Rose Bowl Helps Restore Ohio State
PASADENA, Calif. - Here on the field after the Rose Bowl, the euphoria and relief could have lit up a couple of suburbs. But then, so many of the winners needed this moment.
Terrelle Pryor. Because who can be thought a truly proven quarterback until he delivers a win like Friday?
Jim Tressel. Because, despite a glowing record, his recent void was a bowl game that his vest closet could be proud of.
The Ohio State program. Before three straight postseason defeats turned to four, and a conspicuous losing streak became a full-blown humiliation.
The Big Ten. It has suffered so in this game, losing six in a row, five of them unseemly whackings.
But not Friday.
Everything changed Friday.
Pryor, the prize quarterback who had never quite lived up to full potential, gunned down Oregon 26-17 with 266 yards of measured, intelligent passing.
"I think," defensive end Cameron Heyward said, "he took a major growth point today."
Tressel, the coach who's made life so miserable for Michigan in November, put an end to further questions about problems in January.
The Buckeyes stopped losing bowl games before that became a nasty bad habit.
"I never felt this way before. We're always the team that's already back in the locker room," tailback Brandon Saine said on the field after the game, as the good times rolled. "I never knew what you do after winning a bowl game."
The Big Ten, without a winner here since the dawn of the century, can at least stand taller for a year. The Buckeyes did it with Big Ten weaponry: defense that took the quack out of the high-scoring Ducks, and ball control that kept possession nearly 42 minutes.
For the Big Ten, bringing muscle and time-of-possession urges to the Rose Bowl has been like bringing a calorie counter to a hot dog eating contest. An idea with merit, but ineffective.
But not Friday.
"We needed it," Pryor said, speaking for his league. "We're also playing for each other because it's a rep."
With the possible exception of the concession stands, no one profited more from Friday than Pryor. The 37 attempts, 23 completions and 266 yards in the final game of his sophomore year were career highs. His passing has sometimes seemed an afterthought in Tressel's offense. His judgment has sometimes been questionable.
Nobody could say if it was just a slower learning curve than expected, given Ohio State's style, or if Pryor was not quite the package expected. Hadn't some people looked at his two seasons, with its aerial ups and downs, and suggested his game would never allow Ohio State to be among the elite?
"You were listening to the wrong people," Tressel said Friday.
So he decided to turn Pryor loose on this center stage, and Oregon never saw it coming. "It was surprising to us," coach Chip Kelly said. "Obviously, Terrelle beat us."
"I thought I could have a game like this anytime," Pyror said. "Sometimes, we don't need to throw the ball."
It had all the looks of a talented athlete coming of age, especially in the fourth quarter when he put together a 13-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that included three third-down conversions. That is what mature quarterbacks do.
And now he could well be one.
"We felt like this was a pivotal game because it marked the end of the first half of his career," Tressel said. "We have some very definite goals as to how good we would like to be as team and how good he would like to be at his craft."
"For myself, it's probably the sky is the limit," Pryor said. "Without my teammates I can't do anything."
This will do a lot to warm the long winter in Columbus, Ohio. It was almost as sweet as beating Michigan. At Ohio State, you can't put it any stronger than that.