By: Flint Harris Follow Flint on Twitter, Join us on Facebook
The 2011 Sugar Bowl was as entertaining as any bowl game this season. The Ohio State defense made stop after stop in the second half and finally created a turnover on Arkansas’ last drive to preserve a 31-26 win over Arkansas. Today we take a painful review at three reasons why Arkansas came up short and Ohio State triumphed.
1. Cameron Hayward and the Buckeye defensive line
Heyward wears number 97, and he filled your television set last night. Hayward, who is the son of former NFLer and New Orleans Saint Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, was a complete menace to the Arkansas offense. Hayward (pictured) spent all night in the backfield sacking, hurrying, and flushing Hog QB Ryan Mallett out of the pocket. Fellow defensive lineman Dexter Larimore had two sacks as he spent most of the evening in the Razorback backfield too. Several times during the game the Buckeyes rushed three and dropped eight men into pass coverage. Regardless, the Buckeye defensive line got to Mallett and sacked him or made him move out of the pocket. Mallett is not effective yet at sidestepping a relentless pass rush. The Arkansas offensive line had no answer for the Buckeye defensive line. Mallett was hurried all night, which is the only way to slow him down.
Good gosh almighty I cannot remember seeing so many dropped passes since playing intramural flag football. The Arkansas receivers namely their two best, Joe Adams and TE DJ Williams, dropped numerous passes that cost Arkansas dearly. Mallett, who finished 24-47 with 277 yards, thrives off of success and with the pass rush wearing him out, the drops only exacerbated the problem exponentially. Joe Adams dropped a perfectly thrown ball that would have gone 80 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game. Adams later dropped another touchdown pass that hit him in both hands. Williams had drops too, but none bigger than his drop on 1st and 10 after the blocked punt in the fourth quarter. If Williams catches the ball to get Arkansas inside the 10, the Hogs likely would not have gone five wide and called the play that ended the game with a poor decision by Mallett throwing into double coverage for an interception. Several other Hog wide receivers also had drops that would have kept drives alive, Chris Gragg, gotten the Hogs in field goal range, Lance Ray, or improved field position, just about every other receiver on the team.
3. Senator Tressel and Staff
Call him Senator Tressel, The Sweater Vest, or whatever else you want to call the bespeckled CEO of Ohio State football, but Jim Tressel has simple been money in the last two BCS bowl games. Tressel and his staff have been masterful in BCS bowl games the last two years. The Buckeyes beat Oregon last year in the Rose Bowl with a revamped game plan. Fast forward to the 2011 Sugar Bowl and Tressel and company ran several plays on offense that resulted in Buckeyes running in wide open spaces during the first half. The Buckeyes also ran some hurry up offense that seemed to bother Arkansas substitution patterns. I feel like Tressel and his staff get a couple of pitchers of margaritas and let the tequila flow before coming up with aggressive and sound bowl game plans. So kudos to Tressel and his staff for a terrific game plan.
Arkansas fans experienced a brutal first half only to fight, scratch, and claw back in the second half. With a chance to win the game, Arkansas dropped a pass, and then the Buckeyes created pressure and a well-timed obscure coverage lead to a Buckeye win against an SEC team after nine previous losses.
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