NEW ORLEANS - Terrelle Pryor passed for 277 yards and two touchdowns and Solomon Thomas made a huge interception with about 58 seconds left, preserving No. 6 Ohio State's 31-26 victory over eighth-ranked Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl last night.
The Buckeyes (12-1) might want to send a thank-you note to the NCAA, which allowed Pryor, Thomas and three others to play even though they will have to serve five-game suspensions next season for selling memorabilia and getting discounted tattoos.
Four of those Buckeyes made huge plays. DeVier Posey caught a touchdown pass and Dan Herron ran for a score as Ohio State built a 31-13 lead. Arkansas (10-3) raced back and had a chance for the win after a blocked punt turned over the ball at the Buckeyes' 18 with 1:09 remaining.
But Thomas surprised Ryan Mallett by dropping into coverage from his defensive end position. Mallett never saw him and Thomas picked off the pass to seal the win.
Ohio State (11-1) snapped an 0-9 record against Southeastern Conference teams in bowl games and gained some respect for the Big Ten after a dismal performance on New Year's Day, when the league went 0-5 - including three losses to SEC schools.
The Buckeyes led 28-10 at halftime, but after both teams exchanged 46-yard field goals in the third quarter, the Razorbacks (10-2) cut it to 31-19 when Mallett lofted a 22-yard touchdown pass that hit Jarius Wright in stride in the end zone. Arkansas then went for the two-point conversion, with D.J. Williams making a short catch and stretching the ball across the goal line.
Dane Sanzenbacher caught Pryor's first scoring strike, making a diving, 15-yard catch for his second TD of the game in the second quarter.
Earlier, Sanzenbacher opened the scoring when he recovered a fumble for a touchdown after Pryor lost the ball on the Arkansas 3 during a weaving, tackle-shedding, 34-yard scramble. Two Arkansas players collided as they tried to recover and the ball squirted into the end zone.
Arkansas quickly struck back after Ohio State's attempted surprise onside kick was recovered by the Razorbacks at their own 49. Soon after, Mallett hit Williams over the middle for an 18-yard gain to the 17, where Williams appeared to fall flat on top of linebacker Ross Homan before rising to his feet without being ruled down and scampering the rest of the way for a touchdown.
After the play was reviewed, officials ruled Williams' wrist touched the turf. One play later, though, Mallett went straight for the end zone, where Adams hauled in the scoring pass just before stumbling out of bounds.