OSU Will Have Hands Full With Big-Play Hogs

Tuesday's Sugar Bowl will include an intriguing matchup of philosophies when Arkansas has the ball. The Razorbacks have one of the best big-play offenses in the country behind strong-armed QB Ryan Mallett, while OSU prevents big plays with the best of them. Which team wins that battle will go a long way in determining the outcome.

Of all the stats compiled by the excellent Arkansas offense this season, a few have particularly caught the eye of Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock in advance of the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.

"Their strength is their quickness in scoring," Heacock said. "They're a quick score team."

The Razorbacks' 14 touchdown drives of 70 yards or more in two minutes or less lead the country. In all, the eighth-ranked Hogs have 25 touchdown drives of two minutes or less this year and 61 in three years under head coach Bobby Petrino.

Quarterback Ryan Mallett also has no qualms with unleashing it deep. According to cfbstats.com, Mallett's five passes of 70 yards or more and four of 80 yards or more lead the country, and his 30 passes of 30 yards or more during the regular season placed second in the country behind Hawaii's Bryant Moniz (34).

"You just read through all those stats, they're a real fast, explosive, big-play type of an offense," Heacock said. "What do you zero in on?"

Indeed, there's a lot to focus on when the Hogs take the field in the Louisiana Superdome. Arkansas is the only team in the country with a 3,000-yard passer (Mallett), a 1,000-yard rusher (Knile Davis) and five 500-yard receivers in Joe Adams, D.J. Williams, Cobi Hamilton, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright, though Childs is out for the game with injury.

"I feel like they are the best offense that we've faced," OSU linebacker Brian Rolle said.

Much of that comes from Arkansas' ability to spread the field through the arm of Mallett. The Ohio State players and coaches have talked of how he can make any throw on the field, stretching opposing defenses in a way not often seen at the college level.

That was on display as Mallett hooked up with Hamilton on a pair of long touchdown passes vs. LSU in Arkansas' last game of the regular season. On the first, Mallett fit in a perfect pass to Hamilton down the left sideline, leaving the safety no chance to break up the pass or tackle the receiver before he scampered 85 yards for a score.

On the second, Hamilton caught a long pass, brushed off a hit by a safety and went 80 yards on the last play of the first half.

"The thing I like about it most is I can throw it 5 yards and (they'll) take it 85 yards," Mallett said. "When you have guys outside that can do that ... it really helps your game as a quarterback."

Ohio State has a history, though, of keeping teams from posting big plays throughout Heacock's tenure. The story was the same a year ago when Ohio State got ready to play an explosive Oregon offense in the Rose Bowl, but the Buckeyes held the Ducks to only 260 yards and as many turnovers – two – as plays of 30 yards or more.

And in Ohio State's last game, the Buckeyes played a Michigan team that entered near the top in the nation in short scoring drives and long scrimmage plays. In that 37-7 win, Ohio State gave up a 39-yard run to Michael Shaw but no plays of 30 yards or more to quarterback Denard Robinson.

On the year, the longest play Ohio State allowed was a 42-yard run by Miami's Damien Berry, while the longest pass play was a 41-yarder from Eastern Michigan's Alex Gillett to Kinsman Thomas.

"That's our biggest goal we always have, don't give up the big play," linebacker Ross Homan said. "Make them earn it, make them drive on us. It is a big thing."

Arkansas will be just the latest team to test Ohio State's bend-but-don't-break attack, one that has ranked as one of the top stop units in the country in each of Heacock's six seasons.

The Hogs overall enter third in the nation in passing, 10th in total yardage and 16th in scoring.

"You look at this offense, they're a team that if you don't stop the big plays, it's going to be a long night," Rolle said. "Their receivers do a good job of stretching the field and the quarterback has a strong enough arm that he can throw it 65-70 yards.

"I feel like that's a big emphasis we've put on every week, but especially this week with the dynamic offense we're facing with Ryan Mallett."

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