Friday, January 1, 2010

PRYOR, BUCKS SNAP BCS SLIDE

Ohio State quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, shares a hug with QB coach, Nick Siciliano, following the Buckeyes, 26-17 win over Oregon on Friday in Pasadena. (Photo by Joshua Stueve)

PASADENA, Calif. — Air Tressel?

That's exactly what the jam packed crowd of a little less than 94,000 at the Rose Bowl witnessed in the early going of Friday's game between Ohio State and Oregon in sunny Pasadena.

The eighth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, who snapped their three-game bowl losing streak with a 26-17 victory over Oregon Friday evening, came out tossing the pigskin all over the football field, as head coach Jim Tressel called for passes on nine of OSU's 10 plays during the opening possession of the game.

Ohio State sophomore quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, completed 5-of-8 passes on the first drive for 39 yards — as well as a 24-yard run on a called third down pass play. Pryor and the Buckeyes capped off the aerial show with a 13-yard touchdown throw to junior tailback, Brandon Saine for the 7-0 advantage.

"We thought that we needed to be balanced against this team," Tressel said following the win. "In this game, we felt like we really needed to come in and fling it around. We felt as long as we were doing it well, you know, TP (Pryor) was making some good decisions, not only good decisions, but knowing when to throw it away, when to run.

"He was engaged in the game."

Pryor finished as the game's Most Valuable Player, by going 23-of-37 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns, as well as leading the Buckeyes in rushing with 72 yards on 20 carries.

This win was very reminiscent of former Texas star quarterback Vince Young's coming out party against Michigan in the Rose Bowl back in 2004. Young put up big numbers and led the Longhorns past the Wolverines. The next season, Young used the momentum from that game to catapult the Horns to a National Championship.

"That's a great comparison," Pryor said on the field following his first bowl victory as a starter. "But, I've got to be myself. Anytime you get a comparison with Vince Young — he's one of my idols, along with LeBron (James) — that's real special."

Later in the first quarter, Pryor hooked up with Saine again, this time on a beautiful 46-yard dig route down the sideline, which eventually set up a Devin Barclay 19-yard field goal for the 10-0 lead.

Of course, Oregon didn't become PAC 10 champions by rolling over and playing dead.

The Ducks offense, which averaged 37.6 points per game coming into the contest, answered the Buckeyes in a major way, by scoring 10 unanswered points, which included a LeGarrette Blount three-yard scoring plunge with 9:14 remaining in the first half.

Oregon, who didn't have much success early on against a stout Buckeyes defense, began to get things rolling on the ground late in the first quarter, as freshman phenoms' LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner started running at their usual pace, eating up turf at a premium.

"We weren't ready for a couple of their plays," OSU defensive end Cameron Heyward admitted.

The Buckeyes offense, which had become a little stagnant after their field goal scoring drive in the first quarter, had to answer the Ducks surging momentum.

With 1:51 to play before halftime, and the Buckeyes driving the football deep into Oregon territory, the team from Columbus found themselves with a critical fourth-and-one at the Oregon 14.

Tressel had to make a decision that he doesn't like making — going for it instead of kicking the field goal.

Tressel, unlike the Buckeyes' game earlier in the season with Southern California, elected to go for it instead of settling for three. Lining up in the "I-formation" and facing a stacked Oregon front, Pryor handed the ball off to Saine for a four-yard gain and a Buckeyes' first down.

Sure, the drive only culminated in another Barclay field goal, but the decision by Tressel three plays earlier to go for it, set the tone the rest of the way for the Buckeyes — they were there to win.

As Oregon tried to match the Buckeyes scoring drive late in the first half, Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan picked off a Jeremiah Masoli pass across the middle and returned it 20 yards into Oregon territory.

Following a Pryor to Dane Sanzenbacher hook up for 18 yards to the Oregon 28, OSU kicker Aaron Pettrey — who had missed the past three games due to injury — stepped up and drilled a 45-yard field goal with no time remaining on the clock, giving the Buckeyes a 16-10 halftime lead.

Special teams set the Ducks up nicely to begin the second half, giving them the ball at their own 47. The Ducks used a methodical 12-play drive to go ahead of the Buckeyes 17-16 with 11:03 to play in the third quarter, when Masoli scored on a one-yard quarterback keeper.

The Buckeyes would answer again.

Pryor used his arm to power the Buckeyes offense, yet again, on their opening drive of the half. The big signal caller laced a 36-yard strike to DeVier Posey down to the Oregon 29, which set up another Barclay field goal, this time from 38 yards out.

After Oregon was set up in good field position by their special teams, and began churning out yards on the ground, perhaps the biggest momentum changer of the game occurred with 5:12 to play in the third.

On a second-and-two on the Ohio State 18, Blount on an off tackle run, fumbled the football, which went rolling down the field and eventually knocked out of the end zone for an Ohio State touchback.

The Buckeyes dominated from that point on.

In the fourth quarter, Pryor put the exclamation point on a stellar Rose Bowl performance, leading the Buckeyes on a 13-play, 81 yard drive that saw the sophomore quarterback make some jaw-dropping plays with both his arm and his legs.

The drive — as well as the game — was sealed when Pryor tossed a 17-yard scoring toss into the hands of fellow sophomore Posey, who did a super-smooth balancing act for the game clinching touchdown.

"(The drive) started up front," Pryor said. "They were tired, but they had fire in their eyes. We were up by two and I knew for a fact that if we could score it would our defense the motivation to stop them. And they did.

"DeVier just made a great catch. We've been practicing that throw for a while."

Practice definitely paid off for the Buckeyes on Friday night.