When the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions meet on Saturday in Beaver Stadium, there will be more on the line then just Big Ten title implications.

In a matchup that has recently become fierce, the winner will stay alive in the Big Ten race while the loser is left in the dust.

The Big Ten title is ultimately what’s most important, but this game between rivals has story lines that go deeper then trophies and championship rings.

Pryor vs. Clark
The inevitable irony of Saturday’s game will lie with the quarterbacks.

A native Ohioan will be defending the honor of the Blue and White, while a Pennsylvanian prodigy will do the same for the Scarlet and Gray.

Senior Darryl Clark and sophomore Terrelle Pryor will try to bring victory to the schools they now represent, not the states they once lived in. Although their paths have been different, both will have the chance to prove what their respected homes missed out on.

“Offensively they have the blessing of having a very veteran quarterback who you’ve seen grow as each year’s gone on,” coach Jim Tressel said of Clark. “He’s a good player. He’s a physical player. Hasn’t run as much this year. I would expect him to run a little bit more in this game because they’re going to do whatever it takes to do in this battle, but he’s making great decisions.”

Clark, of Youngstown, Ohio, was never offered a scholarship by OSU. He played quarterback at Ursuline High School, but the Buckeyes didn’t believe he would be able to play that position in college. OSU instead opted for Rob Schoenhoft at quarterback. He transferred to Delaware after the 2007 season.

Almost a half-decade later, his decision to attend Penn State has led him to today. Clark leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency and is using his opportunity to prove doubters wrong.

“I think Daryll Clark has been an outstanding performer for us, ” Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. “He’s a heck of a football player, he’s been a great leader, great competitor, and I hope he gets his due.”

Unlike Clark, Pryor received a scholarship from his home state school, and pretty much everywhere else in the country.

He chose instead to cross the border and be a Buckeye, citing coaches and the atmosphere for his decision. 

When asked why he decided against staying home and going to PSU, Pryor had less than kind things to say about rural State College, Pa.

“Penn State isn’t the place for me. It’s just not,” Pryor said at his press conference after picking OSU in March of 2008. “I don’t like the area. It’s country-looking. I just don’t like that place.”

The fans may have thought their home state hero was going to stay and play for the Nittany Lions, but Paterno wasn’t fooled.

“I think he looked at us out of respect for all of the Penn State people who were in the area,” Paterno said. “I think he felt from the beginning that maybe Ohio State was a better place for him.”

Pryor’s time at OSU so far has been filled with inconsistency, but the last two games, he has seemed more confident in two blowout victories.

“He started a little bit slow, to be frank with you, but the last few games he’s been very, very overpowering, really,” Paterno said about Pryor. “He’s running well, he’s throwing the ball well deep. He has improved, but he was pretty darn good as a freshman and he’s better as a sophomore and will continue to get better, because they do a good job.”

In last season’s Penn State game, both quarterbacks performed under expectation.

Pryor was 16 of 25 for 226 yards, but a costly fumble and late interception left the Buckeyes on the losing end of a 13-6 score.

Despite the victory, Clark’s day wasn’t much better then Pryor’s.

Before leaving the game in the third quarter with an injury, he was 12 of 20 for 121 yards.
Pryor and Clark will have a second chance on Saturday. Paterno, however, doesn’t think that will be a factor once the ball is snapped.

“I don’t think that comes into it,” Paterno said. “I think the kids want to play. They want to go out there and have good competition, respect each other, and play as well as they can, and hopefully it comes out their way. I think that holds for both kids, both Pryor and for Clark.”

Unfriendly confines of Beaver Stadium
Playing on the road at Penn State is never an easy task. When sold out, Beaver Stadium is filled with 107, 282 of the most rabid fans in college football.

“There’s so much energy and electricity,” Tressel said. “It’s a fun place to play. There’s noise. There’s excitement.”

Still, some away teams might not describe it as “fun.” The away team’s walk to the field from the locker room is never enjoyable. They must walk amongst some of the fiercest fans showing no remorse, often using every tactic possible to rattle their team’s opponents.

“It’s something. They’re throwing stuff at you, spitting on you, yelling everything you can think of at you,” senior linebacker Austin Spitler said. “But it doesn’t bring you down. It really fires you up and gets you going. I think it’s a positive in a way for us.”

Most of the negative attention from fans will figure to be on Pryor. However, the Pennsylvania native welcomes the attention.

“The crowd’s going to be against us, and definitely against me as an individual,” Pryor said. “It really doesn’t matter. I got my family with me and all 75 that travel and we’re going to be ready to rock.”

The young quarterback will have to block out the negativity and play mistake-free to neutralize the crowd.

“It will be hostile. As a quarterback, I’m sure any quarterback will say this, they say you can’t let anyone get to you,” Pryor said. “I’ll probably enjoy it. When people are against you and you got your teammates with you and the coaches there is nothing like it. I like playing away a little better, just because it’s more of the adrenaline rush.”

The hostile environment might be a lot for a sophomore quarterback to handle, but Tressel said Pryor knows what he’s got in store when he walks into Beaver Stadium.

“I’m sure he’s very aware of that,” Tressel said. “I’m sure as we go through the preparation for the week, we’ll talk a lot about poise and patience because that’s what you have to do. You have to be a poised guy. … That’s what being part of a great environment is all about.”

Buckeye Recruiting in Pennsylvania
Recently, OSU has gone into Pennsylvania and come away with several highly touted recruits.

The most obvious example would be Pryor, but he isn’t the only native to cross the border and play for the Scarlet and Gray.

Pryor’s high school teammate, freshman running back Jordan Hall, also selected the Buckeyes.

Hall said he never seriously considered PSU when it came to selecting his college.
The Buckeye’s have also nabbed three highly ranked defensive players from Pennsylvania.

Linebackers Andrew Sweat and Dorian Bell decided against attending “Linebacker U” and decided to follow in the footsteps of Buckeye greats like A.J. Hawk and James Laurinaitis.
Bell’s high school teammate, blue chip defensive back Corey Brown also chose the Buckeyes over PSU and Pittsburgh.

Saturday’s contest in State College, Pa., is at 3:30.


Saturday’s Games

Purdue @ Michigan  12 pm
No. 16 Ohio St. @ No. 11 Penn St.  3:30 pm
No. 9 LSU @ No. 3 Alabama  3:30 pm

Quinn Pitcock
Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan
Overall: 14-4     Last week: 3-0
Pitcock played defensive tackle for OSU from 2002–06.

Marcus Freeman
Ohio State, LSU, Michigan
Overall: 11-7     Last week: 2-1
Freeman played linebacker for OSU from 2004–08.

Justin Zwick
Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan
Overall: 11-7     Last week: 2-1
Zwick played quarterback for OSU from 2002–06.

Malcolm Jenkins
Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan
Overall: 11-7     Last week: 3-0
Jenkins played cornerback for OSU from 2005–08.

Zack Meisel
Penn State, Alabama, Michigan
Overall: 9-9     Last week: 2-1
Meisel is the sports editor for The Lantern.