77th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl ~ January 4, 2011**
#8 Ohio State 31 (Final: 12-1, #5)**
#6 Arkansas 26 (Final 10-3, #12)
The game - and the quarterbacks - lived up to all expectations, though the 77th Sugar Bowl was partitioned into 30-minute segments, and coming within 58 seconds of being remembered as an instant classic.
How Arkansas and Ohio State Met in the 2011 Allstate Sugar Bowl
In the first half Ohio State, and Pryor, dominated Arkansas like no other opponent did all season (and remember, the Hogs' two losses came from national champion Auburn and defending national champ Alabama), opening up a 28-7 lead until four seconds before intermission. In the second half the Razorbacks, and Ryan, had their way with the Buckeyes, closing to within five points of pulling off one of the most spectacular finishes in Sugar Bowl history.
Pryor got the Buckeyes off to a roaring start, passing for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and rushing for 52 more as Ohio State took complete control of the game.
In a demonstration of how well things were unfolding for Ohio State, the Buckeyes scored on their first possession, going 74 yards in eight plays and getting OSU's first points when Pryor took off on a 34-yard run, then when the Hogs' Thomas Tramain forced a fumble, lost the ball at the 3. The ball bounced into the end zone where receiver Dane Sanzenbacher fell on it.
Meanwhile, Ryan was putting the ball right on his wide-outs fingertips - where many were dropped, despite constant hounding by Heyward, whose daddy once played for the New Orleans Saints. Ryan did tie things up with a 17-yard pass to Joe Adams on the Hogs' second series.
The Buckeyes went on a tear, scoring 21 unanswered points on: a one-yard run by Herron after a seven-play, 68-yard drive; a 15-yard pass from Pryor to Sanzenbacher; and a 43-yard pass from Pryor to Posey with 1:59 to play in the half.
Arkansas used the remaining time well, driving from its 10 to the OSU 3 where Zach Hocker kicked a field goal to send the teams to the dressing room with a 28-10 score.
The Razorbacks really looked cooked.
Not so fast, my friend.
In the last 30 minutes, Arkansas cut Ohio State's point production from four touchdowns to one field goal, which also allowed the Hogs to get back on track offensively.
Hocker and OSU's Devin Barclay traded field goals of 46 yards. Then Mallett found Jarious Wright for a 22-yard touchdown pass. The Hogs added a two-point conversion from Ryan to D.J. Williams to cut the lead to 31-21.
There was 11:52 to play, but the game was now definitely on!
Arkansas' defense then made it even more interesting. After a Dylan Breeding punt inside the 5-yard line, the Hogs' Jake Bequette tackled Danny Herron in the end zone for a safety that put the Razorbacks within hailing distance at 31-23. When Arkansas got the ball after the safety, Hocker kicked another field goal from 47 yards out to make the difference 31-26 - one touchdown away from victory - with 8:55 remaining.
Time was vital now, and twice in their next two possessions the Buckeyes were able to kill more of the clock because of Pryor's running skills. On third-and-five at the OSU 19, Pryor ran out of the shotgun for nine yards for the first; Later, in the same series, on third-and-15 at the OSU 23, Pryor slipped through tacklers at right end for a first down at the 37, though he seriously injured his foot on the run.
After having to give up possession, the Bucks got the ball again with 4:33 to go. Trying to drain more time off the clock, on second-and-nine and third-and-one, the hobbled Pryor made eight and one yards, again elongating Ohio State's possession time before the Hogs finally forced a punt.
However, that's when the window of opportunity grew wider. Arkansas' Colton Nash came through the middle of the Buckeyes' line to block the kick. But instead of scooping up the ball and running it in from the 18, which seemed entirely possible, the Hogs fell on it.
Arkansas' final chance started with a dropped pass (the last of six by Arkansas receivers) senior tight end D.J. Williams. It was one of six passes dropped by Razorback receivers. On the next play Mallett made one of his few mistakes. Baited by coverage, Ryan let loose a pass that Solomon Thomas cut in front of, going down to the Superdome turf with the ball cradled in his arms with 58 seconds to play.
That ended any chance of a stirring finish.
"I didn't see the guy,'' Ryan said later. "They had pressure coming, and I just didn't see him. He made a great play.''
As it turned out, each one of the previously suspended Buckeyes made significant contributions to the victory. Herron gained 93 yards and scored a touchdown; Posey caught three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown; Smith helped open the holes as OSU amassed 446 yards of offense. And Pryor passed for 221 yards and rushed for 115 yards, many on those crucial third down plays. Mallett didn't do badly either, throwing for 277 yards and two touchdowns.
But, without doubt, Pryor was the MVP of the Sugar Bowl.
"We were tired of listening to how we couldn't beat the SEC,'' Herron howled in obvious satisfaction afterward. "But I know one thing: we couldn't have done it without Terrelle. He was unbelievable."
Of course, in a technical sense, Ohio State didn't finally beat an SEC team. The Sugar Bowl was one of the victories from the 2010 season the Buckeyes later vacated due to NCAA-related issues.
Recap by Sugar Bowl historian Marty Mulé, an award-winning sportswriter who covered college football and the Sugar Bowl for the New Orleans Times-Picayune for 33 years.
** - Ohio State's participation was later vacated.