NEW ORLEANS -- In close to an hour's worth of wide-ranging questions and answers on facing Ohio State's offense in the Sugar Bowl, the defensive coordinator for Arkansas and five of his top players mentioned quarterback Terrelle Pryor by name more than 15 times and went into great detail about the perils of playing against Pryor.
There was not one reference to the Buckeyes' team MVP, wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher. The Central Catholic grad led Ohio State with 52 receptions this season for nearly 900 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. He was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection.
While the Razorbacks seeme preoccupied with Pryor, Sanzenbacher has stayed comfortable below the radar, preparing for his 49th and final game as a Buckeye. He was chosen by his teammates as Ohio State's most inspirational player as well as its most valuable -- a dual honor that Buckeyes' coach Jim Tressel said was unprecedented in Tressel's long tenure in college football.
"I've been a head coach for 25 years," Tressel said. "In all those 25 years, we've had the team vote on the MVP and the most inspirational player, and it's always ended up clearly being two different guys. This is the first time in 25 years -- and it was a landslide -- that it's the same guy.
"I've never seen anything like that. For Dane to be recognized for his great play on the field as an MVP, but he also inspired guys just through who he is -- that just tells you how extraordinary a guy he is."
Sanzenbacher, whose most visible MVP moment was likely his acrobatic catch of a pass from Pryor that set up Ohio State's winning score in a 20-17 victory at Iowa, might have won over his teammates with his mettle.
Several of Sanzenbacher's teammates revealed during the bowl trip that the senior captain had fractured one of his fingers during practice prior to the Illinois game, but he just had the injured appendage taped and continued to play.
"If you're a football player, I think you admire toughness a lot, and Dane's demonstrated that he's a tough guy," OSU sophomore fullback Zach Boren said. "We've all seen the catches he's made over the middle and the hits he's taken. And he gets up and keeps on playing. That kind of stuff is inspirational."
Boren said Sanzenbacher also excelled at motivational speaking when performing the regular captain's duty of addressing the Buckeyes at the team's pregame meals.
"Dane comes up with stuff that you would never think of, and it makes you say 'Wow.' It makes your blood start flowing," Boren said. "He's creative with what he says and is a great speaker. He wears his heart on his sleeve."
It has been several weeks since Sanzenbacher received the multiple awards, but in spite of everything, he said it remains tough to digest the honors that came his way.
"It is still a little weird to sit back and think about it, especially with everything else going on in preparation for the bowl game," he said. "But I don't think something like that will ever completely settle in. It's very cool, but still pretty overwhelming."
FULL STRENGTH: When word came out that the NCAA had suspended four Ohio State starters for a portion of next season, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said he hoped to hear that quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the other Buckeyes being sanctioned would still be on the field for the Sugar Bowl.
"We wanted them to be eligible for the game," Petrino said as he prepared Arkansas for its first BCS bowl game. "When you get to a bowl game of this magnitude, you want to play against their best players, so I think we're fortunate that they're eligible to play."
YOGI MOMENT: Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson had one of those moments here at the Sugar Bowl that would have made Yogi Berra proud. While speaking about the Razorbacks playing in their first BCS bowl game, Robinson said: "We really are excited about being here in the city of New Orleans representing the SEC in the Sugar Bowl. It's a once in a lifetime event for us, and we hope to have many more."29.95369 -90.07771 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section OhioState!
In close to an hour's worth of wide-ranging questions and answers on facing Ohio State's offense in the Sugar Bowl, the defensive coordinator for Arkansas and five of his top players mentioned quarterback Terrelle Pryor by name more than 15 times and went into great detail about the perils of playing against Pryor.