Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SUGAR BOWL SHOWDOWN MEANS A LITTLE MORE TO TERRELLE PRYOR

Terrelle Pryor (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
COLUMBUS — For Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the Buckeyes' Sugar Bowl tilt against No. 8 Arkansas on January 4 is going to mean a lot more to him than just trying to give OSU their first postseason victory over a Southeastern Conference team.

No, this game to the Buckeyes' junior is about respect. It's about opening critic's eyes.

It is no secret that Pryor was upset for being excluded from the Big Ten All-Conference first and second teams. The honorable mention he received, in his eyes, didn't seem to do his works justice.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel felt otherwise, stating that Big Ten quarterbacks like Northwestern's Dan Persa, Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien, Michigan's Denard Robinson and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins made the voting more difficult.

"Our league had some extraordinary quarterbacks and what they meant to their teams," Tressel said. "You know when you think of the kid at Northwestern (Persa), he was fantastic. Denard Robinson had numbers off the charts. Cousins led his team to a Big Ten championship. Tolzien I thought was spectacular. So I'm sure as people voted and so forth, there was a split opinion."

I have to disagree with the Buckeye boss. First, no quarterback has meant more to his team than Pryor has for the Buckeyes. Sorry Mr. Robinson, but Michigan stinks with or without you.

Secondly, it appears to me that critics/voters have began to focus — or shall I say nitpick — on what Pryor hasn't done, instead of the great things he's accomplished this season, and during his three-year career.

Many don't know that Pryor actually has more total yards, more yards passing and a better completion percentage this season than Troy Smith did in his senior year in 2006 when he brought home the Heisman Trophy.

Many also don't know that Pryor has an unbelievable record of 30-4 as the Buckeyes' starting quarterback. That's probably because critics are more quick to talk about the four games he lost instead — especially this season's 31-18 defeat at Wisconsin, where he threw for just 156 yards and an interception.

Most focused on Pryor's inabilities in the loss and less on the Buckeyes defense giving up nearly 200 yards on the ground (4.3 yards per carry) to the Badgers. They also focused less on the fact that Wisconsin's Tolzien — who garnered second team all-Big Ten honors — had a worse game than Pryor, throwing for just 152 yards and an interception in the win.

Maybe the critics are being so hard on Pryor because of the expectations they put on him coming out of high school in 2008. I felt back then that Pryor needed to lead the Buckeyes to multiple national championships to ever live up to such a lofty billing. He would also need to win multiple Heisman Trophies, as well.

Of course, that's not going to happen now, even with him announcing that he's coming back for his senior season in 2011. He's running out of opportunities to prove the critics wrong.

That's what makes the Sugar Bowl showdown with Arkansas so important to Pryor. It gives him the opportunity — in front of a national audience — to go up against one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, Arkansas junior Ryan Mallett. Outplaying a surefire NFL first round draft pick would go pretty a long way in gaining respect from the critics, that's for sure.

"In Terrelle's case, does he have to prove a point? Terrelle's always in the mindset that he has to prove a point," Tressel said. "That's just his makeup.

"But he knows that the number one measuring stick of a quarterback is: are they successful and do they win the game?"

The fact is, Pryor has been successful and he has won a lot of games.

It's just we're too busy trying to find flaws in the brush strokes to take time to step back and see how incredible the painting has become.

PERHAPS A LITTLE RESPECT IS BEING PAID ... Pryor has been named one of the three finalists for the Tribune Silver Football, given annually to the Big Ten's best player.

The award is voted on by the conference coaches and will be announced on Friday.

This year's finalists — along with Pryor — are Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan.

The Tribune Silver Football has been awarded every year since 1924. It was first won by Red Grange of Illinois.

There have been 15 Ohio State players win the award, the last being Troy Smith in 2006.