Now that lingering effects of Burbon Street have finally eased their grip, the screams of “woo pig” are slipping from memory and Solomon Thomas can lay claim to his first interception it’s time to take a look at a Sugar Bowl that will surely go down as a classic.
Did somebody say defense?
I could of sworn that I heard someone say that Auburn hadn’t seen a defense like Ohio State’s. During the first half, the Buckeyes did exactly what they needed to do forcing Mallett to throw under pressure resulting in more than a few dropped passes. The Buckeyes sacked Mallett three times in the first half and although he put up a few yards, this was not the Mallett we’d heard about.
Although the Arkansas fans I talked to seemed at a loss for the sudden inability to catch a pass, I can’t believe that the pressured throws didn’t have something to do with it. Mallet’s obviously got an arm and although it was hard to judge from the stands, I would bet that Mallet lost a little of the touch he’s known for when staring down the throat of an angry Cameron Hayward.
O.K., the layoff may have had an impact also but no more than it did when compared to Ohio State’s sudden ability to drop the ball.
Although I don’t have the first half stats, it appeared that the 400-yard-Ryan-Mallet-is-absolutely-amazing passing game we’d heard so much about was in serious trouble. Maybe it was the dropped passes but it seemed like Arkansas was turning to the running game much more than they wanted to during the first half.
Even though injuries and complacency took their toll in the second half, they still held Mallet to only 24/47 with an average of 5.9 yards per pass. They also held them on third down conversions with Arkansas only converting on 5 of 16 tries.
These are the boys I’ve been telling you about
During the first half, it also appeared as though Arkansas hadn’t seen an offense like Ohio State’s either. By the end of the first half, the Buckeyes had racked up 338 yards with Pryor throwing for 203 of those yards. As usual, Pryor kept it entertaining making big yards on the broken play stepping out of bounds just across the first down line (except for one very crucial first down where he came up short).
As much as I hate to see a play go south, it sure was fun watching 2-3 Arkansas defenders falling in his wake as he floats away from them.
Also have to give credit to the offensive line. The Buckeyes made it through the game without giving up a sack. Pryor was also did a good job of throwing it away when he needed to.
Mr. Nail…Meet Mr. Coffin
I’m never one to complain about a win but do we really need to make them this exciting? The second half played like classic Tressel Ball. Our high flying offense suddenly switched to a very conservative running game that wasn’t converting. Instead of sitting back we should have gone for the kill. When you’ve got an 18 point lead, they can’t win if you keep scoring
One of the biggest problems with sitting back was that it allowed for a huge momentum swing. I spent a day and a half leading up the game listening to that damn pig sooie thing and I honestly didn’t hear it once during the first half. It wasn’t until the second half that I realized that a solid two-thirds of the stadium was filled with Arkansas fans. I don’t think the Buckeyes realized how much they had silenced the crowd during the first half. I know I sure didn’t.
Can anyone remember the last time Ohio State gave up a blocked punt? And the punts we did get off sure weren’t anything to write home about. Arkansas’ final four drives of the game started from withing their own 48 including the final blocked kick on the OSU 18. (They only managed 39 yards on those final four drives.)
There was a day when we used to drop punts inside the 10 yard line–just like Arkansas did to us all night.
You’d never know it at the time but that was an onside kick in the first quarter. Although it didn’t work, I have to give Tressel credit. Arkansas was definitely having trouble getting settled in. A quick strike after the quick touch down would have been devastating.
Injuries took their toll
It was so painful to watch Chimdi Chekwa go out on a golf cart in the first quarter. I can’t imagine how painful it was for him. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around there were a lot of defenses faces we didn’t know too well. Quick, anyone have stats for Dominic Clark or Christian Bryant?
Travis Howard stepped in to replace Chekwa and found himself out with an injury. Jermey Hines also missed a few plays due to injury. And I didn’t even realize that Pryor hurt his ankle until the day after the game.
Heck, our man Thomas who caught the game winning interception doesn’t play that much.
The ESPN Five
Would someone please let ESPN know that there are more than five players on the Ohio State football team. Apparently EPSN felt that it wasn’t possible to talk about the game without breaking out the stats of the suspended Buckeyes. This of course coming from a network that would have lost considerable ratings if the five were held out of the Sugar Bowl.
This is only my third bowl game so my sampling may be skewed but at the 02/03 national championship game, Miami brought about 12 fans. Florida did better in the national championship game in Glendale but it wasn’t overwhelming. Arkansas was at the Sugar Bowl in force. It wasn’t until I saw the cars and realized that they were within driving distance that I knew this game would be different.
Don’t ever tell me the SEC doesn’t have an advantage in the Southern Bowl games.
They’re a cheeky bunch
For the most part, the Arkansas fans were great but wow, were they confident. As I’ve said repeatedly, I really don’t understand where that confidence was coming from. Although it was in fun, we could barely walk through the hotel or get on an elevator without hearing how we were going to get beat (although we were staying at the Arkansas headquarters).
I also found out they were very nice until you started talking specifics of the game. It’s at that point that the SEC sense of entitlement kicks in and you’re lost in a world of strength of schedule and who knows what else. For the most part I avoided it. I really got a kick out of the chants of “SEC..SEC” coming from the Arkansas fans. Again, it’s not like they had anything to do with it. I think the response of “BCS Virgin” was better but hey, I’m biased.
One young Arkansas lady in particular stands out. She had that classic southern politeness as a group of us shared a post game drink somewhere on Bourbon Street. All of a sudden she looked at me and said, “This was our game to lose.” Naturally, in my continued amazement at Razorback confidence I made the mistake of asking her, “At what point in a 28-10 game did you make that decision?”
Let me just say that I’m glad her boyfriend was a nice guy as our conversation seemed to come to a rather abrupt end.
Although I wasn’t at the BCS Championship against LSU, most Ohio State fans describe being all but run out of town by LSU fans. Most described drinks being thrown at them among other things and just sort of gave up on the post game festivities. To both Arkansas and Ohio State’s credit, their were plenty of Hog fans out after the game enjoying all that New Orleans has to offer.
Oh…and New Orleans
Sorry Pheonix but you’ve got nothing on the Sugar Bowl. This was my first trip to New Orleans and I have to admit, it’s something you just have to experience. To think that Buckeye fans thought the Sugar Bowl was a let down.
Let me wrap up with a big thanks to all the Razorback fans who joined the discussion. Up until now, I’d pretty much given up hope on the SEC. Once we get you guys past that strength of schedule stuff, you’re a great foil. Please don’t be strangers.