Bahn: Razorbacks Not Quite Ready for Prime Time in First BCS Bowl

by Chris Bahn  on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011 1:50 am  

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett was sacked four times in a 31-26 loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. (Photo by Mark Wagner)

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

NEW ORLEANS — A dropped pass on what looked like a sure touchdown began Arkansas’ night in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State. An interception on the Razorbacks’ 78th and final play effectively ended a 31-26 loss to the Buckeyes.

It was clear which program was making a sixth consecutive BCS bowl appearance. Ohio State (12-1), making a ninth major bowl appearance in the last decade, looked comfortable in the spotlight.

Arkansas (10-3) wasn’t quite ready for prime time against the sixth-ranked Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl. Sure, the Razorbacks battled back from a 21-point deficit, but they ended with too many mistakes for a victory.

Players didn’t want to chalk up the loss to nerves, but admitted to a lack of focus. Tight end D.J. Williams said the Razorbacks’ saved some of their biggest mistakes of the season for the biggest game of the season.

“It was just one of those days. It just happened to be on the day of the biggest game probably in the history of Arkansas. Oh …,” Williams said, pausing to gather his thoughts, “like I said, it’s tough. We can’t get it back. It’s something the young guys have to learn from and be prepared for next year.”

There were plenty of mistakes to go around, though offensive mistakes were the most glaring. Those were the miscues that began and ended the Razorbacks’ first Sugar Bowl appearance since 1980.

It was a far cry from how the offense looked over the final half of the season. Arkansas averaged 42-plus points per game in wins against its final six opponents. Knile Davis continued his superb running, finishing with 139 yards on 26 carries, but it wasn't enough to keep pressure off quarterback Ryan Mallett, who was sacked four times.

Dropped passes were a problem throughout the night — possibly a product of a 30-plus day break between the regular season and postseason. Receiver Joe Adams was the biggest culprit, dropping three passes that — fair or not — overshadowed his nine catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.

“Every single play counts,” coach Bobby Petrino said. “I’m going to go back and watch the video and there will be 10, 12, 14 plays and any one of those could have been the difference.”

In spite of the problems, Mallett looked like he’d get a chance to shake his reputation as a guy who struggles in big games. He got a gift when Arkansas blocked an Ohio State punt with 1:09 remaining.

Mallett, who completed 24 of 47 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns, proceeded to toss his only interception of the game. He was looking for Jarius Wright, who appeared to be wide open on the play, but didn’t account for defensive end Solomon Thomas dropping back into coverage.

“I didn’t see the guy,” Mallett said. “I tried to get rid of it quick. They had pressure coming. I didn’t see him. He made a great play.”

 

 

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