October 2, 2010

Bucks survive injury scare to Pryor

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Pardon Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel for being a tad worried in Ohio State's 24-13 win over Illinois on Saturday.

The game itself was close, sure, but the wincing face of his seemingly seriously injured quarterback in the third quarter may have been a tad more unsettling for the head coach.

Just moments earlier, quarterback Terrelle Pryor took off toward the opposing sideline before falling, initially looking like he had simply tripped given the fact he wasn't subjected to any real contact from Illinois defenders.

However, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound junior standout quarterback stayed on the ground in noticeable pain after the conclusion of the play. Tressel feared the worst.

"From where I was I was just wondering if he fell on that knee the same way he had fallen on it a year ago and re-aggravated something there," Tressel said. "It was kind of the same thing going toward the sideline falling forward. I was thinking maybe it was a similar re-aggravation of that."

Having entered the season coming off knee surgery to repair a torn MCL in his left knee, the coaching staff, team, and fans had assumed the worst - Pryor had re-injured the knee and could miss a big portion, if not all, of the Buckeyes' remaining games.

After on the ground for what had to seem like an eternity to Tressel and his Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten), Pryor was helped off the field and taken back to the locker room.

The Buckeyes ran only seven offensive plays - one of which consisted of an interception by backup Joe Bauserman - before Pryor returned to the field under his own power and re-entered the game.

As it turned out, Pryor had only strained his quad, which was big reason for the relief of not only Tressel, but for the remainder of the team and scattered fans picturing a shot at a national title heading south.

"I was in a full stride and I thought I was going to go to the house on it," Pryor said. "All of a sudden I heard something pop. I just stumbled and let the ball go. I didn't even know. It was probably the worst pain I had in a while."

But the pain Pryor had felt in his leg - though certainly uncomfortable - wasn't enough to keep the junior out of the game for long, especially with his team clinging to a rather unsubstantial four-point lead in the second half.

Pryor had already broken off two big runs in the first half and was the difference in helping the Buckeye offense put up its first 14 points.

After Ohio State defense allowed Illinois in the end zone in their first possession, Pryor responded by using a 66-yard run to get the Buckeyes in the red zone before finding Brandon Saine for an 8-yard touchdown pass.

Pryor wouldn't allow himself to not aid his squad after the injury. With the injury behind him, Pryor found himself in a tough battle with Illinois in the Big Ten Conference opener.

"I was nervous I was going to miss a series and miss some plays," Pryor said. "That's the last thing I wanted. If I would have went down and we would lose a game I'd feel (responsible)."

Pryor finished the game just 8-of-15 passing for 77 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, but he also helped aid the Buckeyes on the ground with 103 rushing yards on 11 carries.

Though Pryor's return to the game allowed the Ohio State's offense to regain the consistency of having the star quarterback in the game, it took a few series for the Buckeyes to move the ball again.

In fact, it was the Buckeyes' power running game - that had struggled for most of the game against Illinois - that came through big for Ohio State.

Ohio State turned to running back Dan Herron to carry the load and he finished with 24 carries for 91 yards, including the game-clinching 7-yard touchdown scamper with just over two minutes remaining in the game to seal it for the Buckeyes.

"We knew we had to step it up. Terrelle is one of our great players and great leaders," Herron said. "I was definitely happy to see him back out there. He always brings something to the table for our team even when he is allowing us to make plays.

"I just knew everyone had to step up and bring their game to another level," Herron continued. "I think everyone responded well and I just wanted to get the running game going for us."

Tressel was uncertain how the Buckeye coaching staff would handle Pryor's injury this week in preparation for the Indiana game, saying he was unsure the extend of the quarterbacks injury.

Quad injuries, much like hamstrings, tend to linger, but Pryor has no doubt that he will be on the field next week against the Hoosiers. To Pryor, he proved he was just fine Saturday afternoon.

"I was back for this game," Pryor said. "I'll be back."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.


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