October 2, 2010
Ohio State guts out ugly win over Illinois
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The entire nation saw on Saturday just how valuable that Terrelle Pryor is for Ohio State's chances to vie for a Big Ten and potential national championship. Pryor went down with a reported quad injury during the third quarter as the Buckeyes were locked into a dog fight with the Fighting Illini but when Pryor couldn't go Dan Herron answered the call and while it was not pretty the Buckeyes scrapped for a 24-13 win to start of the Big Ten season 1-0.
Pryor was pretty much the Ohio State offense pre-injury with a pair of big runs including a 66 yard and a 35 yard scamper and a pair of touchdown passes to Brandon Saine and Dane Sanzenbacher. But outside of that there wasn't much offense early in the game for the Buckeyes and the Illini had a solid game plan dialed up coming off of a bye week to lie in wait for the Buckeyes.
"Early on you could see they came up with some things that hurt us," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "They hit a misdirection pass and they hit the pass back to the quarterback. They had some gadgets they worked on and those worked for them."
The Illini held the lead at two points in the game and the once vaunted Ohio State defense was humbled to a certain degree for the first half of the game.
"They prepared really (well) for two weeks," Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward said. "They came out with the right mindset, but I think we just made some corrections, just playing tougher (in the second half)."
Once the Ohio State defense stiffened up the Buckeyes were aided by some undisciplined plays but the Fighting Illini. Ron Zook's team was flagged nine times for 74 yards including several face mask penalties.
"The dumb penalties I really get frustrated with because you can't have those things when you play a good football team," Zook said. "You have to go back and look at them and you have to learn from them."
The Ohio State offense was largely ineffective when Pryor left the game and Joe Bauserman was put into some bad situations and tried to force a pass that was intercepted by Trulon Henry. Pryor only attempted four passes the rest of the way and connected on three of them but it was Herron's running that allowed the Buckeyes to hold onto the ball for 9:20 in the final frame.
"He's always ready to be that physical back you want him to be," Tressel said. "He took that fourth quarter and parts of the third and did a good job of running physically."
But this game will be remembered more for what happened to Pryor rather than a stomach turning win in the end.
"I was in full stride and all of a sudden I felt and heard something pop and I was like, 'what's going on?'," Pryor said. "As I was in full stride, I stumbled and I just let the ball go. It was probably the worst pain I had in a while."
And it is once again a sports cliché to talk about the Buckeyes learning from the adversity of the game but the last time the Buckeyes hoisted the crystal football the 2002 team went through challenge after challenge.
"We just have to keep getting better and pushing forward," Pryor said. "Because we can't play like the way we did today."
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