I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Not literally, but in the way it feels like right after a bad break up, and I’m just standing here asking myself what just happened. In the wake of the Arkansas loss, I am an empty shell, not knowing what to think or how to act. Things got really bad, but then maybe there was a chance of everything working out after all, until everything came crashing down at the end. It was heartbreak.
I’ll break the game down as objectively as possible. What went right, what went wrong, what happened. No finger-pointing, no what-ifs, no feeling sorry for what happened (another break up reference? I’m on a roll).
We have the talent here, but as a program on the rise, Arkansas is still not a solid lock for a national contender. But Petrino is for real, and this season shows what is to come for the Razorbacks.
Little production in the first half. Adjustments at half, but OSU made a stop when it counted. The 5-headed monster of receivers didn’t show up, dropping 5 passes and keeping Mallett under 300 yards passing. Knile Davis added 139 rushing and helped to eat up the clock (time of possession ~32 mins), but the team was unable to convert yards to points. The offense didn’t click until the 2nd half, and everything came down to the last play after a blocked punt. Intercepted.
Caught off-guard by a no-huddle attack in the first half, much like what happened in the Auburn game (and maybe LSU? I don’t remember). Inability to stop 3rd down conversions and some slip-ups in the red zone (2 TD passes could have been prevented, first OSU touchdown was a bobble). Made too-little-too-late adjustments during halftime, allowing a single FG after getting blown away with 4 TD’s in the 1st half. And since I didn’t make a section about special teams, nice job getting field position in 2nd half, and Hocker and Breeding were spot-on.
Still wondering why the Tat-5 got to play. I understand that this was big money, so maybe the NCAA let them play but then gave them an unfair 5-game suspension next season to make up for it? Tressel shows that a good defense is the best offense, putting up a big lead and not letting the other team catch up.
Since the Immovable Object (OSU D) and the Unstoppable Force (Arkansas O) was a stalemate, it was up to the OSU O to be the difference maker. Many wondered which Pryor would show up today, and it seems like they got a little bit of both: Cam Newton in the first half, not much of anybody in the second. But he and Boom Herron combined for 202 rushing yards, and Dane Sanzenbacher made 2 clutch touchdowns that put OSU up big.
The real deal. Won the game. While Pryor made an outstanding case for himself as an elite quarterback in the 1st half, his being shut down for the most part of the 2nd half left it up to the D to save the Buckeyes’ dwindling lead. Prevention of the big play for most of the game (Arkansas gets its yards in chunks) and the crucial interception at the end of the game kept OSU on top.
The Sugar Bowl, after the Tat-Gate incident, became a lose-lose for the Razorbacks. Pull out with a W and it would have been because the focus was on the controversy instead of the game. Had the 5 players been suspended for the Bowl, it would have been because OSU would have been playing without a huge chunk of its playmakers. Lose, and it’s a let down for all Hog fans as well as a blemish in the SEC’s perfect record against OSU in the post-season. Furthermore, Arkansas lives up to its reputation as a school who gets its hopes up. But we lost. And that’s that. So, what now? What do we have to look forward to? Like I said before, Mallett gave us a heads up to “Get Ready.” This was not an empty promise. The Razorbacks have found an identity, confidence, and leadership. This season marked the true beginning of the Petrino Era. If a loss in the Sugar Bowl was the worst part of the season, I’d say it was a pretty good season. I expect more in the coming years.
Overall, this season was how I predicted it would be (I’m a know-it-all, so I’ll brag about it). My summer prediction was a 2nd place SEC West finish in a 10-3 season with losses against Bama, Auburn, and South Carolina, capped by a Cotton Bowl victory. What we saw was a 2nd place SEC West finish in a 10-3 season with losses against Bama and Auburn, and a tough but real loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. How do you feel about this? I’d rather take a close loss to a bigger team in a huge bowl than a win in a lesser bowl. It’s like getting a B in an Honors Cal class instead of getting an A in Gen Psych 101.
It was a great game, though. My dad always says, “You can’t say ‘good game.’ You lost,” every time his team loses. But I don’t buy it, since this really was one, though the outcome was disappointing. I’m glad the OSU fans that I did get to talk to were classy–every fanbase has its jerks, but I was fortunate enough to see lots of “good lucks” and “well-playeds” and “thank yous” from the other side. For now, I’ll just gear up for the next season, so look out for me on the Jumbotron.
Thanks for all the reads out there, I’m done with football now that season is over. I’ll see you again in July or August, unless you want to keep reading, and hear me ramble about my boring life ;) WPS