"We're men and this doesn't define us as a team," the Ohio State quarterback said Oct. 16 following his team's loss to Wisconsin. "It doesn't define me, I know that. There's going to be plenty more cheers and joy."
Five games later, those words seemed pretty appropriate. Spoken at the darkest point of OSU's season, the quarterback and his teammates rallied to close the regular season with five straight victories when they certainly could have folded up shop.
Chances of playing for a national title? All but gone. Hopes of a conference title? Dim, with an undefeated Michigan State team looking like it was putting together a charmed season. Even a second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl seemed nothing more than a pipe dream.
It had all the necessary ingredients for a second-half letdown from a team that had seen its primary goals put on life support, but a funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery: the Buckeyes went back to winning.
"We understand the situation of what happened in that game (against the Badgers)," Pryor said Saturday after the win against Michigan. "We understand what happened and why we lost. It wasn't because we were bad. It was because that day they came ready to play and things happened. Luck comes around. Some teams get lucky. Some passes get zip passed a little quicker and a little sneakier. Little things like that.
"We know we're not going to let something like that hold us down. Like I said after the loss, that doesn't define me as a person or a player and it didn't define us as a team as well."
That much proved to be true. After the defeat, the Buckeyes reeled off blowout victories against Purdue and Minnesota before getting a weekend off. They returned to action for an all-important November stretch of three games against three bowl-eligible teams: Penn State, Iowa and the Wolverines.
Junior center Michael Brewster said the Buckeyes had no choice but to dig a little deeper and finish the regular season with as many wins as possible.
"We kept fighting," he said. "We could've laid down right there and said, ‘The season's over, we're not going to go to the national championship.' That was our ultimate goal. We kept fighting because we knew we still had a chance at the Big Ten title. We're sharing it but it still goes down in the books that we were Big Ten champs this year."
A number of players credited the team's seniors for leading them through the tough days after the Wisconsin loss.
"We've got some great players on our team that overcame adversity," junior defensive lineman Nathan Williams said. "When times get tough, they step up. That just shows the type of character we all have. This is the best senior leadership I've ever been a part of with Cam (Heyward) and (Dexter Larimore) representing us on the D-line."
This year's team earned its title differently than past teams, Tressel said.
"This is the 2010 team," the coach said. "That's what we talk about all the time in coaching is that every team is its own team, has its own signature and its own challenges and adversities and high points. These kids were 6-0 and we dropped one and they came storming back."
A hallmark of Tressel's career at OSU has been a mantra of worrying only about the things he can control. Although the ultimate goal each season is to win the Big Ten and play for a national title, the coach never talks about teams or situations that his team can not impact.
That attitude came into play after the win against the Badgers.
"We could only control what we do," senior linebacker Ross Homan said. "We couldn't control what other people do so we said, ‘Let's win out. Let's keep winning and see where we fall.' "
So what does define this year's team? Pryor said that remains to be determined.
"I don't know," he said. "We'll wait and see. We've got a game left that's going to be a good team. After that, you ask me that same question and I'll let you know."