Pryor, OSU Offense Bounce Back

During interviews after Ohio State's victory against Northwestern, freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor found himself standing next to a visual representation of how he felt following the team's previous game: a trash dumpster. This time, Pryor was anything in the dumps as he rebounded in a big way against the Wildcats.

EVANSTON, Ill. – This time, it was a decidedly different Terrelle Pryor speaking to the media.

With his back to a white, concrete wall inside the south concourse at Ryan Field, a grinning Pryor was dissecting his team's 45-10 victory against Northwestern. After not scoring a touchdown during Ohio State's 13-6 loss to Penn State two weeks ago, the Buckeye offense appeared to be on life support.

At the helm was Pryor, who personally blamed himself for the loss to the Nittany Lions during postgame interviews. That day, a dejected-looking Pryor was flanked to his left by OSU assistant coach Nick Siciliano as he sat for interviews.

This time, all that was to Pryor's immediate left was a mostly empty green dumpster that was then wheeled further away to make room for more reporters. The temperatures were hovering around freezing, but Pryor's smile was the warmest sight around.

"I feel so much more improved than the last game," he said. "I was so down on myself. I stress myself so much to be great."

Against the Wildcats, Pryor was just that. On a day with 14-mile-per-hour gusts blowing through the stadium, he completed 9 of 14 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns against no interceptions. When he wasn't moving the ball through the air, he was doing it on the ground with six rushes for 33 net yards – totals that take into account one sack for a 5-yard loss.

But on one play in particular, he used his feet to make a pass worthy of the highlight reel. With OSU holding a 10-point lead in the waning minutes of the second quarter, Pryor found himself rolling right after executing a play-action fake. Seeing senior wideout Brian Robiskie in the back of the end zone, Pryor connected with him for a 15-yard score that made it 24-7 Buckeyes.

Afterward, Pryor described it as the back-breaker even though there was still another half of football to be played.

"It's really important to finish drives and keep drives alive," he said. "I feel that that touchdown at the end broke their backs. It's things you need to do. You need to break their back and take advantage of what they give you."

It was not the most athletic play of the day for Pryor, however, who shook three defenders and still found senior tight end Rory Nicol in the end zone for a 6-yard score that made it 31-10 Buckeyes in the final minute of the third quarter.

On the play, Pryor said he had his eye on Robiskie as a safe option the whole time but then spotted Nicol out of the corner of his eye as he was flushed from the pocket. The recipient of the pass remembered it a little differently.

"I didn't see all that happening," Nicol said. "I was kind of doing some work there in the back of the end zone, but that's the type of player he is. Eventually he probably will evolve into a pocket-type passer because that's what quarterbacks generally are, but right now Terrelle Pryor can keep the play alive. That's nothing new to anybody."

Pryor's passing performance was made even more impressive given the conditions. After the game, head coach Jim Tressel described the day as not "the easiest day to be throwing the ball around." Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka completed 18 of 27 passes but threw for 20 fewer yards (177) than Pryor.

The OSU freshman was far from alone in leading his team's offense to matching its biggest point total of the season. His performance was enhanced by the play of junior running back Chris Wells, who got untracked as the game went on and finished with 140 yards on 28 carries.

After the PSU game, Pryor's teammates said they would be helping him move past the loss. His fourth-quarter fumble against the Nittany Lions set up the game's only touchdown, but Wells said he used his own past to help the freshman move forward.

"I told him I fumbled four times my freshman year," Wells said. "His was in a more critical situation, but those things are part of a football game. Those things are going to happen. You have to move forward. He's a competitor so he put that on the side and just came out here ready to play."

During the team's subsequent open week, Pryor said the coaching staff kept working with him on his footwork to the point of annoyance. It began to pay off as the time passed, and Tressel said Pryor's performance during Wednesday's practice was particularly impressive.

Pryor credited OSU's first-string defense for making him able to execute plays against Northwestern he might not have been able to make earlier in the season.

"Things are slowing down going against our great defense and I feel like I'm picking it up," he said. "All my growing up, I give it to the defense, our first-string defense. Without them I wouldn't be progressing."

After the game, OSU head coach Jim Tressel praised the offense and its 441 yards of total offense – the most it has put up against a Division I team this season – but also added that there is still plenty of room for growth.

"I'm not sure we were as consistent as we wanted to be," head coach Jim Tressel said. "We made more plays than perhaps we have in the last few outings. It's one more step."

It's also one more step for a freshman quarterback who improved to 6-1 as a starter for the Buckeyes.

"I just felt real comfortable today and I'll feel this way the rest of the year," Pryor said. "I feel I progressed a little bit from last week but there's a lot more I want to accomplish and get better at to help this team win. We've got to be ready.

"We've got all these seniors and they're going to be happy at the end of the year."


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