When the Buckeyes took on USC in a road contest last season, it proved to be the beginning of the end for incumbent starting quarterback Todd Boeckman. Beginning on the team's second series of the game, the two quarterbacks alternated on a near play-by-play basis for much of the game.
It didn't work for long – the Buckeyes still lost 35-3 – but it provided the beginning of what would become Pryor's time in the spotlight. As a national television audience looked on with wonder at what the former No. 1 recruit in the country could do under the lights in the Coliseum, the Buckeyes themselves were also wondering.
That included kicker Aaron Pettrey. Standing on the field next to punters A.J. Trapasso and Jon Thoma, Pettrey recalled craning his neck and conferring with his teammates about what they expected to see out of Pryor on the field.
"I remember being with those two watching Terrelle go out there, talking about what we might do with him or what we might see based on what we saw in practice," Pettrey said.
Pryor's true abilities remained largely a mystery, Pettrey said, because the freshman had been donning a black, no-contact jersey during practice to that point. Despite that, the kicker said they had seen glimpses of what the quarterback could do with the ball in his hands.
"We hadn't really seen him live," Pettrey said. "We had seen him make a few runs when he was protected and no one touched him. It was just incredible. We were definitely excited."
The same went for the defensive players. Normally focused on their own game plan, the cameras showed a sideline paying rapt attention to what was happening on the field.
Even the offensive players were wondering what Pryor might be able to do.
"Definitely, we were curious to see what he's capable of doing," said running back Dan Herron, who led the team that night with 51 rushing yards. "He did what he had to do when he was in there."
The end result was not an overall pretty picture for the visitors. With Pryor and Boeckman alternating, the Buckeyes put together a 17-play, 69-yard scoring drive that culminated with a field goal to give them a first-quarter lead.
They would not score again as the Trojans adjusted to the plan. Pryor finished the day 7 of 9 for 52 yards while taking one sack and carried the ball 11 times for 40 yards. By the end of the game, he was taking all the snaps after Boeckman tossed his second interception of the evening.
Despite the final outcome, Pryor described last year's contest as having been fun.
"I was pretty young," he said. "I was a rookie. I learned a lot of stuff, how fast everything is and how quick you've got to release the ball. It was a fun game last year too. We just fell short and had penalties and mistakes. We can't have mistakes."
In the game, Pryor saw 12 minutes of game action after having seen four the week before against Ohio University. He took over the starting job the following week and saw no fewer than 23 minutes' worth of playing time in any game the rest of the season.
This year, Pryor is firmly entrenched as the man under center and senior defensive lineman Doug Worthington said the feeling of excitement this year is similar in the OSU locker room with USC coming to town.
"Definitely, just knowing the ability that we had seen in camp and how good he was, we wanted to see him go out there and produce," Worthington said. "The same for this year. Every time he gets on the field in practice, it's fun to see the guy out there blossoming and becoming his own player and his own man. It's fun seeing the kid go at it and play football."
Any sense of surprise is gone this time, however. Pryor started nine games under center last year and last week's season opener against Navy, meaning the Trojans have plenty of film on what he brings to the table.
That does not mean they know what Pryor will do this time around, however. Against Navy, Pryor primarily stayed in the pocket and rushed the ball six times for 30 yards.
USC head coach Pete Carroll said he realizes Pryor is still growing into a passing quarterback but feels he is on the right track.
"He's trying to develop himself as a quarterback in their system, and most of the plays they have designed for the quarterback have him drop back and throw the football," Carroll said. "He has a marvelous ability to take off running when he has to when things break down. He wants to embrace all the quarterback position has to offer and not be a one-dimensional guy."
Regardless of the level of excitement on either sideline this year, Pryor said he is looking forward to getting on the field and competing against the Trojans again.
"Hopefully we'll come out on top," he said. "It's going to be a fight. It's going to be a war. I'm looking forward to it."