field goal. Woods caused a scare late in the game when he got hurt in a collision, but the injury isn't considered serious.
ETC: Arkansas didn't allow a sack all night and has given up only six sacks all year. … Arkansas fullback Peyton Hillis bruised his right thigh in the first half and didn't return. Arkansas offensive guard Stephen Parker sprained his right knee. … The announced attendance of 76,758 set a Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium record. The old record was a crowd of 76,564 in a season-opening loss to Southern California. … Arkansas' nine-game winning streak is its longest since the Razorbacks opened the 1988 season with 10 consecutive wins. … Monk caught eight passes to match the career high he set a week earlier. … Tennessee safety Jonathan Hefney recorded his 200th career tackle and his first career fumble recovery.
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