January 5, 2011 by staff
Terrell Pryor threw two touchdown passes, helping the No. 6 Buckeyes build a big lead, and Solomon Thomas made an interception with 58 seconds left that sealed a 31-26 victory over eighth place in Arkansas Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night.
Pryor and Thomas were among five players from Ohio State found to have violated NCAA rules by selling souvenirs and small tattoo just before the Buckeyes (12-1) went to the Big Easy. They were all suspended for the first five games of next season – but allowed to play in the sugar bowl.
Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said the five have committed to return to school next season to serve the punishment.
Ultimately, Ohio State needs them all to beat a team from the Southeastern Conference in a bowl for the first time. The Buckeyes have lost their previous nine meetings against the SEC playoffs.
The group also included Dan Herron and Divert Posey, who each scored a touchdown. But Thomas, the only backup of them, is the biggest game of all.
Arkansas (10-3) had a chance to complete an unlikely return when Colton Miles Nash jumped over two linemen to block a punt, putting the Razorbacks at the Ohio State 18 with 1: 09 remaining.
But Thomas Ryan Mallett surprised by falling into the cover of his defensive end position. Mallett’ve never seen Thomas and clung to the choice to seal the victory.
Pryor has promised to return for his final season, even if it is unable to play until next October. He left the Ohio State faithful with a good memory, completing 14 of 25 passes, including a 15-yard TD to Dane Sanzenbacher and 43 yards to Posey.
Pryor also ran for a team of 115 meters peak.
Mallett was 24 of 47 for 277 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. But he would like to have that last pass back.
Ohio State raced to a lead of 28-7 in the first half. Sanzenbacher scored his first of two touchdowns by recovering a fumble of Pryor, at the end of a run of 34 yards. Two Arkansas players hit each other off the ball lost, and Ohio State senior fell on her.
Herron scored on a run of 9 yards and then hooked up with Pryor and Posey Sanzenbacher throws touchdown that looked like a rout Buckeyes. Arkansas stopped the attack, but Ohio State was still comfortably ahead, 31-13 with just over 4 minutes left in the third quarter after Devin Barclay scored a field goal from 46 yards.
From there it was all Arkansas – until the last minute.
In the final minute of the third, Mallett made contact with a perfect pass in the corner of the endzone. Jarius Wright ran under it and got a foothold for a touchdown from 22 yards.
The Razorbacks could have been more inspired by the 2-point conversion. Mallett overthrew a pass to tight end DJ Williams, who was arrested and appeared excited by Jermal Hines. But Williams got in a way his right arm free and blocked the ball across the plane of the goal line, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to 31-21.
Then, after saving the Ohio at its own 4 with a punt, Arkansas has received a very questionable call by the officials to get two more points.
Herron was stacked around the 2 by Anthony Leon, who has pushed the running back in the end zone. But officials did not immediately blow the whistle; Herron broke briefly, and then was invaded by Jake Bequette and Rudell Crim.
After a brief huddle, the officials ruled a safety, despite protests that Tressel forward march Herron was arrested outside the zone.
With the side of the Superdome and the roar Arkansas momentum clearly on their side, the Razorbacks took the penalty kick that followed and led to reach goal by Zach Hocker third field of play, 47 yards which 31-26.
Clearly desperate to swing the tide, Tressel gambled on fourth and-1 from its own 38. He has sent diving Herron on the line, and descended beyond the first down marker. Only one problem: it did not take the ball. Tramain Thomas is disappearing into the air, and even if the Buckeyes recovered, it did not matter. They fell on the loose ball behind the line, turning the ball over Arkansas.
On the next play, however, the Razorbacks were called for holding. Then the third and-16, Lance Ray Mallett found open rupture in the middle, but Arkansas was sentenced by the well-known problem: yet another deleted passage.
Forced to punt, the Razorbacks stored Ohio State at its own 4 with 4:33 remaining again. Block of Miles Nash gave a last chance to win Arkansas, but Thomas tipped the balance with his pickaxe.
Pryor knelt twice, and Ohio State finally got this bowl first win in the SEC.
Copyright © 2011 the Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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