The sophomore quarterback of the Buckeyes did not give head coach Jim Tressel much reason for confidence in him after throwing his second pass of the game directly to USC linebacker Chris Galippo, who returned the interception 51 yards to the Ohio State 2-yard line, setting up the Trojans' first touchdown of the game.
Pryor still had plenty of chances to take over the game but only occasionally flashed the brilliance of which many believe he is capable.
He fit a handful of passes into tight windows but missed on some throws as well and finished the night having completed only 11 of 25 attempts for 177 yards.
The Trojans also effectively stopped the Buckeyes few attempts to run the option, leaving Pryor less a weapon as a runner. Five of his 10 carries (counting one sack) went for no gain or a loss.
"I think they were definitely going to bring people off the edge and keep them from getting Terrelle outside," Tressel said. "I thought there were some things that he did very well. I thought there were some things that he's certainly going to be able to learn from, but every ball game like that you can experience, if you study it the right way and approach it the right way, it can really help you grow, but I thought he made some good plays, big plays and some other ones that we'll go to work on."
2. Can the Buckeyes force USC to score with long, sustained drives?
This wins the award for most ironic of the five questions. The Ohio State defense was superb for most of the evening with the exception of lengthy drives to end each half, and the 10 points they yielded in those situations proved to be their undoing thanks to the offense essentially giving the Trojans their first touchdown of the night.
USC had 11 drives that included five three-and-outs. They also had a 10-play drive snuffed out by Ross Homan's interception and a 13-play drive that ended with a missed field goal.
3. And what about the Ohio State offense creating some explosive plays?
Four plays of 20 yards or more proved not to be enough for the Buckeyes. Pryor's 56-yard completion to Dane Sanzenbacher set up their only touchdown. A 34-yarder to DeVier Posey helped along the way to a second-quarter field goal, and Brandon Saine caught a 20-yard pass from Pryor on the other field goal drive.
A lack of explosiveness in the running game certainly hurt Ohio State as the Buckeyes managed just two runs of longer than 10 yards, both by Pryor.
4. Can a freshman quarterback handle Ohio Stadium?
As much as Matt Barkley needed to, yes, he did.
In his second career start and first on the road, Barkley completed only 15 of 31 passes for 195 yards. He appeared fooled by the Buckeyes' coverage on Homan's interception but otherwise made the plays his team needed when called upon. On the drive the final drive of the first half, he turned what could have been a sack when OSU defensive lineman Doug Worthington came at him unblocked into a 6-yard scramble then completed three straight passes to put the Trojans in field goal range.
Barkley completed 3 of 5 passes on the game-winning drive, including crucial gains of 21 and 26 yards on back-to-back plays that let the Trojans move from third-and-8 at their own 16 to a first down at the Ohio State 37.
Ohio State defensive end Thaddeus Gibson acknowledged the Buckeyes never really rattled the youngster.
"They've got a great offensive line and those guys played hard," Gibson said. "For the most part, we just didn't match their intensity. We had a lot of opportunities to make plays and didn't capitalize on them."
5. Can the Buckeye reverse their fortunes in the trenches?
Unlike previous big game losses, Ohio State held its own on both sides of the line until the Trojans finally wore them down on the final drive.
The maligned offensive line opened up holes in the running game, especially early, and allowed only one sack on the night against an aggressive, athletic USC front seven.
Meanwhile, the defensive line held things tight between the tackles throughout the contest but seemed to finally succumb to the Trojans' depth at the end of the night.
On the final drive, McKnight, seemingly fresh thanks to sharing carries with Stafon Johnson all night, ran five times for 32 yards and caught the key 21-yard pass to convert the first third down of the final drive. Johnson capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
"We just had to keep pushing and stay with the line," McKnight said. "We've got the best line in the country up there. We just had to stay patient."
Most of the night the line struggled to rush Barkley, however. The Buckeyes sacked him twice but rarely got his face otherwise.