Commentary

Pryor enjoys coming-out party

Originally Published: January 1, 2010
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com

PASADENA, Calif. -- Terrelle Pryor made a few missteps leading up to the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

When Ohio State went to Lawry's Restaurant for the traditional Beef Bowl event Sunday, Pryor stayed at the team hotel. He had forgotten to bring dress pants to California, and "nice jeans" wouldn't cut it, according to head coach Jim Tressel.

The next day, when asked about his general health, Pryor revealed that he had a slight tear in the posterior cruciate ligament of one of his knees. Though honesty should never be frowned upon, offering up an injury four days before the biggest game of the season probably isn't the best idea.

"Obviously, we as coaches don't talk about what injuries are, nor do the trainers or doctors," Tressel said Thursday. "But obviously, young people can, if they choose to."

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesTerrelle Pryor was efficient with his runs, gaining a game-high 72 yards on the ground.

Tressel-speak translation: tsk, tsk, Terrelle.

Fortunately for Tressel and Ohio State, Pryor saved all his blunders for game week, not game day. Because when he stepped on the field Friday against No. 7 Oregon, he could do no wrong.

Pryor delivered the performance Ohio State has been waiting for.

He didn't just manage the game and limit mistakes. He won the game and still limited mistakes. He didn't just run the ball and avoid tough throws. He ran the ball well and made the tough throws.

Ohio State didn't win in spite of him, but because of him.

In leading Ohio State to a 26-17 win against the Ducks, Pryor delivered a complete performance, taking one huge step closer to becoming a complete quarterback. In the process, he lifted the Buckeyes out of their BCS bowl slump.

"Terrelle beat us," Oregon head coach Chip Kelly said bluntly.

It was hard to argue after Pryor recorded career highs in completions (23), pass attempts (37) and passing yards (266). He threw two touchdown passes and added a game-high 72 rushing yards on 20 attempts.

We have some very definitive goals as to how good we would like to be and how good he would like to be at his craft. Tonight was a good step.

-- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel

This was the same guy Tressel reined in after he imploded against Purdue. The same guy who attempted only 17 passes in each of Ohio State's final three regular-season games.

"He didn't show me anything I didn't already know about him," wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. "You won't find many people in this locker room that are surprised he played like that."

You'll find plenty of surprised folks on the outside. Perhaps even Pryor himself.

Arguably the most scrutinized player in college football took a long look at himself midway through the season. His interceptions were up and his completion percentage down.

After meeting with Tressel, he took an approach of acceptance.

"I was trying to force too many throws, trying to prove to everybody that I'm a quarterback," Pryor said. "I wasn't taking off when I could run. I need to use what I have, my feet, and try and throw the ball. I need to use both."

Terrelle Pryor discovered himself Friday.

And in understanding what he is, he showed the nation what he could be.

"For myself, the sky is the limit," he said. "But without my teammates, I can't do anything. … I need everybody to work the ball with me. I need everybody to come together.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswirePryor's passing game versus Oregon was the best of his career.

"I thought I could have a game like this any time."

So did Kelly. As Oregon's offensive coordinator he aggressively recruited Pryor, who looked like a natural fit for the Ducks' spread offense.

Ultimately, Kelly couldn't get Pryor to visit Eugene, and they were on opposite sidelines Friday.

"When I saw him in high school, he was a man among boys," Kelly said. "And at times tonight, he looked like a man among boys."

Pryor led five drives of 10 plays or more, including a 19-play march that killed 8:03 late in the first half and a 13-play touchdown push midway through the fourth quarter.

Ohio State held the ball for 41:37, but it was what Pryor did during the span that proved more damaging for the Ducks.

"Time of possession, TOP, the TOP I was worried about was Terrelle Pryor," Kelly said.

"The plan was to make him throw the ball," said Oregon defensive end Kenny Rowe. "But when he threw it that good, the plan didn't go well."

The Vince Young comparison has followed Pryor ever since he set foot in Columbus. And despite Pryor's ups and downs, Tressel and others pointed to the fact that Young was hardly a finished product as a sophomore at Texas.

It seemed fitting, then, that Pryor produced his best performance on the same field where Young began to build his legend as a redshirt sophomore in the 2005 Rose Bowl against Michigan.

"We felt that this was a pivotal game, because it marked the end of the first half of his career," Tressel said. "We felt like we needed to progress a little bit more. I think we did.

"We have some very definitive goals as to how good we would like to be and how good he would like to be at his craft. Tonight was a good step."

As Tressel talked, Pryor sat quietly at his side. His white uniform pants had turned green from grass stains.

The quarterback who couldn't meet the dress code ended his season in style.

Adam Rittenberg covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com.