Ohio State Holds Off Arkansas to Win 77th Sugar Bowl Classic


Ohio State Holds Off Arkansas to Win 77th Sugar Bowl Classic park

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Ohio State held off a furious second-half Arkansas rally as the Buckeyes claimed a 31-26 win in the 77th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic in the Louisiana Superdome on Tuesday.

The Buckeyes led 28-10 at halftime but Arkansas turned up the pressure in the second half and pulled within 31-26 midway through the fourth quarter. But, with the Razorbacks deep in Ohio State territory after a blocked punt, the Buckeyes got a critical interception and held on to claim victory.

Ohio State finished the season 12-1 while Arkansas ends its campaign at 10-3.

“Our kids fought and fought,” said Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. “I couldn’t be prouder. Our kids fought like crazy tonight. It’s a big win for us.”

Trailing by 18, Arkansas opened the second half with an 11-play drive that led to a Zach Hocker field goal to cut the Ohio State margin to 28-13. Ohio State answered with a field goal of its own to restore the 18-point cushion and give the Buckeyes a 31-13 lead with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.

Arkansas pulled to within 10 when quarterback Ryan Mallett hit Jarius Wright for a 22-yard touchdown pass and then D.J. Williams stretched the ball over the goal line to complete the two-point conversion.

The Razorbacks seemed to have all the momentum heading into the forth quarter and used it to record a safety with Ohio State running back Dan Herron was tackled in the end zone. Another Hocker field goal on the ensuing Arkansas possession brought the Razorbacks to within five, 31-26 with 8:55 left in the game.

Arkansas had a chance to pull out the win after the Razorbacks blocked an Ohio State punt and recovered the ball on the Buckeye’s 18-yard line with just over a minute remaining in the game. But OSU’s Solomon Thomas intercepted a Mallett pass on second down and the Buckeyes ran out the clock to claim victory.

“Arkansas is a special football team,” Tressel added. “We knew that when we drew them. It was just a knock-down, drag-out and I’m awfully proud of our guys.”

“It was a tough loss for us,” said Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino. “We had our opportunities and weren’t able to capitalize on them. I’m very proud of this football team and what they accomplished throughout the year. They showed their character and toughness in the second half.”

If the story of the second half was Arkansas comeback effort, then the story of the first half was Ohio State’s offensive outburst.

The Buckeyes got on the board first, albeit on an unusual play. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor scrambled 34 yards to the Arkansas three-yard line, only to lose the ball into the endzone. But Ohio State’s Dane Sanzenbacher corralled the loose ball to put the Buckeyes up 7-0.

Arkansas answered with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Mallett to Joe Adams to even the score at 7-7. However, Ohio State responded with another touchdown just over two minutes later as Dan Herron rushed in from nine yards out to give the Buckeyes a 14-7 lead.

Pryor then threw touchdown passes to Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey to push the Ohio State advantage to 28-7 before Arkansas ended the half with a Zach Hocker field goal.

Pryor, the Sugar Bowl Most Valuable Player, finished 14-of-25 passing for 221 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also added 115 yards rushing on 15 carries. The 115 rushing yards were the fourth-most by a quarterback in a BCS bowl game and the fourth-best by a quarterback in Sugar Bowl history.

Herron added 87 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Buckeyes, while Posey had three catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Mallett led Arkansas with 277 yards passing (24-of-47) with two touchdowns and an interception. Running back Knile Davis had 139 yards rushing on 26 carries. The 139 yards rushing were good enough for 12th-best in Sugar Bowl history. Joe Adams had nine catches for 120 yards for the Razorbacks. The nine catches tied for seventh-best in Sugar Bowl history.

The 2011 Sugar Bowl saw an attendance of 73,879, which was the highest for a Sugar Bowl since the 2008 Georgia-Hawaii game. It marks the 33rd time that the Sugar Bowl attendance has exceeded 70,000 in the Louisiana Superdome and the 61st time that the game has exceeded 70,000 overall.