January 1, 2010

Passing judgment: Pryor leads Bucks with arm

PASADENA, Calif. - The Oregon defense wasn't shy to admit what they were thinking in the days leading into the Rose Bowl against Ohio State.

The Ducks weren't particularly threatened by Ohio State sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor throwing the ball to beat them, and Pryor was fully aware of that point of view prior to kickoff Friday night.

And he doesn't blame Oregon for feeling the way they did.

"In the past two games I threw for 93 and 66 (yards), so I wouldn't be worried about (me throwing), would you?" Pryor said.

The sentiment heading into the game by Oregon was to stop Ohio State from moving the ball effectively on the ground and make Pryor beat them through the air.

As it turned out, the Buckeyes didn't even mess with running it out of the gates.

On Ohio State's first 10 plays, the Buckeyes threw the ball eight times en route to a touchdown pass from Pryor to running back Brandon Saine on the Buckeyes' opening drive.

The passing continued for the rest of the game and No. 8 Ohio State ended up taking the Rose Bowl by storm, beating the No. 7 Ducks, 26-17.

"That was our game plan, to wing it today. To wing it," Pryor said. "We got a lot better at it and the receivers got better at their routes. The coaches, I am glad they had the faith in me to throw the ball a little bit."

Pryor came out gunning and finished the game with 266 passing yards and two touchdowns after completing 22 of his 37 pass attempts - certainly a career high.

Pryor understood that Oregon wasn't too threatened by his passing before the game, but he recognized the fact that he made the Ducks think about it quite a bit during the course of the game.

"You saw what happened today, they had to start worrying about (our passing game)," Pryor said. "I hope everyone thinks like that. Maybe I will have more games like this.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel has become known for holding his playbook closely to his sweater vest, but Pryor indicated that the head coach had a game plan solely surrounded by pulling out all the stops and throwing the ball.

Ohio State dropped back for a pass on the first play - though it was almost intercepted - and Pryor's arm never quit moving forward.

Many thought the sophomore couldn't throw before the game, but now they know he can.

"We felt like we needed to balanced against this team," Tressel said of his game plan. "The passing game begins with protections, and we've been a little healthier in the back half of the year up front, and it obviously helped.

"I thought TP (Terrelle Pryor) made good decisions," Tressel added. "He not only made good decisions as to who to go to, he made good decisions when to throw it away and when t step up and run. He was engaged in the game, talking in the game between series, knew what they were doing and where they were doing it. Any thing you get a month to work to get better, it is like having a whole spring practice or something. I think we got better."

Ohio State fans have been hoping for the next great player since Pryor stepped on campus before last season, and many were hoping the quarterback would have his signature game in the Rose Bowl.

A game in which Pryor rushes for 200 yards and throws for 200 - or something along those lines - en route to leading his big-win deprived Buckeyes to a signature victory would certainly get the job done.

Though it wasn't necessarily the best game statistically, Pryor was the MVP of the Rose Bowl and the main reason offensively the team can send the senior class out as the most winningest class in Ohio State history and with a BCS bowl victory.

In addition to Pryor's 266 yards passing, he also rushed for 72 yards, which included a huge 24-yard burst on third down on Ohio State's opening drive to move the chains.

Pryor broke the news earlier in the week that he had a partial tear in his PCL, and admitted during the game that he had pain in the back of his left leg.

But it was his arm - for the most part - that sent Ohio State out on top this year.

"I was excited," Pryor said. "The coaches had trust in me and I just didn't want to let them down."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

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