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Pryor looks to repeat last minute magic against Wisconsin

The Lantern

If Terrelle Pryor has flashbacks during a close game on Saturday at Ohio Stadium, Buckeye fans will know why.

While Chris “Beanie” Wells rushed for 168 yards against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Oct. 4, 2008, it was Ohio State’s final drive, conducted by Pryor, that kicked off the freshman’s coming out party.

The quarterback scrambled for an 11-yard touchdown run with slightly more than one minute remaining to give the No. 14 Buckeyes a 20-17 victory a year ago over the No. 18 Badgers in Madison, Wis.

This time around, as the Buckeyes and Badgers prepare for another Big Ten brawl, Wells is in the NFL and the reins of the offense belong solely to Pryor.

An entire year after that closely contested battle, the teams will meet again with conference supremacy on the line.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema hasn’t allowed his team to forget Pryor’s fateful touchdown dash.

“We weren’t all set, our communication wasn’t all in line, and the result was, you know, a play that resulted in a touchdown and ultimately a defeat,” he said.

The loss to the Buckeyes last season was Wisconsin’s second straight, and spiraled into a four-game losing streak that wiped the Badgers off the map of contention in the Big Ten.
Bielema contends that his team had to persevere through that struggle to eventually strike success.

“Everybody’s got to touch that hot stove once,” he said. “You got to get burnt once. The only way you do it is to do it. I think our players are a lot more aware. … [They] remember the play against Ohio State.”

Pryor’s heroics against Wisconsin gave the team confidence in the quarterback position for the first time since the start of the season, before a 35-3 drubbing against USC resulted in Todd Boeckman’s benching.

“I thought it was a big thing, especially for the moment … but you added that to his things that he experienced and things that he could learn from,” OSU coach Jim Tressel said.

Now in his second season under center for the Bucks, Pryor is still searching for consistency. After throwing four interceptions in 165 pass attempts a year ago, Pryor has tossed five picks in 114 attempts in ’09.

Still, Bielema said the Buckeyes have tried to mold their offense entirely around their sophomore quarterback, which could eventually spell doom for opposing defenses.

“He’s a playmaker,” he said. “As he gains more experience and more knowledge, you can see the coaches give him more and more. You know, I think they really play to his strengths more so than any of the other players.”

Pryor assumed the starting quarterback position for the first time in the Buckeyes’ fourth game last season. Wisconsin will be just the second opponent that he has played more than once, and Tressel believes that Pryor’s development will take off once he faces familiar defenses.

“This will be the second team that he’s played a full game against for two years in a row, Illinois and now these folks, so could there be some carryover knowledge-wise and expectation-wise,” Tressel said. “Sometimes one of the most difficult things for a player is if they don’t know what to expect.”

And the Badgers know what to expect from Pryor. Clearly, they haven’t forgotten how a freshman quarterback stole a game on their home field.

But Pryor also knows what to anticipate when the Buckeyes take on a stingy Badger defense on Saturday, Tressel said.

Pryor and the No. 9 Buckeyes will try to win their third straight against Wisconsin at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at The Horseshoe.

 

WEEKLY FOOTBALL PICKS

Wisconsin @ No. 9 Ohio State  3:30 pm
Michigan @ No. 12 Iowa  8 pm
No. 1 Florida @ No. 4 LSU  8 pm

Quinn Pitcock
Ohio State, Iowa, LSU
Overall: 5-1     Last week: 3-0
Pitcock played defensive tackle for OSU from 2002-06.

Marcus Freeman
Ohio State, Michigan, Florida
Overall: 3-3     Last week: 2-1
Freeman played linebacker for OSU from 2004-08.

Justin Zwick
Ohio State, Michigan, Florida
Overall: 3-3     Last week: 2-1
Zwick played quarterback for OSU from 2002-06.

Zack Meisel
Ohio State, Michigan, Florida
Overall: 3-3     Last week: 2-1
Meisel is the sports editor for The Lantern.

Malcolm Jenkins
Ohio State, Iowa, LSU
Overall: 2-4     Last week: 1-2
Jenkins played cornerback for OSU from 2005-08.

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