Silver Bullets On Notice Again

The Ohio State defense faces another highly rated offense in a bowl game, but Arkansas presents challenges the Texas and Oregon attacks did not because of its pro-style offense and strong-armed quarterback.

Another bowl game, another high-powered offense for Ohio State's Silver Bullets to shoot down.

After seriously slowing down Texas two years ago and Oregon at the conclusion of last season, stopping Arkansas should be no sweat, right?

Not so fast, even for a Buckeye group that is second in the nation in total defense and third in points allowed.

The Razorbacks present a more varied attack than either the pass-happy Longhorns or the run-oriented Ducks, something with which Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has become all too familiar during film study.

"The problem with them is they do both things well," he said, noting that as the season wore on, Arkansas learned to complement quarterback Ryan Mallett's powerful right arm with a formidable rushing attack. "I think the last four or five games you'd feel like, ‘Well we've got to stop the run' if that was the only thing you watched. So I think they give you more problems."

While Mallett threw for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns in the regular season, running back Knile Davis ran for 1,183.

Wide receivers Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Cobi Hamilton all caught at least 38 passes and gained more than 600 yards while tight end D.J. Williams is the team's leader with 49 receptions for 589 yards.

That means the Buckeyes have more to worry about than just stopping the quarterback, as was essentially the case with Texas' Colt McCoy and Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli.

"With Masoli, it was you've got to stop Masoli," Heacock said. "You've got to stop his throws and his runs, and we almost felt like we had to stop his runs more than his throws, so it seemed like it was a little bit more cut and dried. Their tight end catches the ball all over the place and now with the tailback running as well as he is, I just think this present challenges we haven't seen in a long time."

The general consensus is Mallett will be the best quarterback Ohio State has faced this season. Perhaps no signal caller has been better during the four and five years the current Buckeye seniors have been in college.

He presents a challenge unique to college in that he has enough arm strength and accuracy to make any throw in the playbook.

"Earlier in the season we used to have times we would say, ‘Oh, don't worry about guarding that route. The quarterback can't throw that. He can't throw off his back foot across the field or 40 yards deep because he can make those throws,'" linebacker Ross Homan said. "(Mallett) throws a bullet across the field that normal quarterbacks can't throw so that's going to be a huge challenge for us."

Ohio State has traditionally thrived on making teams one-dimensional, but that will be a tall task on Tuesday night.

"It's hard to say if they compare to any one team we have played this season," defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said. "They have a real strong quarterback in Ryan Mallett. Their offensive line is pretty sound, but you can't get away from their running game. If you're not careful, they can beat you both ways."

The pro-style offense of Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino presents a different challenge than the spread offenses of Texas and Oregon, too.

"To me they stretch you horizontally and vertically," Heacock said. "They stretch you every way they can stretch you. They give you every look and it's a very difficult offense. (Mallett) knows what he's doing and it is a challenge. You've got to hope you get your guys lined up and players make plays. We've got to make plays and get some turnovers, all the things that win games."

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