NEWS

Doubts fuel OSU quarterback's need to prove himself

Todd Porter

Terrelle Pryor is adamant he doesn’t listen to his critics on television. Ohio State’s freshman quarterback, however, seems to know exactly what ESPN analyst Mark May is saying about him.

For the second time this season Pryor made mention of comments that May made regarding the young quarterback’s abilities. Those doubts and questions only seem to fuel Pryor’s fire to prove his worth each week.

“I don’t listen,” Pryor said after leading the Buckeye offense to four touchdowns in a whipping of previous No. 20 Michigan State, 45-7. “People don’t know me and people don’t know what I can do. Everyone thinks that I’m overrated. Wait and see. The time will come and you’ll find out.”

The time has come.

Ohio State gets a second chance to salvage its national title hopes this weekend against No. 3 Penn State. This time the Buckeyes get the opportunity in a night game at Ohio Stadium. OSU has yet to lay out consecutive solid performances this season.

“That’s always the challenge ... to become a good team you have to play well every week,” Head Coach Jim Tressel said. “We didn’t have many penalties. Did we turn it over? (No). We’ve got to keep that up. I don’t know where our teams is. We’ll find out Saturday night against the Nittany Lions.”

The win against the Spartans bumped the Buckeyes in the rankings. They went from 12th to No. 10 in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ Poll.

In the first BCS standings, OSU came in at ninth. Penn State is third in the BCS standings.

The winner of Saturday night’s nationally televised game is in the Big Ten driver’s seat. OSU is looking at an unprecedented three outright conference titles in a row.

“It’s a big game. We’re all going to be wired up,” Tressel said. “It’s going to be an exciting situation. ... We know how good they are.”

And Penn State knows how good Pryor is. Legendary Head Coach Joe Paterno recruited Pryor almost until the end. Pryor, who grew up playing football in Pennsylvania, dropped the Nittany Lions from contention and weighed his options between Ohio State and Michigan at the end.

“It’s going to be interesting because both team ... we know one another and we grew up next door to one another in adjacent states,” Tressel said.

Ohio State started the season ranked in the top five, but quickly fell plummeted following a lopsided loss to USC in a night game on the road.

Now the Buckeyes have climbed back into the thick of the national title race. They are within striking distance with games at Northwestern, Illinois and then hosting struggling Michigan.

It looks like the offense may have found its way back to the field in time.

Against Purdue, OSU failed to score an offensive touchdown. Pryor struggled. May questioned his abilities and went as far as to suggest there was a fracture in the Buckeye locker room.

Thanks to short fields set up by another strong defense, Pryor led the Buckeyes to a quick 28-0 lead. The defense added two more scores in the second half.

It was the best OSU’s offensive line has played this season. The right side of the line has struggled much of the year, but guard Jim Cordle said it has been shored up.

“I don’t know about our ability being questioned, but to me the question was on game day, were we showing up?” Cordle said.

The offense scored on all five red zone opportunities and converted 8-of-14 third downs. Perhaps the Michigan State win was a coming out party.

“Whatever you want to think,” Pryor said, “but we’re hungry for more.

“(Alex) Boone and the older guys had a chip on their shoulder and needed to prove it.”

Collectively, Ohio State has to do the same thing against Penn State. A win legitimizes their ranking, and quiets critics who may be loathe to rank Ohio State in the top five. Results, however, have a way of speaking for themselves.

Reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail todd.porter@cantonrep.com