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Re: Ohio State Football Thread
Buckeyes' Pryor makes Tressel, OSU fans sweat
by Bruce Hooley, Special to FOXSports.com
Updated: October 22, 2009, 3:19 PM EDT
Ohio State fans once feared they would have Terrelle Pryor as their quarterback for only three seasons.
Now, they're afraid they might be stuck with him for four.
With no backups ready to replace him, and no Matt Barkley- or Tate Forcier-type recruits headed to Columbus, Pryor is more than the Buckeyes' quarterback of the present.
The excitement surrounding Terrelle Pryor has waned considerably. (Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)
He's their quarterback of the future.
That scared opponents when Pryor broke on to the scene as a true freshman starter four games into last season, helping head coach Jim Tressel win a fourth straight Big Ten championship.
But that fear has rapidly turned inward on Buckeye Nation, with Pryor having already thrown twice as many interceptions (eight) this season as he did all of last year — on six fewer pass attempts, no less. ( abandon the jock strap !!! )
Two of those picks and two lost fumbles marked Pryor's performance Saturday in a 26-18 loss at Purdue.
The Boilermakers were 1-5, tied for last place in the Big Ten, and had 20 turnovers through six games to rank 119th among 120 FBS teams in that category.
Right off the top, reject the notion that OSU's visit prompted Purdue to morph into a sound team that located a long-lost supply of stickum from Lester Hayes' locker.
Ohio State claimed three turnovers from the Boilermakers, including a shot-putted halfback pass from the OSU 11-yard line that killed a scoring drive and a lost fumble at the Purdue 43. An 18-yard punt to the Purdue 30-yard line also presented OSU a gift-wrapped scoring opportunity.
Pryor followed the 18-yard punt by fumbling the ball back on the ensuing series.
He directed a three-and-out after the Boilermakers' botched halfback pass, killing only 25 seconds of the 51 ticks that remained in the first half, thus allowing Purdue time to get a go-ahead field goal on the last snap before the break.
And when Purdue's Joey Elliott threw his only pick two plays after Pryor's first interception in the third quarter, Pryor obliged with his second interception three plays after that.
You might say the Buckeyes — in losing for the first time since 2005 to an opponent not to make a BCS bowl in that same season — suffered from a serious case of Pryor restraint.
Well, you might say that unless you're Tressel, any of Pryor's teammates or, apparently, anyone drawing a paycheck from The Ohio State University.
Just for kicks and giggles, log onto OhioStateBuckeyes.com and read the school's official web site recapping the loss to Purdue.
The first paragraph reads:
"Ohio State made a valiant comeback behind 177 yards of fourth-quarter offense from Terrelle Pryor, but Purdue's defense did just enough to hang on for the 26-18 victory."
Notice: Pryor was nearly the hero, and nary a mention of his four turnovers or the paltry 110 yards OSU gained through three quarters.
Later the story read:
"Ohio State's dismal day included five turnovers — three lost fumbles and two interceptions."
Notice: No mention of Pryor having four of the five turnovers, not anywhere in the story.
Ohio State fumbled on its second play of the game.
Notice: Pryor didn't fumble; Ohio State did.
That kid-glove treatment of the nation's former No. 1 recruit has been standard procedure at OSU since Pryor arrived.
Not until three weeks ago had he ever been made available to speak with reporters except in postgame or preseason media day settings.
That's painted Pryor as somewhere between reclusive and dismissive.
What he's shown himself to be since the verbal shackles have been loosened is a thoughtful, approachable young man who belies the pampered, coach's-pet reputation that's dogged him since taking over for Todd Boeckman last season after a 35-3 loss at USC.
Boeckman committed two turnovers in that game — one an interception returned for a touchdown and the other a fumble when blasted by a back-side linebacker untouched on a blitz.
In announcing Boeckman's demotion to second-team two days later, Tressel said the reigning first-team All-Big Ten QB who directed OSU to an appearance in the BCS title game the year before "erred" on the fumble.
"It was the quarterback's hot read," Tressel said then. "Our expectations above all others are these: you make big plays, you make great decisions, you don't turn the ball over, and that's how you'll be evaluated above all other things. We're going to evaluate your footwork, how you carry out your fakes, we're going to evaluate every little thing. But not like we'll evaluate what we call those 'big three."
