Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pryor, OSU take down Arkansas, SEC

Terrelle Pryor and the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate a well-earned victor over the Arkansas Razorbacks.

To see how far someone has come, you need to look at where they started. For Ohio State quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, that is from very humble roots indeed, in a little school district in my hometown, where the high school football team lifted in the coach's garage because the school couldn't even afford a weight room. For Ohio State, that is from a record of having lost its nine previous bowl games played against SEC schools. For the Big Ten conference, that is from having just suffered three embarrassing bowl game losses to SEC teams on New Years Day.

If you understand those things, you understand why last night's Sugar Bowl was such a huge statement game. It spelled redemption across the board any which way you read it.

Admittedly, I found the game personally redeeming as well. I have been defending Pryor and Ohio State to the hilt all season, insisting to my SEC friends and in my own facebook status messages and twitter posts that this will be the year Pryor and OSU take down the SEC and break the curse. Specifically, I said I believed this year's Buckeye team would defeat any SEC school, except perhaps their #1 ranked team. That is exactly what happened.

Pryor is finally a junior; an older, more experienced QB, and, as such, he is the secret ingredient OSU had been missing in its past losses to SEC teams. No matter how many times I told everyone that this is the year and they should believe me, they didn't see it coming until this game was over.

Telling an SEC fan that any of their teams are inferior to any non-SEC teams is like teaching a pig to whistle. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. While any good football fan has to give respect to the SEC as the best conference in college football, many of their fans' blind inability to appreciate talent on other teams has warranted an "In. your. face." spirited reaction from me. The problem with SEC fans is that they fail to give any respect or recognition where it is due outside the SEC. Perhaps if they took some time to smell the winning Rose Bowl performance Pryor and OSU gave last year, they would have seen this coming like I did *all* season.

Pryor and OSU fought their tails off every day and got little to no respect from SEC fans; respect which they can no longer be denied after taking down the Razorbacks, the SEC's #2 team in this decisive bowl game.

Pryor earned the MVP award for his performance in the game, in which he basically carried the entire game on his shoulders, running for essential first downs and a team-leading 115 yards, and completing 14-of-25 passes. Two of Pryor's passes resulted in touchdowns, helping OSU build a solid lead over the Razorbacks, who went into halftime trailing 28-10.

However, the Razorbacks managed to stop the bleeding and stage a near comeback in the second half. 14 points and a safety later, Arkansas, then trailing only 31-26, nearly did get their comeback when Colton Miles-Nash hurdled two OSU linemen to block a punt and give the Razorbacks the ball at the Ohio State 18-yard line with 1:09 remaining in the game.

As if the game weren't heart-attack-inducing enough at this point, an interception by Ohio State defensive end, Solomon Thomas, only seconds later, sealed the victory of #6 OSU over #8 Arkansas, 31-26.

OSU stayed on top despite a wrist injury to one of their wide receivers which forced him to leave the game in the second half, and a late fourth quarter ankle injury to Pryor, which caused him to miss only one play while he got taped up before continuing to play through. Pryor's teammates had to assist him in getting up onto the award podium after the game.

Indeed, Pryor and OSU didn't just beat Arkansas tonight; they triumphed over the jinx of previous losses to SEC teams, and, indeed, triumphed over many disrespectful SEC fans in what will hopefully serve as an eye-opening "you're good, but you're not as good as you think you are, and you're not invincible" moment for the conference and their loyal-to-a-fault fans.

Make no mistake, I absolutely respect the SEC and the incredible talent across the board of their teams. I also respect the dedication of their fans, though not when it produces the type of hubris I saw exhibited by them this season.

This year, Ohio State's Sugar Bowl win proved Pryor and the Buckeyes were better than all in the conference but perhaps #1 Auburn. They earned the respect for which they fought every step of the way and which they had been wrongfully denied.

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