All scoring drives should be so easy.
Playing on the road against an upstart Indiana team hoping to make a statement in a night game, Ohio State compiled its most effective scoring drive this season that helped take the Hoosiers right out of the game.
One possession earlier, Indiana had marched down the field and strung together an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive early in the second quarter that marked the first score allowed by the OSU defense in more than nine quarters. Suddenly, a game that was on the verge of becoming a blowout was in danger of becoming a closely contested affair.
It took the team's second-longest kick return of the season and the aforementioned three plays to give the Buckeyes all the points they would need to win. The score made it 17-7 in favor of the Buckeyes, and they would go on to win 33-14.
"We knew we had to come down and put some points up," junior offensive lineman Bryant Browning said. "We didn't want to fall behind and get them in their game and get the crowd back into the game. We knew it was going to be a big drive so we came out, called some good plays and executed them."
The remarkable thing about the drive was how easy it looked. On the team's prior possession, the Buckeyes took 5:04 to put together an 11-play, 37-yard drive that ended with no points when Aaron Pettrey hit the right upright with a 35-yard field goal attempt. The drive featured a false start penalty inside the red zone, a pair of incomplete passes, one sack and an illegal participation penalty on the Hoosiers that negated a punt and extended the drive.
"That's frustrating when you move it down (and don't score)," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "Hopefully if you're a competitor, you are glued in and you want to get back on track."
Showing absolutely no ill effects from the possession, the Buckeyes took over near midfield thanks to a 35-yard return on a reverse return that went from Brandon Saine to Ray Small. On the first play, Pryor scooted up the right sideline for a 14-yard pickup that moved the ball into Hoosier territory.
Next came an 18-yard completion to junior wideout Dane Sanzenbacher that picked up 18 yards that constituted the longest past play of the day to that point for the Buckeyes. Situated at the IU 23-yard line, Pryor again took the snap from the shotgun and showed that he is starting to gain a deeper grasp of the game of football at the college level.
"I just moved the safety with my eyes," he said. "As soon as you even move your hips a little bit, I just fired it into the space there."
The space there meant Posey's midsection, and the scoring drive was complete. So, too, was OSU's answer to the Hoosier threat.
"I've said it before: Terrelle is amazing," junior offensive lineman Justin Boren said. "He's one heck of an athlete and we have all the confidence in the world with him back there. It's awesome. He's just unbelievable."
Although OSU's eventual victory was never in doubt from that point on, it was not such easy going the rest of the night for the Buckeye offense. Playing against an overmatched team, Pryor completed 16 of 27 passes for 159 yards and three scores against one interception that came on the shadow of the goal line.
During one stretch in the third quarter, the Buckeyes punted the ball away on three consecutive possessions and accumulated a total of 36 yards in the process. After putting up 279 yards of total offense in the first half, OSU managed just 99 in the final 30 minutes.
It led to a performance that head coach Jim Tressel described as having lacked the consistency he would have liked to have seen.
"The problem I think was when the protection was there maybe we were missing with the ball and when we had something there maybe there was something missing with the protection," he said. "We just weren't consistent."
For one series, however, they were.
"You design every play to break it big and go all the way with it," Browning said. "It just happened to click right there at that time. We'll take it and try to click like that every time."
Boren stopped short of saying he wondered why the Buckeyes can not perform like that on every possession.
"You want to do that every time but it's never that easy," he said. "Terrelle made a couple of really good passes and probably made it look easier than it was."