Saturday, after Pryor's four turnovers at Purdue, Tressel was asked about what transpired on the two interceptions.
"I can't remember exactly which ones we're talking about," he said of Pryor's 29 pass attempts.
Three times, Tressel was asked if he considered sitting Pryor for even one series against the Boilermakers.
Jim Tressel has handled Pryor much differently than he handled Todd Boeckman last year. (Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)
The answer was a flat, "No," each time.
"Any time you don't do what you hoped to do, which starts with not taking care of the ball, you're very concerned," Tressel said. "You can't go on and have mistakes like that."
That's as close as the OSU coach came to singling out Pryor for his turnovers, which places it in another hemisphere from how he fingered Boeckman the year before.
Asked Tuesday why he yanked Boeckman, but didn't consider doing so even for one series with Pryor, Tressel said: "I'm not sure they are comparable at all. They don't feel to me as being similar situations."
Boeckman was a sixth-year senior when removed, and Pryor is but a true sophomore.
The thinking among optimistic OSU fans is Pryor will develop into what he was hyped to be once he is more seasoned.
But is chronological age the best barometer of how a quarterback should play, or is experience under center a better gauge?
Boeckman made 16 career starts before being benched.
Likewise, Purdue was Pryor's 16th career start.
What appears different about the two situations is Tressel clearly lacks the same faith in current backup Joe Bauserman that he had in Pryor last season.
The 6-6, 235-pound Pryor was like a new toy Tressel couldn't wait until Christmas morning to open.
The two are an odd marriage — the flash and sizzle, high-wire quarterback and the sweater-vested control freak whose risk tolerance isn't too far removed from Woody Hayes' axiom that three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad.
Tressel's oft-stated formula for winning requires "relentless defense, superior special teams and mistake-free offense."
"...You're sort of like a superstar. And you start maybe thinking too much of yourself and losing your head a little bit and losing focus."
— Terrelle Pryor
OSU's average national ranking of 66th in total offense during Tressel's nine seasons confirms his no-running-with-scissors philosophy when possessing the football.
Pryor, though, is a breathless juggling act of flying butcher knives and chainsaws.
One play he'll make pursuers look foolish with a wondrous scramble and effortless speed, and he'll occasionally tantalize with a laser thrown perfectly on time.
The next snap, he's loathe to run in the open field and heaves wounded wobblers that hang in the air as long as the migrating ducks they imitate.
Sometimes, the two Terrelles merge into a fusion of risk and reward.
His 25-yard touchdown pass Saturday at Purdue hung in the heavens so long observers half expected 6-year-old balloon boy, Falcon Heene, to come down with it.
Thank goodness the Dallas Football Classic, where Big Ten teams will begin playing in the postseason next year, is scheduled for the Cotton Bowl and not Cowboys Stadium.
If not, punters wouldn't imperil Jerry Jones' Jumbotron nearly as much as one of Pryor's occasional dirigibles.
Just like a doctor who recommends taking two aspirin before calling him in the morning, OSU receives a magic pill this week with Minnesota and next week with New Mexico State visiting the Horseshoe.
That gives Tressel, and Pryor, a fortnight to figure out how to contend with a November that takes the Buckeyes to Penn State and Michigan around a home date against unbeaten Iowa.
Navigating what passes for the closest thing to a gauntlet in the woebegone Big Ten seems a high mountain to climb, but keep in mind Tressel's teams are 24-4 in November.
That mark is sure to suffer if Pryor doesn't reduce his turnovers and improve a pass-efficiency rating that ranks ninth in the Big Ten after leading that category a year ago.
"Let's be real," Pryor said. "If any of us were the quarterback at Ohio State, and you've got all these people around you, you're sort of like a superstar. And you start maybe thinking too much of yourself and losing your head a little bit and losing focus."
To get dialed in, Pryor has spoken with Miami quarterback Jacory Harris — whose Hurricanes will play at OSU next season. And he also spoke to a guy who knows a thing or two about high school hype. A guy who just happened to be in Columbus playing an exhibition game on Wednesday.
The fella's name is LeBron James.
Is it possible The Chosen One can transform Pryor from turnover prone to touchdown producer?
Let's just say, Ohio State fans hope they are all witnesses.
sounds like kordell stewart syndrome