Pryor Stars In Home State As Buckeyes Roll

All eyes -- and there were a lot of them, considering the 110,033 fans in Beaver Stadium was the fourth-most ever in the facility -- were on Terrelle Pryor on Saturday, and the sophomore quarterback responded by leading a big win. Pryor was ready to go, the OSU coaches said, and accounted for three touchdowns in the Buckeyes' 24-7 win.

With two minutes left in his team's 24-7 win at Penn State, Terrelle Pryor hopped off the exercise bike that kept his ailing left ankle warm throughout the day.

As he did so, a fan behind the Ohio State bench yelled down to the quarterback, "Hey Terrelle!"

Against his better judgment, considering how much the 110,033 fans in Beaver Stadium had been on him all day, Pryor looked up.

"Great game!" the fan said. Pryor nodded quickly and said, simply, "Thanks."

The fan – one of the few who actually had something nice to say to the sophomore on the day – had a point. Pryor ran for 50 yards and a touchdown and threw for 125 yards and two scores against no interceptions as the No. 15 Buckeyes earned their biggest win of the past few seasons and certainly of the Pryor era against the No. 11 Nittany Lions.

"The big thing about it, they were ranked ahead of us and this was my first time to lead the team and lead the offense down the field and score some touchdowns against another big team and a ranked team," Pryor said. "It felt pretty good to lead the team and lead the offense."

He did that against the backdrop of a rowdy partisan crowd that reminded the Jeannette, Pa., native he had spurned his home-state Nittany Lions to choose Ohio State, and the crowd wasn't bashful of bringing up Pryor's late fumble that led to PSU's winning points last year's top-10 clash between the two schools.

"They were on me, man. Sometimes I wish I had headphones on, but you can't let people get to you," Pryor said. "I can hear it but as a quarterback, (quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano) talks to me a lot about poise and patience. I'm sure they didn't mean anything they were saying. My hat's off to Penn State. They've got great fans."

After the game, Pryor was most concerned about the Ohio State fans that made the trip to Happy Valley and took up residence in one corner of the stadium. The Buckeyes ran to the corner to sing parts of "Seven Nation Army" and then the school alma mater, "Carmen Ohio," before slapping hands with OSU fans as they were running off the field.

Pryor made sure to engage as many fans as possible, shouting "What's up, baby!" as he went down the line before returning to the team's locker room.

"It was good to just come back home," he said. "I haven't been back to Pennsylvania in a long time and to play in front of so many people who came here that I gave tickets to, to see the crowd, we love going away because all 70 of us and the red sea. It felt good."

There were no signs of nerves or too much emotion from Pryor, save his first pass of the day, a quick pass after a three-step drop that he fired well over the head of No.1 target DeVier Posey.

In fact, the only thing that really seemed to bug Pryor was a bum ankle, perhaps one of the dings that kept him from even wearing shoulder pads during the second half of Ohio State's win against New Mexico State on Halloween.

Pryor said he had trouble running left and that it was tough at times to play through the injury, but he was still able to get the job done.

"I still ran pretty fast," he said. "You probably didn't notice it. It was hurting. It was a lot of pain, but sometimes you've got to play with pain."

The pain was strong as Pryor scampered in for the first touchdown of the day. Two plays after Ray Small returned a punt to the 9-yard line, Pryor rolled right and had PSU All-Big Ten linebacker Navorro Bowman in his face. Pryor stopped and cut left around Bowman, went upfield and then veered right before diving across the goal line for a 7-yard TD that gave OSU a 7-0 lead 3:13 into the game.

Pryor completed only 3 of 9 passes in the first half, but he started to hit his groove in the second half. The best play broke the game open with 1:47 left in the third. On the first play of a drive starting at the Buckeyes' 38-yard line, Pryor nailed Posey on a deep ball for a 62-yard touchdown that seemed to break Penn State.

That throw helped make up for a missed chance at the end of the first half, a 46-yard bomb to Dane Sanzenbacher at the goal line that just overshot the open wideout.

"You know that was eating at him," head coach Jim Tressel said. "He didn't say it, but he did a great job on the long touchdown pass. He got back, stepped up in the pocket with people whizzing by his ears and it didn't bother him. I don't know how far in the air it was, but it was out there. I'm sure it made him feel a little bit better after having missed that one at the end of the half."

He led a 10-play, 47-yard touchdown drive the next time Ohio State had the ball to ice the game. Pryor ran for a key third-down conversion to start the drive, then later hit Zach Boren to convert a third down and Brandon Saine on a rollout for a 6-yard score.

"He did a good job," Tressel said. "He's done a good job every week understanding more and more and more. I've never wavered in my thinking of his progress. I know others have, but I get to be at practice and I get to be at meetings."

Tressel probably had reason to believe his quarterback would be in the zone after talking with Siciliano following pregame meetings on Saturday morning. Siciliano noted that Pryor seemed particularly ready after going over what the team wanted to do in the hours before the game.

"He was focused all week," Siciliano said. "He understood exactly what we were doing like he does most weeks. He was real honed in when we got here today. There wasn't a doubt in my mind."

His teammates noticed the calm and readiness out of Pryor as the day went on and the Penn State fans tried to throw him off his game.

"He came out like a leader today, and I want to give ups to him because he was poised," Small said. "He's a fighter. He never got his head down. He might get mad at times, but he came out and was a big leader for us today."

The Nittany Lions' top-ranked defense couldn't rattle Pryor, finishing the day without a sack after coming in with the most in the Big Ten, and neither could the atmosphere at a place where a student group had created a hastily recalled shirt that called him "Terrelle Cryer" in the days heading up the game.

"I think he kind of got enjoyment out of that, to be honest with you," Siciliano said. "It was just one more thing to drive him a little bit and give him a little more extra oomph. He kind of thought it was fun. I don't know if he got one but I would love to track one down for him."

Leaving Penn State without the shirt, he instead talked to the media wearing a suit and tie, giving him a chance to show that the looseness that helped him on the field was still present after the game.

"My mom bought it for me," he said. "I just make it look good."

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