Ohio State was California dreaming at the end of the regular season, and that dream was realized with a 26-17 victory over Pac-10 champion in the 96th edition of the Rose Bowl.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor had a breakout performance as the Buckeyes broke a three-game bowl losing streak. The sophomore piled up a combined 338 yards of offense, including an impressive 266 yards through the air. His yardage total was higher than Oregon's team mark (260).
"Our coaches did a great job of game planning," Pryor said in the postgame celebration. "I just wanted to go out there and show the world I can be a good quarterback too."
The Buckeyes (11-2) outlasted the Ducks in the second half. Oregon (10-3) erased a 16-10 halftime deficit with a touchdown on the first drive of the second half. Jeremiah Masoli's 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper gave UO its first and only lead of the game with 11:03 left in the third quarter. The Buckeyes responded with a Devin Barclay 38-yard field goal with 6:36 left in the third to go ahead for good.
Pryor later capped the victory with a 17-yard touchdown pass to DeVier Posey with 7:02 left in the game. The Rose Bowl MVP completed 23 of 37 passes after watching the OSU offense rely primarily on the rushing attack in the regular season's final weeks.
Pryor set the tone early, leading the Buckeyes 74 yards for a touchdown on the first possession of the game. Pryor threw the ball eight times on the drive, completing five passes for 39 yards. His final pass of the drive came when he checked down to junior tailback Brandon Saine on the sidelines. The Piqua, Ohio, product tiptoed down the sideline and barreled over Oregon cornerback Talmadge Jackson III into the end zone. Senior kicker Aaron Pettrey, returning to the field for the first time since suffering a leg injury Oct. 31, booted the extra point to gave Ohio State a 7-0 lead at the 11:37 mark of the first quarter.
The lead grew to 10-0 before the end of the quarter thanks to a 19-yard field goal by Devin Barclay. Pryor set up the score by lofting a picture-perfect pass to junior tailback Brandon Saine for a 46-yard gain to the Oregon 4 on the first play of the drive. Oregon's defense tightened up after the long gain, however, allowing only 1 yard after the Saine reception.
Oregon gained the momentum after the Barclay field goal and scored the game's next 10 points. UO put its first points on the scoreboard with 14:24 remaining in the second quarter when Morgan Flint made a 24-yard field goal.
The Ducks built on their momentum and tied the game with 9:14 left before halftime. Embattled LeGarrette Blount capped an eight-play, 30 yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Blount entered the game for the first time on third-and-goal and powered his way toward the goal line. He landed on a pair of Ohio State defenders and stretched the ball over the line. He was ruled down at the 1 at first, but it was overturned after a replay review. Flint booted the extra point to knot the game 10-10.
Ohio State controlled the final minutes of the second quarter, capping a drive that lasted more than eight minutes with a 30-yard field goal by Barclay. The drive was highlighted by a fourth-and-1 conversion on a 4-yard run up the middle by Saine. That gave the Buckeyes a first-and-goal from the UO 10, but the Buckeyes lost three yards before settling for the field goal.
Oregon looked primed to at least attempt to tie the game in the final seconds of the half with a field goal attempt, but a Ross Homan interception near midfield set up OSU for one last scoring drive. Pettrey gave the Buckeyes a 16-10 lead at intermission with a 45-yard field goal.
The Ducks took their first and only lead early in the third quarter when they marched the ball down the field for a go-ahead touchdown. Kenjon Barner sparked the drive by returning a line-drive kickoff from Barclay to the UO 47. The Buckeyes forced a fourth-and-3 at the OSU 27, but Chip Kelly elected to go for it and the Ducks converted when Masoli connected with Lavasier Tuinei for a 7-yard gain. Six plays later, Masoli reached the end zone on a 1-yard QB keeper. Flint made the extra point to put the Ducks ahead 17-16 with 11:03 left in the quarter.
Ohio State answered on its next possession for the game-winning score. Barclay booted a 38-yard field goal to give OSU a 19-17 lead after a 11-play, 59-yard drive. Again it was Pryor setting up the score, moving the Buckeyes into Oregon territory with a 36-yard pass to DeVier Posey.
Neither team scored again until the fourth quarter. Ohio State built on its lead in the final frame, scoring the final points of the game with 7:02 remaining. Pryor connected with No. 1 target Posey for a 17-yard score that most Ohio State fans will not forget for many years. Fans will also not forget the acrobating 24-yard reception by senior tight end Jake Ballard on third-and-13 at the OSU 45.
Oregon attempted to get back into it on its next possession, but Flint missed a 45-yard field goal and Ohio State never gave up the ball again.
OSU head coach Jim Tressel won his first bowl game since the 2006 Fiesta Bowl and finished the game wet when seniors Andrew Moses, Kurt Coleman and Doug Worthington poured a bucket of Gatorade on the victorious coach.
The battle between Ohio State's defense and Oregon's offense was the story most people were talking about before kickoff, but it was the Buckeyes' offense that ruled the day. Ohio State dominated total yardage (419-260) and time of possession (41:37-18:23).
Ohio State also won the turnover battle, 2-1, including a crucial lost fumble by Blount in the third quarter. The Ducks were driving after Barclay's go-ahead field goal, but Blount mishandled a Masoli handoff and the fumble went out of bounds in the end zone for a touchback.
Pryor also led Ohio State's rushing attack with 72 yards on 20 carries. Saine had 45 yards and Dan "Boom" Herron had 42. Each had 14 carries. Posey led the receivers with 101 yards on eight receptions. Dane Sanzenbacher caught nine balls for 64 yards.
The OSU defense certainly did its job, too. Masoli completed 9 of 20 passes for 81 yards. Tailback LaMarcus James led the UO rushing attack with 70 yards on 15 carries, but he missed part of the second half with an injury. The Ducks' best offensive threat was backup tailback Kenjon Barner, who piled up 227 yards, including 127 return yards