Friday, January 7, 2011

BUCKEYES LOOKING MORE SEC-LIKE; SANZENBACHER, PRYOR STEP IT UP

Dan Herron (1) celebeartes with his teammates after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter of Tuesday night's Sugar Bowl win in New Orleans. (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
NEW ORLEANS — Just a few thoughts from Ohio State's 31-26 Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas ...

BUCKEYES HAVE EVOLVED ... Ever since being thwarted by Southeastern Conference powers Florida and LSU in back-to-back BCS Championship games (2007-2008), Ohio State has changed the way they recruit players.

They're recruiting philosophy has went from size and power, to speed and elusiveness, and although they still put a fence around the state of Ohio, they have moved mostly out of the midwest and more into the south when looking for prep prospects.

Simply said, they are evolving from a Big Ten pound-it-out squad to a speedy SEC team. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel surely came to the conclusion a few seasons ago that to win championships you have to match up with the competition, and we all know who the Buckeyes will likely play for those titles, now don't we?

After a heartbreaking defeat to Texas in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State has ran off back-to-back BCS bowl wins over Oregon (2010 Rose Bowl) and Arkansas, teams that in the past would've given the Buckeyes fits because of their fast-paced style.

Of course, Coach Tressel will not admit that the Buckeyes have separated themselves from the big, slow Big Ten.

"I know we're awfully proud of the fact that we beat Oregon in 2010 and no one else has this year," Tressel said. "And a win over Arkansas is something we're awfully proud of. But I don't know that we ever get into the discussion as to who we're separated from, because we're going to be right next to them (Big Ten teams) when we play next year."

Tressel does admit, though, that getting a bowl victory over an SEC team is quite an accomplishment, especially after the Big Ten went 0-3 against them this postseason before Ohio State topped the Razorbacks.

"I think it's a big deal because Arkansas is a great team," Tressel said. "And every year you don't get to play an SEC team. They have a great conference. No one would refute that ... So to beat a team like that, it's special."

The Buckeyes were 0-9 all-time against the SEC in bowl tilts — Tressel 0-3 — coming into Tuesday's showdown with Arkansas, so to get that gorilla off their backs was certainly special, as well.

"We were 0-3 since I've been here against SEC teams," Tressel smiled. "They're all good teams, and so it's special to win this particular game. The fact it happens to be an SEC team, you know, that makes me maybe a little bit prouder because you know how good that league is."

We all do ... that's why Tressel changed the dynamic of the team.

Don't worry, we'll get him to admit it one day.

Dane Sanzenbacher
(TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
DANE SANZENBACHER IS TRULY AN MVP ... If by chance you come across a person who has never seen Dane Sanzenbacher play and you want to describe what type of player he is, just show them film of the first touchdown scored in Tuesday night's Sugar Bowl, because that play totally exemplified what kind of competitor he really is.

On the Buckeyes opening offensive series of the game, quarterback Terrelle Pryor took off on a long run deep into Arkansas territory. However, as he was approaching the goal line, the football would be knocked loose from Pryor's hands and punched forward into the end zone. With three Arkansas players bearing down on the football, Sanzenbacher came essentially from nowhere, dove over the Razorbacks who were fighting for the pigskin, and recovered it for the Buckeyes touchdown.

That play right there showed why Sanzenbacher was voted as the team's Most Valuable Player and Most Inspirational in a "landslide" by the Buckeyes players and coaches.

"I'll  tell you, if there was one person that would be there to make a play like that, it would definitely be Dane Sanzenbacher," Pryor said. "He's made plenty. And if you watch him on film, he's sprinting down the field whether he's got the ball or not. Whether it's the run, he's the first congratulating you. I'm impressed he came up with it, because that was a great play.

"Like Coach (Tressel) said, I was falling over, and the first thing I was thinking was I couldn't put out my left hand because my right hand was closest to where I was falling. I was scared to switch it back. I was trying to put the ball down and keep my balance. And Dane Sanzenbacher is definitely the person out of anybody that I think would make a play like that.

"He's just a great player."

Terrelle Pryor (TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT, BUT TERRELLE PRYOR IS A BIG-GAME PLAYER ... OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor is probably the most scrutinized college football player — maybe ever.

You consistently hear talking heads bashing him for this, or cutting down on him for that, but when it comes to playing big in big-time games, Pryor has certainly shown his worth.

Pryor is 31-4 as a Buckeye starter and more importantly 3-0 against Michigan. But what's even more impressive is that the Buckeyes signal caller is 2-0 in BCS bowl games as a starter, and it didn't come against the likes of Pittsburgh or Connecticut. either, it came against Oregon — who's playing for the national championship on Monday — and SEC power, Arkansas.

And in those wins, Pryor wasn't just simply a game manager, he was the catalyst.

In the two wins against Oregon and Arkansas — both of which he was named MVP — Pryor averaged 337 total yards and two touchdowns per.

Say what you want about Pryor's style or his actions off the field. The bottom line is this, he's a winner.

A big-game winner.