Pryor The Fix For Broken Plays

Terrelle Pryor has been called many things, and the word magician seems to fit based on the sophomore quarterback's ability to make something out of nothing. As a result, the broken play has become part of the OSU attack, and that could be an X-factor heading into tonight's game with USC.

Six plays into the Ohio State football season, Terrelle Pryor was on the run.

The sophomore quarterback stepped up into the pocket after feeling backside pressure and looked over his options up the field. Would he run? Would he pass?

While either proposition could have been a losing one for Navy, Pryor chose to go with the latter. He saw Dane Sanzenbacher coming across the middle of the field and fired to the junior, who caught the ball at the 20-yard line before slipping a tackle and scoring a 38-yard touchdown that gave Ohio State a 7-0 lead just 2:23 into the year.

"It was actually a broken play," Sannzenbacher said afterward. "Once (Pryor) pulls it down, it turns into backyard football. We count on him to make plays like that and he came through."

As the No. 8 Buckeyes prepare to take on third-ranked USC in a game with major national championship implications Saturday night in Ohio Stadium, Pryor's ability to make something out of nothing could be critical for an underdog left for dead by many national prognosticators.

"I think it can be an X-factor in any game all season long," Sanzenbacher said. "That's a great asset to have to know that you can make a play out of nothing."

When it comes to how much that will affect the Buckeye offense this year from a game-planning standpoint, it's hard to tell. Obviously, the coaches would like everything to go right on a given play, but at the same time, the staff had an idea entering the year that pretty much any play can become a big one even if it goes wrong thanks to Pryor's skills.

"There's a number on my board that's going to signify how many plays we're going to make off of broken plays this year because he's got that kind of ability," receivers coach Darrell Hazell said.

While Hazell wouldn't divulge the number – "A lot," is all he'd say – those on the OSU offense have talked early in the year about how Pryor's abilities have changed the Buckeye attack.

The players on the field must keep their wits about them at all times. For Sanzenbacher, that meant keeping alive a route that he drew back toward Pryor as the signal caller bounced to his left.

"Until the whistle blows, we can't stop running around because for all we know he's still back there and we have to make a play for him," Sanzenbacher said. "It's nice for receivers to know that even when the play is over it's not really over."

That outlook is something Hazell had preached to his wideouts during fall camp. One of the players the young Buckeye wide receiver corps was told to study was Brian Robiskie, a natural player who was able to adjust his routes based on the situation at hand.

"I constantly tell the receivers, you have to keep moving," Hazell said. "When this guy pulls it down, you gotta go. Wherever you're going, you have to go there violently. Go fast because he's going to make some plays."

Pryor has drawn comparisons to another mobile Ohio State quarterback in Troy Smith for both his ability to escape traffic and keep his eyes downfield looking for receiving targets. While Smith was best at that during his senior campaign, Pryor already is showing signs of excelling in that area as a sophomore.

"One of his big secrets is when he starts moving around like that, he doesn't just run," offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said. "He keeps his eyes down the field and looks to make some plays, where some guys get to a point where things aren't looking exactly what they want and they'll just take off. He keeps his eyes on the field and keeps looking at things, which I think is a unique ability that he has."

Receivers aren't the only ones who have to keep their heads about them as the play goes on. Linemen cannot give up on the play, as a late block could be the key to springing Pryor for a big play, and tight ends and running backs who might have been blockers at the start of the play could become receivers.

"You have to be aware of your surroundings, what's going on," tight end Jake Ballard said.

Bollman said that message isn't drilled into the players much, but they get used to playing with someone like Pryor.

The bigger adjustment, then, might come for opposing defenses. For a group like USC's, which had the best points-against mark in NCAA football since 1997, Pryor's ability to keep a player alive is something the Trojans will have to try to adjust to as the game goes on.

"USC has a great defense, and Pryor may get stuck in some situations," running back Dan Herron said. "But at the same time, we know that Terrelle will probably be able to get out of the situation and make it happen."

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