Arkansas has Sugar Bowl win in its hands…then drops it.

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett (15) is chased from the pocket by Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Hayward (97) during first half action of the 77th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana January 4, 2011. UPI/A.J. Sisco

Here are five quick-hit observations on Ohio State’s wild 31-26 win over Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.

1. From the opening play of the game, Arkansas blew its opportunities.
Little did Arkansas know that the first play from scrimmage would be an omen for the rest of the game. Ryan Mallett threw a perfectly timed spiral to streaking receiver Joe Adams, who beat the coverage and would have had a touchdown had he hung onto the ball. It was the first of six dropped passes for the Hogs on the night, most of which came in crucial situations. And the drops weren’t the only opportunities Arkansas missed on the night. From Dane Sanzenbacher’s fluke fumble-recovery-turned-touchdown in the first quarter to the missed scoring opportunity after Boom Herron’s fumble late in the fourth quarter to Colton Miles-Nash’s inability to pick the ball up cleanly on teammate Ben Buchanan’s blocked punt to Solomon Thomas’ interception of Mallett in the final minute, the Razorbacks blew it time and time again. Wisconsin was heavily criticized for missing opportunities to beat TCU in the Rose Bowl last Saturday, but that was nothing compared to what Arkansas did Tuesday night. Their fans will need a lobotomy after watching that game.

2. Cameron Heyward will make one NFL team very happy some day.
Heyward is an absolute monster and he and the rest of his defensive linemates deserve major praise for harassing Mallett all night. He manhandled Arkansas offensive tackle DeMarcus Love and he didn’t allow Mallett to set his feet for many of his throws. When Mallett had to step up in the pocket to pass, he was widely inaccurate, often throwing the ball at his receivers’ feet. His wideouts didn’t do him many favors, but the Buckeyes’ defense really brought the heat on third down and made life uncomfortable for the Razorback signal caller. If it weren’t for Heyward and crew, Arkansas may have scored 40 points.

3. The SEC curse is over for Ohio State.
Try as they did to lose the game, the Buckeyes finally got the SEC monkey off their backs. The win snapped a nine-game bowl losing streak against SEC teams. OSU also saved some face for the Big Ten, which went 0-4 on New Year’s Day. Terrelle Pryor threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, while also rushing for 115 yards on 15 carries. On a night when Herron only gained 3.6 yards per carry and couldn’t get anything going on the early downs, Pryor stepped up several times when the Buckeyes’ offense faced third-and-long. He also picked up a huge first down on a quarterback sneak late in the game to shed time off the clock and keep the ball in OSU’s possession while they tried to preserve the lead. For the second year in a row, Pryor was special in a BCS bowl.

4. The BCS needed a finish like this.
If the BCS wasn’t on its knees at halftime praying for an Arkansas’ second half comeback, it certainly should have been. After two consecutive blowouts in the Fiesta and Orange bowls, it looked like the BCS was going to deliver its third-straight dud when Ohio State took a 28-10 lead into halftime. But fortunately for the BullCrapSystem, Arkansas’ defense came out of the locker room on a mission and Mallett got the Hogs back into the game. The blocked punt/game-sealing interception also made for the best finish in a BCS bowl game in quite sometime.

5. Hopefully NFL scouts were watching Dylan Breeding.
I’m not going to wax poetically about a punter so I’ll keep this short and sweet: Breeding was one of the stars for Arkansas. He had four punts downed inside the Ohio State 20, including three inside the five. Give credit to the Razorbacks’ punt coverage unit as well, but Breeding made it look easy. In a game where Arkansas trailed by 18 midway through the third quarter and needed to win the field position battle in the second half, Breeding delivered. You had to have seen the game to understand how crucial most of his kicks were.

On a side note, Paul Costanzo and I are now 4-0 in our BCS predictions this year. Granted, we got a free win with Oklahoma, but hey, I think we deserve a chance to gloat a little. Click here to see if we took Auburn or Oregon in the title game. (And then fade the pick because there’s no way he and I finish perfect.)

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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