Thursday, January 13

Pour Some Sugar On Me

I realize it's been over a week since Ohio St's exciting 31-26 victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, but I kind of quickly transitioned into NFL Playoff mode and forgot about my obligation to my loyal FCF readers (meaning Andy). Editor's note: I look forward to it each week. Go Bucks! With the hated Ravens and Steelers playing each other in the playoffs this weekend, I hate to pour more salt in the wounds of Browns fans, but last week's Sugar Bowl seemed eerily similar to the Browns/Squeelers 2002 playoff game. Ohio St totally dominated in the first half, then tanked in the second. Luckily for Ohio St, they did not meet the same fate Cleveland did back in '02, as Arkansas didn't take what the Bucks tried to hand them. Let's make like D-Generation X and break it down.

Game Recap
Ohio St did what they always seem to do in big games: jump out to a quick lead. After forcing three Ryan Mallett incompletions (thanks to a DJ Williams drop that could have been six) and a punt, Terrelle Pryor took the Bucks right down the field, coming up with a big 34-yard run on third and long. However, Pryor didn't secure the ball, and fumbled inside the 10-yard line. OSU got the first break of the game when two Arkansas defenders knocked the ball out of each other's hands and the opportunistic Dane Sanzenbacher recovered for a TD to put Ohio St up early.

It's not quite clear if the Buckeyes tried an onside kick, or if Drew Basil just accidentally got the top of the ball, but the kickoff only went about 15 yards and the Hogs had the ball at midfield. Mallett wasted no time, tying the game with a 17-yard strike to Joe Adams. On OSU's next possession, TE Jake Stoneburner had a big third-down catch and Sanzenbacher was on the receiving end of a 31-yard toss, which set up a Dan Herron TD to put the Bucks back on top, 14-7. The teams traded punts to close out quarter number one.

The Razorbacks tried some trickery to begin the next frame, throwing on 4th and 1 from the OSU 30. The Buckeyes were all over it, and forced the turnover on downs. TP continued to carve up the Arkansas defense, finishing the drive with a 15-yard touchdown to Sanzenbacher. The Buckeye defense did a great job controlling this high-powered Hog offense, but Devin Barclay missed a 50-yard field goal between Razorback punts.

Pryor didn't want to leave it up to his kicker on their next drive, so he just completed a 43-yard bomb to DeVier Posey to make it a 28-7 game. Mallett led a good two-minute drill at the end of the half to set up a FG. The teams headed into the tunnel with Ohio St feeling good about a 28-10 lead.

Ohio St just went into a complete shell in the second half, gaining only 17 yards through the air. Their defense began to get tired, and eventually Mallett and the Arkansas offense started to have some success. After each team connected on a 46-yard field goal, Mallett hit Jarius Wright for a score then Williams for the two-point conversion, cutting into the Buckeye lead.

The Razorbacks began the final quarter with a punt that pinned the Buckeyes back at their own four-yard line. This set up one of the worst calls in I have seen in a big game in a very long time, possibly ever. Boom Herron took the handoff, was hit back at the two, was driven back into the end zone, broke free for a split second, then was tackled shy of getting back to the goal line. The referees huddled, then decided it was a safety and awarded Arkansas two points. You see a play like this happen almost weekly in football, and never have I seen it called a safety in my life time. If the ball carrier ever breaks the goal line, they call his forward progress down. Safeties are not called unless it is completely obvious, which this was most certainly not.

Arkansas took the ball after their gift two points, and capitalized in the form of another Zach Hocker field goal, suddenly trimming the once-large OSU lead down to 31-26. What followed was a series of wild plays that ultimately led to Ohio St's thrilling win.

Boom fumbled on 4-and-1, giving Mallett the ball back with a chance to go 40 yards and put Arkansas on top for the first time. Instead, his offense went three-and-out and punted the ball right back to Ohio St. The Bucks picked up a few first downs and were able to run three-and-a-half minutes off the clock, but eventually had to punt from their 38 with just over a minute to play. Colton Miles-Nash blocked The Cannon's punt, and it appeared Julian Horton had the opportunity to scoop it up and bury Ohio St. He instead elected to dive on the ball, and Arkansas took over at the OSU 18. After an incomplete pass, Mallett was pressured and tried to get rid of the ball quickly, never seeing Solomon Thomas. Thomas intercepted the pass and became the unlikely hero, sealing Ohio St's five-point victory.

