STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Terrelle Pryor made a triumphant return to Penn State, a school that he spurned in favor of Ohio State and accounted for 175 yards and three touchdowns as the Buckeyes took one more step toward an outright Big Ten Championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
While everyone wants to talk about what Pryor did it was the defense that cemented the game holding the Nittany Lions to 201 yards of total offense and just one lone touchdown in the second quarter of the game.
Cameron Heyward had a career night on the defensive side leading the Buckeyes with 11 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss. In total the defense took the Nittany Lions and the Blue and White faithful out of the game in a hurry and broke the will of the 110-plus thousand fans in attendance.
"It was a big thing taking their fans out of the game," linebacker Ross Homan said. "It was a hostile environment with 110-(thousand) crazy fans and it was great to get them out of the game."
Ohio State got on the board after a big play by punt returner Ray Small who returned a Jeremy Boone punt 41 yards and to the Penn State three yard line. It only took the Buckeyes to plays to score with Pryor diving in on a seven yard touchdown run, but it was Small's return that gave the Buckeyes a golden opportunity.
"I always going out there and do my part and coach always preaches special teams," Small said. "So every time I am back there I am thinking big. The first little drive I sparked it and it got me going from there."
The Nittany Lions would roar back in the second quarter and were held to a fourth and goal play against the Buckeye defense where quarterback Daryll Clark managed to barely cross the line.
But that would be the end of the Penn State offense and in the second half the Nits would only amass 77 yards of total offense.
"We talked about the defense outplaying their defense," Homan said. "That is how we go into every game, having to outplay the other team's defense. I think we did a great job tonight from the top down. We had a great scheme going with our defensive coaches."
The Buckeyes scored on a Devin Barclay field goal in the second quarter and never looked back. Pryor had a chance to send the Buckeyes to the locker room up ten but just missed a wide open Dane Sanzenbacher near the corner of the end zone. But ultimately ten points was enough to win but the Buckeyes were not done there.
In the third quarter the Ohio State offense struck on a one play drive when Pryor hit DeVier Posey on a 62 yard touchdown strike. That was the longest play from scrimmage that Penn State had allowed all season long and was a play that silenced the Penn State crowd.
"He was definitely more focused this whole week and you could tell that he wasn't going let things stop him with injuries or the crowd," Posey said. "He was just focused and that was really big for him."
Ohio State would tack on a final touchdown when Pryor found Brandon Saine from six yards out early in the fourth quarter but the game was well in hand before that ultimate score that gave Ohio State the final 24-7 lead and win.
"I think our offense played amazing tonight but I thought our defense played well," Heyward said. "We told (our defense) again that they can't score again and if they don't, then we win."
Ohio State is firmly in control of its own destiny now after Iowa lost to Northwestern and more importantly likely lost quarterback Ricky Stanzi for the regular season. The Buckeyes are keeping cautious optimism but know that the upset bug can strike at any time. But that doesn't make the dream of another title any less alluring.
"The only thing that goes through my mind is outright," Small said. "Like I said to my teammates and to my receivers, 'We are on a hunt with everyone doubting us,' and I see the poster that says Silence the Doubters and that is the path that we are on."