Five Answers: Troy at Ohio State

Quarterback play dominated the discussion for Ohio State this week. We also examine the play of the offensive line, the reaction to the Trojans' hurry-up approach and the emotional response to the previous week's loss at USC.

1. How will plays be distributed among the quarterbacks?

Some time between about 1 p.m. Thursday and 3 o'clock Saturday afternoon, "50-50" became 54-2. Terrelle Pryor started the game and took all but two snaps for Ohio State, a huge departure from Jim Tressel's Thursday statement that Pryor and Todd Boeckman would probably share the quarterback position roughly evenly.

He said that could change after that day's practice was evaluated, but his postgame statements seemed to indicate what influenced the distribution of snaps most was what each quarterback did when he was in the game.

"We felt as if there were some things that Todd had been doing better in practice that we wanted to get him in there early for and he went in there for an early one and had to check out of it because the look wasn't right and a little bit later he went in to do something that we had planned for and just didn't execute it," Tressel said.

Boeckman first entered the game on Ohio State's sixth play from scrimmage and handed off to Boom Herron, who ran up the middle for three yards. The senior returned on the Buckeyes' fourth drive of the game on second-and-17 and bounced a pass in front of an open Brian Hartline.


2. Which quarterback plays best?

Tressel also indicated that the quality of Pryor's play was a big factor in his staying in the game.

That came as no surprise after the freshman completed 10 of 16 passes for 139 yards and four touchdowns. His lone interception was a Hail Mary pass thrown up for grabs on the final play of the first half, although he was the first to admit he had another pass that should have been intercepted but was dropped by a Trojan.

Perhaps the moments that most crystallized the difference between the two quarterbacks came back to back in the second quarter.

After Boeckman's ill-fated lone pass attempt found its way to the Ohio Stadium FieldTurf, Pryor returned for a third-and-17. Conversions are rare in that down and distance, but the youngster nearly pulled it off anyway by dodging two Trojans then lofting a pass down the field to Brian Robiskie, who caught the ball near the sideline for a 33-yard gain. The play did not count because Robiskie had stepped out of bounds then been the first player to touch the ball, but the effect remained nonetheless.


3. Will the Ohio State offensive line get it together?

After coming under heavy fire from fans and media for its play the last two weeks, a reshuffled Buckeye offensive line acquitted itself well against Troy.

With regular left guard Steve Rehring out with a foot injury, normal starting center Jim Cordle slid to Rehring's spot to make way for Michael Brewster to enter the lineup.

The group cleared the way for Ohio State's running backs (and Pryor) to run for 170 yards on 42 attempts and allowed one sack that came when Pryor tried to recreate his high school days by reversing his field to elude the defense. He ended up retreating into a 16-yard loss on a play he admitted that he should have just thrown the ball away to preserve field position.

Although his ability to move around in the pocket and buy time surely helped the line look a little better, Pryor was satisfied with his protection. "They didn't let anyone in today," he said.

It was a far cry from the week before, when USC had five sacks and the running game finished with just 71 yards.

"The focus and fire I guess wasn't there (last week), and we worked on that in practice and it carried over into the game," Cordle said. "We played with a lot more intensity."


4. Will the no-huddle spread offense bother the Buckeyes?

Troy had its moments but never got a consistent rhythm.

Ohio State spent the week preparing for Troy to try to get a play off every 20 seconds, but the average ended up being closer to 30 seconds per snap when the game rolled around.

The Trojans ran 66 plays, falling far short of the 80 plays Ohio State coaches said their opponents would attempt to get off.

"You're not used to that pace, even though we tried to do it in practice," said defensive end Lawrence Wilson. "It was fast. They kept rushing up to the ball, but I think we handled it well." To answer the hurry-up, the Buckeyes kept some variation of their five-defensive back package on the field at all times and were sure to get lined up as soon as possible at the end of each play.

The only time Ohio State was clearly discombobulated by the hurry-up came late in a first-quarter drive when the Buckeyes were stuck with more defenders – including pass-rushing end Thaddeus Gibson – to the weakside of the formation than the strong. The result was a 17-yard pass from Troy quarterback Jamie Hampton to Kennard Burton that got the Trojans inside the OSU 5-yard line.

James Laurinaitis helped bail out his teammates on that drive, however, with a sack that resulted in a 9-yard loss on the following play, and Troy ended up settling for a field goal.


5. Will there be a post-USC hangover?

If there was, the Buckeyes did not show it.

To open the game, Pryor led Ohio State on a nine-play, 60-yard drive that ate up 4:46 and culminated with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Rory Nicol.

The defense then responded with a three-and-out on Troy's first possession, although the Trojans contributed to their own failure with an illegal procedure and a dropped pass on third down.

The tackling remained imperfect – particularly on Troy's lone touchdown, an open-field catch-and-run by Jerrell Jernigan that covered 45 yards – but Buckeye defenders often made up shortcomings in that department by swarming to the ball.

"They had some real shifty guys," said Malcolm Jenkins, who had two tackles. "All their guys are small, shifty and we've got to bring our feet when we tackle. You can't just put an arm out there and bring them down. Whenever you've got a determined runner, you've got to bring your whole body with it."

Laurinaitis led the Buckeyes with 12 tackles, while Jermale Hines, Kurt Coleman and Marcus Freeman all had seven apiece.

"I thought we flew around to the ball all the time," said Coleman, who also had two interceptions. "I thought we had three or four guys at every tackle.

"We had to take a little anger out on Troy. They're a great team and we've got to give them credit, but I think we wanted it more today."


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