Pryor Slips Away From PSU Defense

Nittany Lions fail to come through with big plays against the Buckeyes' sophomore quarterback.

The runway leading from Beaver Stadium's visiting locker room to the field is lined by a wire mesh fence, which is in turn covered by a blue tarp.

Nittany Lions fans cannot see opposing players as they move to and from the field. But one enterprising fan, standing on the landing of a walkway and looking down on the area between the chute and the locker room, found a prime vantage point before Saturday's Terrelle Pryor Bowl.

“Pryor,” he screamed, seeing the Buckeyes' sophomore quarterback as he left the field following warm-ups.

Pryor, stopping to get some Gatorade before he entered the locker room, started to turn toward the man. But ultimately he did not.

“You're going down, baby,” the man yelled. “You're in the Big House.”

Some folks out in Ann Arbor would argue that there is only one Big House, but no matter; Pryor, the native Pennsylvanian who two years ago spurned the Lions (among others) for the Buckeyes, more than measured up in his first trip to the Beave, running for a touchdown in the game's opening minutes and later throwing for two TDs in Ohio State's 24-7 victory.

“He was pretty much their whole offense,” Lions defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu said. “Our game plan going in was to stop him. We didn't do that on a consistent basis, so I would say we failed.”

Time and again the defenders were put in an untenable position by the faulty special teams and the anemic offense. But they also failed in ways great and small. By a missed tackle on the part of linebacker Navorro Bowman early in the game. By a blown coverage on the part of cornerback D'Anton Lynn in the third quarter. By losing containment on a key third-down run by Pryor during the Buckeyes' final TD drive.

But it is also true that Pryor has made some strides since last year's 13-6 loss to the Lions in Columbus. And while he didn't put up knock-your-socks-off numbers Saturday -- he went 8-for-17 for 125 yards through the air, and ran five times for 50 yards -- he was plenty good enough.

“He was poised this year,” PSU linebacker Josh Hull said. “It never seemed like he got uncomfortable.”

“You get a year under your belt, you're more confident,” Bowman said. “Confidence to me is him making a choice and living with it.”

Pryor has the physical tools. He goes 6-6, 235, and can move. As the Lions linebacker Sean Lee said, “He's a big kid with long strides. When he gets going, he's very fast.”

He is not an accomplished passer, and still has much to learn. But Saturday would appear to represent a significant step forward in his development.

“I thought he did a good job, taking what he had,” Lee said. “He didn't make a lot of mistakes, which was big for them. He did a good job of escaping the pocket. … A few times whenever he saw something he had, he took it, and that was smart of him.”

The first example of that came on Ohio State's second possession. Ray Small's 41-yard punt return had set the Buckeyes up at the Penn State 9, and two plays later, on second-and-goal from the 7, Pryor faded to pass.

Bowman came on a blitz and appeared to have him. But Pryor shrugged him off and walked into the end zone for the day's first points.

“I thought he threw the ball,” Bowman said. “I let him go and he was still up. That just shows how good of an athlete he is, and how strong he is. I just tried to get that one out of my head and play the rest of the game. … It's really bad. I had him in my hands. It happened so early that I guess that made it easier for me to get it out of my head.”

Bowman said he wasn't as upset with that play as he was “the guys wanting to be hungry -- not letting a team come in here and beat you in your own house. “

“We came out ready to play,” he added. “When you get into a dogfight, you have to keep fighting and keep playing.”

Despite all their failings on offense and special teams, the Lions were still only down 10-7 deep into the third quarter. Then Pryor, who had missed on a long bomb down the right sideline to a wide-open Dane Sanzenbacher in the closing seconds of the first half, found Devier Posey with a 62-yard strike down the left sideline, making it 17-7.

Lynn, badly beaten on the play, said he expected Pryor to roll out in his direction, and as a result hesitated “a half-second.”

“That half-second I hesitated, both (receivers on his side) went (deep), and I let one get too far ahead of me,” he said.

It was, he admitted, “pretty deflating.” Lynn nonetheless agreed to come into the media room and face the music afterward.

“Playing cornerback, you're going to get beaten deep,” he reasoned. “You might as well just man up to it.”

Small had another big punt return, a 45-yarder, on the last play of the third quarter. That set in motion a 10-play, 47-yard touchdown march on the part of the Buckeyes, one culminating in Pryor's six-yard pass to running back Brandon Saine.

It might never have come to that if the Lions had been able to stymie Ohio State on a third-and-11 play from the PSU 48, early in the drive. But the Lions blitzed, Pryor sprinted around left end for a gain of 12 and the Buckeyes scored seven plays later.

“We put an emphasis on keeping him in the pocket, and he got around (on that play),” Lee said. “It's just one of those mistakes that obviously killed us, and hurt us all game.”

Lee said the Lions did not blitz any more than usual, at least not until they fell behind and time grew short. Ogbu said they did in fact blitz more often.

Whatever the case, it was clear the defense did not quite measure up. And that Terrelle Pryor was at least as big as the supposed Big House.

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