5 Answers: The Fiesta Bowl

We examine the matchup of a great offense and a stellar defense, field position, poise, that ever-dangerous second quarter and the play of Terrelle Pryor in Texas' three-point victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl

1. Irresistible force or immovable object?

There are two ways to look at the Ohio State defense's performance.

On one hand, the group help Texas nearly 20 points below its season average, and the Buckeyes stuffed the Longhorn running game for the most part.

They also pressured Colt McCoy fairly often and sacked the Texas quarterback three times.

Ignoring the three methodical touchdown drives in the second half, especially the 78-yard game-winner in the final two minutes, is impossible, however.

"I thought we had a great game plan going in," linebacker James Laurinaitis said after his final collegiate game. "I thought we executed very well. We did a great job the first half. Obviously you come out of the locker room, we really struggled at it all year. But you got to stop a team. The first drive out of the locker room they were able to go down and score. But you wish the defense to be put in that situation at the end of the game with a chance to win it and we didn't make the plays. They made the plays. That's all there is to it. There is no perfect call for anything. We had a chance to make a tackle. We have a chance to get to the quarterback or do this and that. We got to do it."

Give this one to the guys in burnt orange.


2. Who will win the field position battle?

This turned out to be a complete nonfactor.

All five touchdown drives, two by Ohio State and three by Texas, covered at least 73 yards, and the closest either team started on any of the four drives that resulted in field goals was when Texas began on its own 33.

Overall, Ohio State's average starting field position was its own 28 while the Longhorns' was the Texas 19.

The Buckeyes started two possessions at their own 45 and another at their 48, and none of them produced any points. In fact, the Buckeyes gained only one total first down on those three possessions.


3. Can the Buckeyes keep their poise?

An Ohio State illegal substitution penalty turned a third-and-2 into a third-and-7 that was not converted on the opening drive of the game, and the second field goal drive might have been more had not the same thing happened because of a false start.

Late in the second quarter, Thaddeus Gibson roughed McCoy with a blow to the head that drew a 15-yard penalty that helped kickstart the Longhorns' best drive of the first half, but that turned out not to be too damaging because of Anderson Russell's interception near the goal line in the waning seconds.

They seemed in need of a standing eight-count toward the end of the third quarter after the Longhorns took a 17-6 lead, but to the Buckeyes' credit, they were able to bounce back and take the lead in the fourth, a major departure from how they reacted to adversity in the previous two bowl games.


4. Will Ohio State survive the second quarter?

After being outscored 55-7 in the second quarters of their three most-recent out-of-conference games against teams ranked in the top 10, Ohio State played Texas to a 3-all draw Monday night.

Instead, the third quarter was the stuff of nightmares for the Buckeyes, who were outscored 14-0. Texas held the ball for more than 11 minutes in the third quarter, when the Buckeyes ran only eight plays.

"In the second half, you know, Texas had the ball a little bit more," said Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. "We didn't make a first down in the third quarter, which makes it awfully difficult for your defense. But we're awfully proud of how hard our guys prepared and how hard they played tonight."


5. What has the youngster learned?

Terrelle Pryor's performance is best described as uneven.

The true freshman shared the field at times with former senior starter Todd Boeckman, a combination that was at times awkward and at times effective. That was especially true when Boeckman threw a 5-yard fade pass to Pryor for the Buckeyes' first touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter.

"I think they both did the best they could to do what they could for us," Tressel said.

Pryor looked someone uncomfortable in the pocket as he completed just 5 of 14 passes for 66 yards and was sacked twice.

While his passing left something to be desired, he was dangerous on the ground, where he picked up 78 yards on 15 carries.

"We weren't tackling him well," said Texas head coach Mack Brown. "We lost some contain in the first half. We thought we corrected that at halftime and then he would run up inside. We took an inside angle on him some and we tackled him sometimes in the second half, but he threw the ball better tonight. There is no doubt at some point he has a chance to lead them to a national championship which I said during the week."


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