Harris: Arkansas Had Ridiculous Number of Chances to Beat Ohio State, But Didn't

by Jim Harris  on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011 2:38 am  

And then there was the face of Bobby Petrino that we saw on the football field (such as in the Sugar Bowl above.) (Photo by Mark Wagner)

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

For a longtime follower of Arkansas Razorback football, the way Arkansas lost 31-26 almost hurts too much to write. But Ohio State did everything it could Tuesday night to hand the 77th Allstate Sugar Bowl to Arkansas, and the Hogs -- from a freshman not scooping up a blocked punt and scoring to an NFL-hopeful quarterback failing to deliver in the clutch -- refused to take it.

From all the dropped passes -- we counted six in the game for Arkansas -- to the defensive confusion in the first half dealing with OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor and falling behind by three touchdowns, the eighth-ranked Razorbacks somehow found that inner strength that had carried them to a 10-2 regular season mark and not only made a game of it, they can just kick themselves for not doing so.

"We showed our character and toughness in the second half," UA coach Bobby Petrino said.

In the first half, Petrino said, "We just didn't make the plays and they did." Arkansas had far too many negative plays in the first 30 minutes. It was the total opposite in the second half with an outstanding kicking game led by placekicker Zach Hocker and punter Dylan Breeding and a resurgent defense.

With the score 31-26 in favor of No. 6-ranked Ohio State, Arkansas defensive lineman Colton Miles-Nash blocked the Buckeyes punt with barely a minute left in the game. Julian Horton fell on the ball with 1:09 left.

Why do you not scoop and score? Why do you fall on the football after a block? It is your ball? Scoop and score. Kid's a freshman, so maybe that's what he was taught in high school.

Special teams won the second half for Arkansas and could have won the game.

And, wait. Even though Arkansas failed to run that blocked punt in for an easy and probable game-winning score, the Hogs still were in terrific position at the Buckeyes 18-yard line to score the winning touchdown.

If only Ryan Mallett on second down doesn't throw it right into double coverage while aiming for Jarius Wright. Backup OSU defensive end Solomon Thomas dropped into help coverage and stole it away at the 17-yard line. Game over.

Arkansas also took over at the Buckeyes 38 when OSU's fourth-down gamble backfired, with never-fumbling Dan Herron getting the ball stripped as he dived over the pile. Yet, Arkansas did nothing thanks to a holding call on first down on senior guard Wade Grayson and a third-down pass drop by little used sophomore receiver Lance Ray when the Hogs needed 16 yards to move the chains.

As for the missed opportunity when the punt was blocked, Petrino said the players were trying to do that at first, then Horton made sure to gain possession. "We practice it all the time, it was very well executed," he said of the blocked punt, the Hogs' first of the season. "We got it done, and unfortunately we weren't able to scoop and score."

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said of the late turnovers on the Buckeyes' end. "In both cases our defense answered. And when your defense covers your sins ... you know, that's why we believe you win with defense."



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