Looks like everyone got what they wanted Saturday in OSU's 38-7 walk over an inept Minnesota Saturday. The fans got to see Pryor take a step in the right direction with his second 200/100 game of his career. Ray Reitz and much of the half tuned-in national punditry were able to see him rushing the ball for apparently the first time in his career. Jim Tressel got his wish when a key special teams play to start the 2nd half turned out to be the springboard for the romp. Even the fringe element of the fanbase had to have been pleased when Joe Bauserman saw action late in the game.
Hoping for a quick start to put some of the turmoil of the past week behind them, the Buckeyes actually came out to a three-and-out and you could hear the faintest of groans throughout Ohio Stadium. The defense quickly forced a Minnesota punt and then Pryor led the offense on a 19 play, 78 yard drive that eventually fizzled out at the Gopher 13 when Aaron Pettrey missed a 30 yard field goal and the anxiety level jumped a little bit more. The teams traded punts again before Pryor found DeVier Posey on a beautifully thrown bomb to put the Buckeyes up 7-0. For one play at least, it was on like Donkey Kong.
The Gophers would go on to lose Eric Decker to an ankle injury, be plagued by more drops than any team should ever have to suffer on the way to stretching their scoreless streak to seven full quaters but still went to the half down just the one score. And then the wheels came off.
The Buckeyes opened the 2nd half with a pooch kickoff that was scooped up by redshirt freshman Zach Domicone and three plays later, Pryor was coasting into the endzone to put Ohio State up 14-0. After a Weber fumble two series later, Jordan Hall scored on an 11 yard run, his first score as a Buckeye and the Jeannette Jayhawks were outscoring the Minnesota Golden Gophers by a healthy margin. Minnesota proceeded to turn the ball over two more times in the second half and paid for it each time. Total tally: four second half Gopher turnovers and 17 Ohio State points out of them.
Caveat Gopher, and they did everything in their power to help the Buckeyes turn a close game at the half into a laugher by the start of the fourth quarter, but Ohio State founds some rhythm on offense and made Minnesota pay for their miscues. This is not to say that all problems are solved, because there is plenty to work on, but Pryor and the offense backed up some of what they had to say midweek and got the rebound many of us were hoping for.
What really jumps out from the game is a noticeable difference in Pryor's mechanics and his decisiveness running the ball. He still made mistakes, like the interception he had at the Gopher goal line at the end of the first half, but he was on today. I think this vindicates the staff somewhat in the sense that his terrible outing last week looks like a case of him mailing in a performance or maybe taking Purdue lightly instead of an indictment of the people developing him or the gameplan they put into play. The staff did do some different things against the Gophers to put him in position to make plays like mixing up the formations and rolling him out of the pocket to throw, but it's kind of funny how when he's dictating play just about any offensive gameplan can look good.
Pryor got off to a bit of a slow start, but his two bombs for touchdowns to Posey were works of art as was the 15 yard touchdown run. His teleportation of the final six yards on the score served as a reminder of the supreme gifts he brings to play, but he might have upstaged that with a reverse field scamper that went for 25 and another touchdown before unfortunately being wiped out by a holding penalty later on in the quarter.
More importantly, it appears as if he's found his go-to guy and it's the guy a lot of us thought it would be when they both arrived as part of the 2008 class. Posey finished with eight catches for 161 yards and the two longs scores. The first was a coverage bust, but on the second, good for 57, he straight up dusted Minnesota's Kyle Theret. And these guy are sophomores. And they easily could have had two more. Opposing defenses will no doubt roll coverage to Posey in the future, but Pryor's earlier work developing a rapport with Sanzenbacher should pay off as he should emerge as a quality possession guy in this offense.
Even the much maligned Buckeye rushing attack made an appearance. Pryor, of course, topped 100 on just 15 carries, Saine got off to a good start with 11 carries for 45 yards before leaving with a possible concussion and then the youngsters that stepped in for him took advantage of their opportunities. Running behind a banged up line that at times featured unexpected combinations of linemen with Mike Adams out in street clothes (and rumored to have had arthroscopic surgery), Hall looked really sharp at times, but the big story was the running of Glenville product Jermil Martin. The redshirt frosh doing his best Keith Byars impression in late action rumbled for 75 yards on seven carries. His 39 yard touchdown run at the start of the fourth quarter was the longest touchdown run by a Buckeye this season and longest run by any back (Pryor had a 43 yard gain against the Rockets). With Saine likely out next week and Boom still on the mend, it's nice to see signs of depth in the backfield, even if it was against the Gophers. Also, three cheers for the schedule makers with New Mexico State coming to town next week and the backfield in the infirmary.
All in all, it was a great day for the Buckeye offense. They'll want to improve upon the oh-fer they pulled in first half red zone attempts, but it's hard to complain with the 509 yards of total offense.
The defense bounced back as well, though their job was made easier when the Gophers lost Decker and the other receivers stepped up by dropping every ball that came near them. Thad Gibson had his best day as a Buckeye with three sacks, John Simon caused a Weber fumble with pressure and his gigantic noggin (Spielman's words) and Hurt Coleman and Nathan Williams received the turnover and sack that is their weekly birthright.
Homan led all defenders with eight tackles, with Gibson recording six, Worthington and Rolle five each. Some adjustments were made with respect to tighter coverages and the Gophers were never able to achieve the efficiency of Joey Elliott and Purdue the week before.
Minnesota was held to 1/10 on 3rd down conversions and just 286 yards of total offense. Take away the 78 yards and unfortunate touchdown that backup quarterback MarQueis Gray was able to engineer on their final drive of the day and you get a better indicator how things really went. Again, the turnovers don't help, but it's not as if those are unforced.
On the special teams front, Pettrey missed another chipshot, but made one from distance, keeping weird cycle of his season going and we were horrified to find out from the broadcast crew that there's a sign at the WHAC that reads: "It's okay to punt." Did not need to know that. Ray Small dropped another punt, but recovered it and then probably had a flashback to the Gopher game from his freshman year when he was popped on a return in the fourth quarter. We'd be remiss to to mention the fantastic work of the kick coverage team. Stoudermire was shaky at times handling kicks, but the Gophers didn't advance a kickoff past their own 20 until midway through the final stanza.
While we don't know if this is the game that gets Bob Griese suspended or worse, we do know that when Terrelle Pryor's mind is into the game and he's leading the team and dictating events, this can be good offense. Hope he finds time to talk to LeBron some more this week.