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Hogs Not Ready For Primetime As OSU Snaps SEC Streak

So much for a 32-year mastery of Ohio State.  The Buckeyes raced past Arkansas in the first half and hung on in the second to win last night’s Sugar Bowl 31-26… and snap an 0-9 streak versus the SEC in bowl games.

As the Buckeyes built a 28-7 lead in the opening half, it looked as if one of the programs in action was playing in its 9th BCS bowl while the other was making its debut on the big stage.  That, of course, was the case.  Ohio State looked calm and cool.  Arkansas looked spooked.

Ryan Mallett — being the quarterback — will no doubt take some blame for not being quite as accurate as usual when flushed from the pocket.  Fair enough.  But imagine how his night might have gone had his receivers and offensive line had decided to show up.

On the game’s first play, Mallett tossed a perfect deep pass down the middle of the field to receiver Joe Adams.  Adams had gotten behind OSU’s safeties.  Catch it and the Hogs stun the Buckeyes with a touchdown bomb on Play One.

But Adams didn’t catch it.  In a sign of things to come, the ball clanged off his hands and to the turf.

“We’ve been working on that for a long time in practice,” said receiver Jarius Wright.  “And it worked pretty much every time.”

It worked last night, too… aside from the actual catch.

The Razorbacks’ problems grew from there:

* Adams and his fellow pass-catchers dropped a number of perfectly thrown first-down conversion and touchdown passes.  Officially, the Hogs registered six drops.  Making matters worse: UA’s leading receiver Greg Childs was lost for the season in the second half of a blowout win over Vanderbilt.  He might’ve made a difference last night.

* Mallett was on the run for most of the night as the Buckeye defensive line pushed around the Hogs’ O-line.

* The Razorbacks’ defense gave up 338 yards in the first half to a Buckeye team that had decided to go hurry-up in the Sugar Bowl.  It took until halftime for UA to adjust, and by then, the hole was too deep.  Kudos to Jim Tressell for throwing a change-up in the bowl game.

* The SEC might hold a speed advantage over the rest of the Big Ten, but Ohio State has caught up.  As the juggernaut of their league, it’s apparent OSU has been able to recruit SEC speed.  No wonder they win or share the Big Ten title every year.  No more jokes about Buckeye speed, please.

* Terrelle Pryor and Dan Herron combined for 423 yards and 3 touchdowns for Ohio State.  Can’t wait to see them in Columbus next year.  (We’ll see if they live up to their promise to return.)

* Arkansas’ high-flying offense accounted for just two touchdowns against OSU’s superb defense.  Cam Heyward was a one-man wrecking crew.

* The Razorbacks also committed six penalties to Ohio State’s two.

It’s never a good sign when your punter is the star of the night and that was the case for the Hogs last evening.  Danny Breeding consistently pinned the Buckeyes inside their own five with a punting display that’s sure to put him on some NFL team’s radar in the coming year.

But in the end, a punt actually accounted for the Hogs’ last unforced error.  With a minute remaining, Arkansas blocked an Ohio State punt.  Freshman receiver Julian Horton safely fell on the ball and gave the Hogs possession deep in Buckeye territory.  But with no one other than teammates surrounding him, Horton would have scored a likely game-winning touchdown had he been able to scoop up the ball and run with it.

Instead, he fell on it — and it’s hard to fault him for that.  Unfortunately, Mallett tossed a game-killing interception just two plays later.

In the end, Arkansas looked like what it was: A team making its first BCS appearance.  A team that lost its three biggest TV showdowns of the year (to Alabama, Auburn and Ohio State). 

Wright had it right when he said after the game: “Nerves had a lot to do with it.  We didn’t calm down until the second half, and by then it was a little bit too late.”

The links:

* The bitter loss dampened Arkansas’ BCS experience.

* Pryor tasted success while Mallett tasted defeat.

* The Razorbacks had their chances last night.

* The loss shouldn’t overshadow what UA accomplished in 2010.

* Mallett said after the game: “We’re going to continue to come back swinging and get ready to take another shot at the BCS.”  So does that mean he’ll return to Fayetteville for another season?

* Here’s one more wrap-up of last night’s Sugar Bowl.



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