Saturday, November 20, 2010

PRYOR WILLS BUCKEYES PAST HAWKEYES, 20-17, IN IOWA CITY

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor led his ninth-ranked Buckeyes past No. 20 Iowa, 20-17, in Iowa City on Saturday evening. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games.

In Ohio State's "big-time game" at No. 20 Iowa on Saturday night, Buckeyes junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor was that "big-time player."

With the No. 9 Buckeyes trailing 17-13 late in the fourth quarter, and facing a fourth-and-10 at midfield, Pryor — who was having a very tough go of it up to that point — scrambled out of the intense Iowa pressure and zigzagged for 14 yards, picking up a critical first down for the visitors.

Five plays later, the Buckeyes scored the game-clinching touchdown — on a Dan "Boom" Herron one-yard run — escaping Iowa City with a 20-17 win and keeping their Big Ten title and BCS bowl game hopes alive.

"Terrell's a great athlete," Herron said of his quarterback. "He's very gifted, he can either run the ball or throw it. That was definitely a big play on that final drive and I'm grateful for that."

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said that he was afraid for a second that Pryor wasn't going to make it for the first down.

"I saw their pass-rush lanes happen and I saw him reading his keys, and I saw him sliding forward and hitching because he really didn't have anyone open," Tressel said. "Then I think just to the left I saw the same crease he did. He took off with it and I was afraid he was messing around and wasn't going to get the first. But, you know, he made it."

What made Pryor's fourth-down conversion even more spectacular is that one play earlier, his 50-yard pass to wide receiver DeVier Posey was dropped in the end zone. It seemed that the Posey miscue was going to break the Buckeyes back, that is until Pryor took the reins and refused to lose.

"Throughout the game we had a lot of dropped passes, a lot of bad throws, but we live to play another down," Pryor said. "Whether (Posey) dropped it or not, we still had to convert. Was I pissed? Yeah, I  was mad, but we had a fourth-and-10 to get or we were going to lose another game.

"I hate losing with a passion."

Of course that 14-yard jaunt by Pryor wasn't the only great play on the Buckeyes' game-winning drive. On second-and-five from the Iowa 26 — three plays after the big conversion — Pryor connected with senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, who made a twisting, acrobatic catch which gave the Buckeyes a first-and-goal at the Iowa 2.

"I called that play," Pryor smiled. "I called that play because the first time we did it I threw a pick when I threw it towards Taurian (Washington). I noticed (Iowa) dropped on that play. So 45-50 plays later, I was like you know what, this is going to be wide open. We need to try this again."

Tressel said he decided to let Pryor make the call because of the confidence his big quarterback was exuding on the sideline.

"I'm not sure why he wanted (to make the call)," Tressel said. "But he said 'I know this one will go.' I said, man, I like that confidence. When the quarterback thinks it will go it's got a lot better chance of going."

Pryor finished the win on Saturday evening with 273 total yards (195 pass, 78 rush), a touchdown pass and two interceptions. Sanzenbacher led the way in receiving with six receptions for 102 yards.

Cameron Heyward sack Ricky Stanzi.
(AP Photo/Charile Neibergall)
The Ohio State defense also did its thing late in the game, keeping the Hawkeyes' offense from converting a first down on their final two series of the game.

Following the Buckeyes go-ahead touchdown with 1:47 to play, Iowa would begin their final series in good field position at their own 36, needing just a field goal to tie the game.

However, after two incomplete passes by Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi, Ohio State senior defensive end Cameron Heyward delivered the knockout blow, sacking the Hawkeye signal caller for an 11-yard loss and forcing a fourth-and-22 which wouldn't be converted.

"To get a sack like that, you know, is critical," Heyward said. "(Assistant coach) Marcus (Freeman) said on the sidelines 'you know, a sack right here is really going to put them down and help us.'

"To get one at that moment was really big for our team."

Sophomore defensive tackle John Simon also recorded a huge sack for the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter — on the Hawkeyes second to last series of the game.

Senior linebacker Brian Rolle was stellar in the win, as well, compiling a game-high 10 tackles, including a career-tying three tackles for loss.

The Buckeyes (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) will now turn their focus to arch-rival Michigan, who they'll face next Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

"We know that's the most important game of the season," Pryor said about playing Michigan. "Obviously the Big Ten championship stuff matters and all that.

"But we've got to beat Michigan. Period."