Sugar Bowl: Ohio State 31 Arkansas 26

Key Sequence:

When the Buckeyes took their 28-10 lead into the locker room at halftime, many people thought we were headed for a rout – this was not the case. The Razorbacks came out of the break on a mission. They scratched and clawed all second half long trying to find an opening.

That opening would come with 1:09 remaining thanks to Colton Miles-Nash’s outstanding punt block which was recovered by Julian Horten. Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks offense took over at the Buckeyes 18 yard line. The score was 31-26 Ohio State, yet momentum was on the Hogs side.

It was on the second play of this drive however that Mallett made the most ill-fated pass of his life – A pass which was picked off by Solomon Thomas, sealing the game for the scarlet and gray.

The excitement had been building for Arkansas all throughout the fourth quarter. Mallett and the offense had battled back and looked to be heading for a miracle finish, but it was not to be. It had to be frustrating that the game-sealing interception was made by Thomas, who shouldn’t have even been eligible to play in the game – being one of the five Buckeyes caught in the recent merchandise/tattoo scandal.

The biggest frustration of all however comes when you look back at the huge punt block play. Miles-Nash blocks the ball cold – and out it rolls inside Ohio State’s goal line – there’s not a Buckeye in sight. Horten could have easily picked up the ball and ran it in for what would have likely been the game winning touchdown. But he didn’t. He fell on it instead, killing the play.

This is all Wednesday morning quarterback type stuff. The bottom line is Arkansas had a chance to win the game at the very end – and they had the ball in the hands of their star quarterback. Unfortunately, it was Mallett who ended up making the big mistake which cost them what would have been their first ever BCS victory.

Who Shined:

– Cameron Heyward, DL, OSU: Dominated up front and pressured Mallett all game long.

– Terrelle Pryor, QB, OSU: 14/25, 336 total yards (115 rushing), 2 TD’s

– DeVier Posey, WR, OSU: 3 receptions, 70 yards, TD

My Take:

The Buckeyes proved why they’re the one real constant in the Big 10. They reached the BCS for the sixth straight time and finally came away with a major win. They broke their 0-9 mark against SEC teams in bowls, and gave the Big 10 something to hang their hats on after the conference was embarrassed on New Year’s Day.

Terrelle Pryor continues to be one of the most streakiest, yet dangerous players in the country. He was brilliant in the first half, disappeared for much of the second, yet was there towards the end of the ball game to convert some big time third downs.

Speaking of third downs, the Buckeyes were tremendous overall in this category. They were 8 for 16, and all eight seemed to come in vital parts of the game. Arkansas’ defense did everything they could, but there were plenty of times when Pryor just willed his team – most of the time with his legs – on third downs.

Pryor will be facing a 5 game suspension next season which makes the NFL draft that more attractive, but all signs point to him coming back to Columbus for his senior season. That’ll be the smartest decision he’s ever made.

One of the biggest things to take away from this game was just how bad the Razorback receivers were. They had some major, major drops at key points in this game. Mallett played his heart out and time after time put the ball right on the money, only to be dropped.

Their first offensive play of the game should have been an 80 yard touchdown, but Joe Adams dropped the pass. This turned out to be a reoccurring theme all night long.

I was very disappointed in Arkansas’ offensive line. Cameron Heyward dominated play after play it seemed. Mallett was on his back way too much for my liking, and most of the time it was because of Heyward who will be a big time player at the next level.

The thing that sickened me the most was not how Arkansas’ offensive line failed to protect Mallett during plays – but rather how they failed to protect him AFTER plays. On numerous occasions Mallett would be hit, or sacked, and then tossed around like a rag doll while he tried to get up.

Heyward and his fellow Buckeye defenders put several after the whistle shots on Mallett – and very rarely did a Razorback offensive lineman stick up for their quarterback… This is absolutely inexcusable. You can’t allow your quarterback to be cheap-shotted without retaliating. This showed me all I needed to know about the character of the Hogs up front. They were intimidated by the Buckeyes front seven – that’s a fact.

Despite being underdogs, Arkansas came in the better team, but their inability to consistently make big plays is what cost them. Yes, they almost pulled it out at the end, but you can’t afford to shoot yourself in the foot as many times as they did and still expect to win.

It’s amazing to think how different this game would have been had Arkansas hauled in just one or two of those drops… It’s a game of inches, and every single one of them adds up. The Razorbacks learned that the hard way.

Check back on Friday for my preview of the BCS title game…

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