Game Thoughts: Troy Comes To Town

There were many who wondered how the Ohio State Buckeyes would respond after losing badly to USC the week before. It could have been a touchy situation for the Buckeyes, but there was nothing to worry about once Superman put on his cape and led his team to a 28-10 victory. Bill Greene has more on Terrelle Pryor and others in this game review.

If you were worried about Ohio State coming out flat against Troy, I can assure you Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel was having none of that, and he made sure there was electricity flowing through the Horseshoe by sending freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor out to start the game at quarterback.

Not only did Tressel get the crowd on his team's side right off the bat, I suspect he might have had a feeling Pryor was ready to take over this team and that is another reason he made the move.

After throwing four touchdown passes and running all over the field, it is now a done deal that there will not be a quarterback controversy at Ohio State in 2008. There is a new sheriff in Buckeye-Land, and his name is Terrelle Pryor.

Pryor's performance is even more amazing when you consider that this is a veteran Buckeye team, with the majority of the starters having played in consecutive BCS title games. The reality of the situation is that with his season teetering on the brink of disaster, Jim Tressel turned his senior-laden team over to an 18-year-old freshman.

And that move might have not only defeated Troy, it just might have saved the season for Ohio State. Is it possible that a one-loss Ohio State team can find itself back in the title game at the end? It's certainly not probable, but stranger things have happened in college football. What is a certainty is that there is NO scenario where a TWO-LOSS Buckeye team makes it to the title game, and without Pryor's play on Saturday, the Buckeye could be sitting with a 2-2 record today. Pryor was THAT dominant.

Following the loss to USC it was apparent the Buckeyes were not heading in the right direction, and the insertion of Pryor wasn't the only lineup change. Following an injury to Steve Rehring, Tressel called on Mike Brewster to start against Troy, bypassing several older offensive linemen. Brewster's lack of experience was evident, but he more than made up for it with aggressive play, something lacking in the team's first three games. Look for Brewster to do nothing but get better with every game he plays.

Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock also realized his defensive line wasn't performing the way he liked, and he rotated several linemen throughout the game. Heacock even had four defensive ends on the field together, in an attempt to slow down the spread attack of Troy. Nathan Williams and Curtis Terry were on the field together for the first time as inside players. Do I expect Heacock to utilize this strategy against more traditional Big 10 opponents? No, but this move clearly shows that he is willing to change both personnel and scheme to get the results he's looking for. Simply put, the Buckeye defensive line has to play at a higher level for this team to challenge for the Big 10 title, and Heacock must keep trying new combinations to find the right group to put out there.

Where do the Buckeyes go from here? How should the victory over Troy be evaluated? These are two important questions that need to be answered.

The win over Troy was a step in the right direction for a team suffering from poor play, and an obvious loss of confidence. Was it a great win? No, but it might help set the tone for what needs to be accomplished the rest of the way for Ohio State. Holding Troy to ten points is something to be proud of, and the defense played better than they have all year. The Troy offense is explosive and probably won't be held to those yardage and point totals the rest of the season.

It was also a huge step in the right direction because it established the fact that Pryor is a playmaker. Once the Buckeyes get Chris "Beanie" Wells back into the mix, it will take a lot of pressure off the offensive line. With Pryor and Wells in the game, they have the ability to take the football the length of the field on any given play, even without perfect blocking. There are very few players in the Big 10 that can make things happen by themselves, and the Buckeyes now have two of them.

The Buckeyes need to burn the tapes of the first three games and never mention them again. The emergence of Pryor is a new beginning for this team, and they are 1-0 in this "Second Season."

Going forward, they need to get better every week as a team, beginning this week with Minnesota. The Buckeyes got a little better as a team against Troy. They must continue to get better week after week, because there are strong challenges awaiting them in the conference. There just isn't room for any more slip-ups if Ohio State is going to become the first team in history to win three straight outright Big 10 championships. The addition of Pryor, combined with the return of Wells, make that a very real possibility.

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