Game Notes

Game Ball
Unlike the dumb BCS MVPs, who just go to the quarterback of the winning team, the Figgs GB goes to the most deserving player, which was defensive end Cameron Heyward. After last year's phenomenal junior season, Baby Ironhead's production slipped quite a bit this season. This was not the case in the Sugar Bowl, as Heyward was dominant. He had six tackles, 3.5 of them for a loss, including one sack. Those numbers don't even come close to showing how much he affected this game. He was constantly in Mallett's face, never letting the pocket passer get settled. Heyward wasn't the only standout on defense, as Ross Homan, John Simon, Nathan Williams and Devon Torrence all played great games.
Season's game balls: Pryor (4), Herron (3), Heyward, Tressel, Torrence, Defense, Moeller

Big Ten
The Big Ten desperately needed this win from Ohio St, as the rest of the conference did not fare so well. Things started out well, as the two pre-New Year's Big Ten teams notched surprising W's. A depleted Iowa team, missing star RB Adam Robinson and top wideout Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, beat Missouri in the Insight Bowl, and Illinois crushed Baylor on the legs of Mikel Leshoure in the Texas Bowl.

Then we entered 2011, and things went downhill, hard and fast. Northwestern lost a shootout to Texas Tech in the Ticketcity Bowl, Penn St was outscored by 17 in the 4th quarter to lose to Florida in the Outback, Michigan St never stood a chance in the Capital One against Alabama, and Wisconsin failed to prove Gordon Gee right by losing to TCU in the Rose Bowl. The only good thing to come out of this was michigan's embarrassing performance (and I mean really embarrassing) against Mississippi St in the Gator Bowl, which ultimately led to Dick-Rod's firing. Even with Ohio St's win, the Big Ten finished at 3-5, and will continue to be the media's whipping boy.

I already discussed the off-field issues involving five Ohio St players, and we certainly don't need to get into it any further. While I don't think those players should have been eligible to play in this game, I'm sure glad that they did. Pryor was MVP, Herron and Posey both scored touchdowns, and the meaningless player in the "scandal," Solomon Thomas, had the game-winning interception. Thanks, NCAA hypocrites.

Looking ahead to next season, all five players pledged to return next season and serve their five-game suspensions. While I don't think that pledge really meant anything to these guys, I do think Boom, Posey, Adams and Thomas will stay, simply because their draft status is not high enough. Now the big question - what about Terrelle Pryor? I have changed my mind, and now think TP will return next season. Not because of some "pledge," or because he wants to work hard next year and improve his abilities, but because he just had foot surgery last week after injuring himself at the end of the Bowl game. This means he will be very limited in workouts and the combine, if he can participate at all. I don't think that even Terrelle Pryor is arrogant enough to enter the draft after a situation like this, but you never know.

Farewell, Seniors
25 Buckeye football players will graduate this May (I use the term "graduate" loosely). 12 of these players played significant roles for this season's squad, including the top six players from the nation's second best defense. RB Brandon Saine, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, OL Justin Boren and Bryant Browning, DE Cameron Heyward, DT Dexter Larimore, LBs Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, DBs Chimdi Chekwa, Devon Torrence and Jermale Hines, and K Devin Barclay have all played their last game for the Scarlet and Gray.

It will be far from easy to replace those leaders on defense, but Tressel always seems to reload on that side of the ball year after year, even when it seems there has to be a drop in production. But Heyward, Rolle, Homan, Chekwa, Hines, and Torrence? This year there has to be a slip, right? Let's hope not, and let's hope for the best for these guys in the NFL.

Season Recap
So another season is in the books, and while it's always a little disappointing when you fall short of your goal of a National Title, you have to be impressed with the 2010 version of the Ohio St Buckeyes. They finish the year at 12-1, claiming a share of the Big Ten title for the sixth straight season, making their sixth consecutive and NCAA record ninth BCS game, and capping off the season with a dramatic Sugar Bowl for their NCAA record sixth BCS win. Oh yeah, and they beat michigan...again. It would be great to be celebrating a National Title right now, but there is plenty to be happy about if you're a Buckeye fan. 232 more days till kickoff!


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