NEW ORLEANS - The streak is over for the Buckeyes against the SEC in bowl games but it took just about everything that Ohio State had. A final minute interception by defensive end Solomon Thomas stopped the Hawgs from driving and helped the Buckeyes hang on to defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks 31-26 in a game that had a little bit of everything, and then some.
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was named the MVP of the game after going 14-25 in the air for 221 yards and two touchdowns along with 115 yards on the ground. Pryor is one of five underclassman players who will be suspended for five games next season and controversially were allowed to play against Arkansas.
"I didn't want to let the seniors down," Pryor said. "That's a tight group and I didn't want to be so selfish to not come and play for the guys. I don't think I am really ready for the NFL. I think I've got a lot of learning and better decision-making (that) I have to make on and off the field."
This game will not be remembered however for the suspensions or for the fast Ohio State start or anything along those lines. It will all come down to how the final minutes of the game played out.
Ohio State was faced with a punt situation with close to one minute left in the game but sophomore punter Ben Buchanan was not able to get it clear of the Arkansas rush and Julian Horton fell on the ball at the Ohio State 18 yards line with the Hawgs needing just a touchdown to win it.
Arkansas would throw an incomplete pass on the first attempt and then the second one went right into the waiting arms of Thomas as the Ohio State sideline erupted and sent Arkansas home empty-handed in its first BCS bowl appearance.
"Solly made a great play and everybody executed," Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said. "I was proud of them, to see everybody just do their job and execute and make a critical stop like that to seal the game, you're proud of your guys."
Thomas took it all in stride but it was hard for the backup defender to hide his emotions.
"It's funny because you always hear stories about adversity and how if you push through, lessons lie at the end," Thomas said. "It's where you have such adversity, it's such a blessing and it's so drastic. This has really taught me how to deal with adversity next season."
All five of the suspended players had to pledge to Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel that they would return for their next season to face the punishment or not be allowed to go to the Sugar Bowl. After the game all five players were asked about their returns and all but Mike Adams reaffirmed their intentions to return. Adams said that he wanted to have a chance to evaluate the appeal and go from there after focusing solely on game preparations to this point.
The win for the Buckeyes gives Ohio State its 6th BCS bowl win which is tops in college football. Ohio State's win gave the Big Ten a much needed bowl win after a dismal showing on New Year's Day to hand the league a 3-5 record in 2010-11.