New Orleans Ohio State might want to send a thank-you note to the NCAA for helping to end its bowl misery against the SEC.
Terrelle Pryor threw two touchdown passes, helping the No. 6 Buckeyes build a big lead, and Solomon Thomas made an interception with 58 seconds remaining that sealed a 31-26 victory over eighth-ranked Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night.
Pryor and Thomas were among five Ohio State players found to have violated NCAA rules by selling memorabilia and getting discounted tattoos just before the Buckeyes (12-1) headed for the Big Easy. They were all suspended for the first five games of next season — but permitted to play in the Sugar Bowl.
Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said all five pledged to return to school next season to serve the punishment.
In the end, Ohio State needed them all to beat a Southeastern Conference team in a bowl for the first time. The Buckeyes had lost their previous nine postseason meetings against the SEC.
The group also included Dan Herron and DeVier Posey, who each scored a touchdown. But Thomas, the only backup among them, made the biggest play of all.
Arkansas (10-3) had a chance to complete an improbable comeback when Colton Miles-Nash leaped over two linemen to block a punt, putting the Razorbacks at the Ohio State 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 held on to the pick to seal the win.
Pryor has vowed to return for his senior season, even though he won’t be able to play until next October. He left the Ohio State faithful with a good memory, completing 14 of 25 passes, including a 15-yard TD to Dane Sanzenbacher and a 43-yarder to Posey.
Pryor also ran for a team-leading 115 yards rushing.
Mallett was 24-of-47 for 277 yards, including a pair of touchdowns.
Ohio State raced to a 28-7 lead in the first half. Sanzenbacher scored the first of his two TDs by recovering a fumble by Pryor at the end of a 34-yard run. Two Arkansas players knocked each other off the loose ball, and the Ohio State senior fell on it.
Herron scored on a 9-yard run, then Pryor hooked up with Sanzenbacher and Posey on touchdown throws that had it looking like a Buckeyes rout.