NCAA Football Bowls Page
NEW ORLEANS (Sports Network) - Terrelle Pryor threw two touchdown passes and Solomon Thomas recorded a late interception to help the sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes escape with a 31-26 victory over No. 8 Arkansas.
Thomas picked off Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett with 58 seconds left in regulation after a blocked punt had given Arkansas possession at the Ohio State 18-yard line.
Pryor and Thomas were among five Buckeyes who played despite garnering an NCAA suspension last month.
On December 23, the NCAA suspended Pryor, Thomas, running back Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and offensive lineman Mike Adams for the first five games of next season for selling championship rings, jerseys and awards, and receiving improper benefits from a tattoo parlor.
Pryor, the Sugar Bowl MVP, completed 14-of-25 passes for 221 yards and added 115 yards on the ground for the Buckeyes (12-1), who had never won a bowl game against an SEC team in nine previous tries. Pryor became Ohio State's career rushing leader among quarterbacks, breaking Cornelius Greene's record of 2,066 yards set from 1972-75.
Dane Sanzenbacher scored two touchdowns for Ohio State, one of which was far from conventional.
Mallett, like Pryor, a finalist for the Manning Award, presented to the nation's top QB, connected on 24-of-47 tosses with two touchdowns.
Knile Davis had 139 yards on 26 carries for the Razorbacks (10-3), who were making their debut in a BCS bowl.
Down 28-10 at halftime, Arkansas eventually pulled to within five points after Zach Hocker converted a 47-yard field goal with 8:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Facing a 4th-and-1 from their own 37 on the ensuing drive, Herron leaped for the first down and lost the ball. Ohio State recovered the fumble, but remained short of the first down.
The Buckeyes defense forced Arkansas to punt and Ohio State got the ball back at the four with 4:33 left. Herron moved Ohio State from the shadow of its own end zone by dashing 17 yards on first down. Pryor moved the chains with a sneak on third down, but the drive stalled at the Ohio State 38.
Arkansas defensive end Colton Miles-Nash then blocked the punt, setting the Razorbacks up in excellent field position. Mallett's pass on first down hit the turf before Thomas sealed the victory.
"We weren't able to execute and make plays in the first half and really weren't ready to go," said Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino. "And we did regroup at halftime. And I thought our players came out in the second half and competed extremely hard, played with great effort, played with a lot of pride, got ourselves right back into the game."
Arkansas got the ball to begin the game and quickly punted it away after three Mallett incompletions.
The Buckeyes started from their own 26-yard line and marched into enemy territory. Facing a 3rd-and-9 from the Arkansas 37, Pryor scrambled 34 yards but failed to secure the ball as Razorbacks safety Tramain Thomas knocked it loose from behind. Several Arkansas players had a chance to recover the fumble. The ball wound up rolling into the end zone, where it was recovered by Sanzenbacher.
"Well, we do practice recovering fumbles," said Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. "I don't know if we could have orchestrated any practice just like that one. But you know, (Pryor) was making a big play. He was going and he kind of got knocked off kilter there. And when you get knocked off balance, sometimes you put your arms out just to catch your balance, and he put his arm out and the ball was in it and it got whacked out. And fortunately we were hustling toward the ball, and came up with a big play on it."
A short kickoff enabled Arkansas to begin its next series near midfield. After three straight runs by Davis moved the ball to the Ohio State 35, Mallett hit D.J. Williams for an 18-yard gain before hooking up with Joe Adams for a 17- yard touchdown with 9:43 left in the first quarter.
It took the Buckeyes a little over two minutes to reclaim the lead on Herron's nine-yard touchdown run.
After the teams exchanged punts, Arkansas drove to the Ohio State 30 and opted against a field goal on 4th-and-1. The decision proved to be costly as Mallett's pass missed its target.
The Buckeyes then put together an eight-play drive that Pryor capped with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Sanzenbacher.
Devin Barclay's 50-yard field goal went astray on the next Ohio State possession, but the Buckeyes' lead grew to 28-7 when Posey hauled in a 43-yard TD pass with 1:59 remaining in the second quarter.
Arkansas trimmed its deficit to 28-10 on a 20-yard Hocker field goal as the first half expired.
The Razorbacks' first drive of the third quarter ended with Hocker drilling a 46-yarder. Barclay was good from the same distance later in the frame before Mallett hooked up with Jarius Wright for a 22-yard touchdown. Arkansas trailed 31-21 after a two-point conversion with 58 seconds left in the third.
Herron was tackled in the end zone early in the fourth quarter for a safety.