Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State Exposed in Loss to Wisconsin
Ohio State was the No. 1 team in the country. Pryor was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate, and everyone keeps waiting for his signature moment. In the third quarter Saturday at Wisconsin, it finally arrived.
He finally arrived. He had been awful in the first half, and Wisconsin was blowing out Ohio State. And then Pryor yelled to his teammates, took control. The Buckeyes came all the way back to within three points.
And then, poof, nothing. Wisconsin beat Ohio State 31-18.
"This loss won't define us as a team,'' Pryor said. "It doesn't define me. I know that.''
He shows greatness. He has size and speed. He has patience and smarts.
But tick, tick, tick. He's a junior, and he has to win a game like this.
Maybe he brings up his own legacy because he knows that. Also, because he can't accept what it is, can't live with it.
"It was a team loss ... '' he said. "We've just got to stop taking stuff for granted.''
He didn't clarify what stuff he was talking about, but let's start with this: We've got to stop taking for granted that Pryor is going to be a star. The middle of his junior season on the road against a ranked team, and he got the momentum back all by himself.
That's where your star, and your national championship team, finishes the deal.
Pryor and Ohio State fell apart and absolutely defined themselves.
Pryor is not a Heisman quarterback. Ohio State is not a national championship team.
Team loss? Fine. But Pryor is the leader of that team, and his early failures played a big part in Wisconsin taking a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
Pryor also kept saying he wouldn't blame the special teams, but that "that play'' really hurt the team. The play he's talking about was the game's opening kickoff, which Wisconsin ran back for a touchdown.
Twelve seconds into the game, down one measly touchdown with 3,588 seconds to go, and Pryor talks about the difficulty of recovering.
You should have seen the Wisconsin fans. At halftime, they were all jumping in unison, successfully shaking the entire stadium. It was not the press box wobbling that worried me so much as the two big TVs directly over my head.
Late in the game, the p.a. announcer was comically pleading with the fans:
"Please stay in your seats,'' he said.
When it ended, and the fans rushed the field, he continued anyway: "Stop. Please."
"Sections M, N, O, P, please stay in your seats.''
It was like Kevin Bacon in the final minutes of the movie "Animal House."
"Remain calm. All is well,'' he said, before flattened by the mob in the mayhem.
So I feel a little bad focusing on Ohio State. This was Wisconsin's night.
"It was crazy,'' Wisconsin offensive lineman Gabe Carimi said. "I've never experienced anything like that in my life. It's something I'm always going to cherish.''
But when the No. 1 team gets pushed around, and a guy with the potential to be the No. 1 player flops, well, sorry Wisconsin fans. They are the story.
Execution. That was Ohio State coach Jim Tressel's word over and over.
Game plans are drawn up for success, and they were the wrong plans if the players didn't execute them.
What a dodge. It is an easy thing to blame because it is something that can be fixed.
Ohio State's problem wasn't lack of execution, though. It was Wisconsin spending the entire first half kicking the Buckeyes' backsides. The Badgers pushed them around, ran them over, crushed them like tin cans.
Half an hour after the game, Tressel was talking about execution again, though, when the p.a. voice boomed again.
"Attention fans. For your safety, please get off the goalposts. And please move away from the goalposts.''
Tressel was interrupted by the celebration, bullied by the moment again.
While Ohio State's defensive line was being pushed around, cleared out for garage-door sized holes for Wisconsin running backs to ease through, Pryor did nothing to keep up.
Second play of the game, he pitched the ball over his tailback's head for a big loss. That led to a punt. Then Wisconsin pounded the ball downfield for a 14-0 lead.
Next drive, Pryor threw two terrible passes in a row, one lucky not to be intercepted and one so bad that no one could have caught it, except, maybe, the p.a. guy.
Then: Wisconsin, 21-0.
Pryor took Ohio State down to the 3, first down. But then he ran twice for minus-2 yards, and the Buckeyes were stuck with a field goal.
It was all almost forgotten early in the fourth quarter. Pryor was finally arriving. He had taken his offense aside and chewed it out. On the field, he was so patient, running out of the pocket at all the right times, throwing to the right people. He was unstoppable,
The pain in his injured thigh seemed to disappear. The Buckeyes were down by three.
"Oh man,'' Pryor said. "We just blew it.''
Wisconsin scored again, and Pryor and Ohio State fell apart.
Signature moment gone?
No, not at all. They just didn't sign the way they wanted.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @gregcouch