Finally! Finally! Finally! Ohio State has beaten an SEC team in a bowl game. The Buckeyes held on to beat Arkansas, 31-26, in a wild game at the 2011 Sugar Bowl.
At times it seemed like this game would not end and the fates had decreed that Ohio State was destined to lose. There was a weird safety call. Lots of injuries to key players, including Chimdi Chekwa, Cam Heyward, and Terrelle Pryor. A fumble by Boom Herron on a crucial fourth-down conversion. And ultimately a blocked punt that gave Arkansas the ball in great field position. But somehow Ohio State’s defense refused to crumble. Solomon Thomas intercepted Ryan Mallett as Arkansas was on Ohio State’s doorstep, and that sealed the win.
Say what you will about Terrelle Pryor, but he played a great game — and he is the only Ohio State quarterback to beat the SEC in a bowl game. Pryor ran, passed, and made a slew of big plays to convert third downs and move the chains. And Ohio State’s defense played a “bend, but don’t break” approach to perfection. Arkansas moved the ball, but the D would make a big play and force a punt or a field goal attempt by a team that is used to scoring touchdowns. Cam Heyward was a force on the defensive line all night long. He has been a great Buckeye — one who returned for his senior year, when he could have gone pro — and he was rewarded with a game that Buckeye Nation will remember forever. He will be missed. And the rest of the defense also did a great job in holding Arkansas at bay and then, finally, forcing the turnover that ended the game.
Ohio State can’t brag about their record against the SEC. They sprinted to a lead in this game, and then held on for dear life. But it feels very sweet indeed that the Buckeyes have finally thrown the SEC bowl game monkey off their backs, and in the process salvaged a bit of pride for the Big Ten conference. Congratulations to the entire team and Coach Tressel and his staff on a 12-1 season that showed, again, that Ohio State has fielded one of the best teams in the country.