Justice Is Served

January 2, 2010 1:36 PM

Redemption for OSU: Pryor plays like a QB

He mentioned his teammates first. In his postgame interview Friday night, he took pains to recognize the big men who blocked in front of him. He thanked them; he praised them. He gave those big men their due.


"It's crazy how well they did," Terrelle Pryor said in the afterglow of the Rose Bowl.

Sharing the praise, Pryor?

Maybe, at last, the manchild has grown up. He can now see success as not just about him, even though most people's eyes and the media attention still tend to focus solely on him.

But such notoriety comes with the territory. When you play quarterback for one of the most storied programs in college, you will draw attention -- too much of it of the unwanted variety.

For that attention brings with it intense scrutiny. No matter how wonderful you perform, you will always find someone who can pick apart your performance or who will demand more. The critics are everywhere; just ask Tim Tebow. You never win enough or play well enough to satisfy them.

Pryor sounds as if he has learned that lesson -- finally. Since midway through his freshman season, he has heard the criticism. Oh, has he heard it!   

How could Pryor not?

C'mon, he plays for Ohio State. He lines up as its quarterback, right?

Through its history, the Buckeyes have never had a quarterback with Pryor's splendid gifts. Nor have they had one who has faced expectations as tall as his. 

After all, he was supposed to deliver championships -- national championships, not those piddling Big Ten championships of which the Buckeyes have so many of them lined up like tin soldiers.

He has contributed two of the latter. He has also beaten Michigan twice as well. Nobody can label those Michigan wins insignificant, because Ohio State can't hope to compete for national championships if the Buckeyes can't beat the down-on-their-luck Wolverines.

Not that his latest game brought him anything close to a national title; it wasn't that kind of football game: No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Oregon. Still, Pryor had much at stake in this game. He needed to show people that he could do more than manage a victory; he needed to win a big game; he needed to show that all the hoopla surrounding his coming to Ohio State wasn't much ado about too little.

In some ways, Terrelle Pryor needed a career-defining game, something that he could put his signature on. He needed to win a game on a grand stage -- to win a game inside a pressure cooker with the gifts he brought to Ohio State.

As a soon-to-be junior, he has not led the Buckeyes as much as he has managed them. He has never put his full imprint on their offense, not in a real sense. Certainly, people point to him as the key to OSU's success, and Pryor is. He will take the Buckeyes however far they go the next two seasons.

And they went farther Friday night than most people thought they would go in beating Oregon, 26-17, in the Rose Bowl. He gave a performance befitting somebody with his gifts.

Although his pedigree was considered purer than Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's, Pryor had more questions surrounding him and his season's play than Masoli did. 

Yet Pryor has always had to answer questions. He's always had to explain who he was, why he doesn't move to another position and how could he have picked Ohio State over Oregon, Michigan and all the other elite schools that came courting his talent. 

One game doesn't stop those sorts of questions. To be honest, nothing will stop 'em. What would turn such talk to whispers is his consistent performance, and Pryor knows that as well as anybody else.

So Terrelle Pryor performed Friday night. He played like the blue-chipper he was always supposed to be when he signed with Ohio State. He ran the football, and he passed it. He led coach Jim Tressel's offense; he conducted it like a maestro, keeping the offense rolling merrily along.

He did so with his feet, with his arm and, perhaps most important of all, with his head.

If this is vintage Terrelle Pryor, he quieted his criticism. He left critics no reason to second guess who he is. In his biggest game, on a national stage, he played his finest game.

His performance set up even grander expectations for the two seasons he has left at Ohio State, time enough to deliver the national championships Pryor has been counted on to bring. 

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