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October 7, 2008

Ohio State's Pryor living up to sizeable hype

I had a chance to watch Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State's much publicized freshman quarterback, in person Saturday night in the Buckeyes' 20-17 victory at Wisconsin.

Having coached and analyzed numerous young quarterbacks over the past 30 years, I thought it would be good to make an in-depth, personal study before I reported on him. I didn't want to just regurgitate all the things that already had been said, so I made sure to take some notes.

NOTE ONE: WOW! What a physical specimen. He is as pretty on the hoof as any quarterback I have seen. He's not as thick as Vince Young when he was in college, but he throws a nicer ball. He also has great side-to-side quickness and not just straightaway speed. His arm strength is obvious and undeniable, but I was most impressed during warmups with the beauty of his deep throws soft, effortless and with great arc.

On the first series of the game, Pryor broke contain. Although Wisconsin senior linebacker Deandre Levy had him dead in his sights for no gain, he wasn't able to put a finger on Pryor.

NOTE TWO: REMEMBER, HE'S JUST A FRESHMAN. During the game, Pryor made a couple of rookie mistakes such as throwing an interception and taking a 16-yard sack to remind you that he's just a freshman and still has a lot to learn. Besides, this was a huge conference game in an extremely hostile environment in which many Buckeyes players before him hadn't fared too well.

NOTE THREE: WOW! With 6:26 left in the game and Ohio State down by four, Pryor led the offense on a game-winning 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. With the poise of a seasoned veteran, he calmly completed a 16-yard pass to Brian Hartline on the first third-down play on the drive, and had a tough quarterback sneak on the next one. He capped it off with a perfectly executed option to his left, faking the pitch to Chris Wells and bursting up the field for an 11-yard touchdown run with 1:08 left in the game.



I'm not sure there is such a thing as a perfect offense, but Missouri came about as close as you can possibly get in its dominating 52-17 victory at Nebraska on Saturday night.

It was the conference opener for both, and this had to be one the Huskers prepped for all summer. With the addition of new coach Bo Pelini, who has a reputation as one of the top defensive minds in the business, you knew the Huskers would have a great game plan.

Whatever the plan, it proved ineffective. The Tigers scored on a 58-yard pass play from Heisman hopeful Chase Daniel to Jeremy Maclin on the third play of the game and never slowed until they had racked up 462 yards and scored on eight of their 10 possessions. Along the way, they had no turnovers, no sacks, no punts and only one penalty in handing Nebraska its worst home loss in 53 years.

Mizzou's five-game offensive totals are even more impressive. The undefeated Tigers are averaging 53.4 points and 569 yards per game and have scored more than 50 in four of their five contests. They have scored on 33 of their 48 possessions, including the opening drive of every game this season. Perhaps most amazingly of all, they have not gone three-and-out in 49 consecutive drives.

That's incredible.


Have you noticed all the blocked punts this season? There's a saying that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. For the life of me, I can't figure out what in the heck was so wrong with punt protection that coaches have had to go and fix it so many times.

In the past few seasons, I have seen about a dozen different ways to protect the punter, and each season, the protection seems to be getting worse and worse.

There's the "spread formation," with gunners lined up wide, and the "tight formation," with three personal protectors lined up in a shield behind the line of scrimmage. There's shifting from spread to tight formation, and there's shifting from tight to spread formation. There's even a little half-roll, soccer-style thing they do to get the punter to kick the ball while on the run.

Why you would want to do all this, I have no idea. With the 20-hour rule in effect, you have to wonder when coaches have time to work on all this stuff.

Saturday, the protection was just awful.

In a critical game for the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, Air Force had two punts blocked for touchdowns in a 33-27 loss to Navy. Not to be outdone, Connecticut allowed North Carolina's Bruce Carter to block three punts in a row in the Huskies' first loss of the season.

Punt protection is costing people games all over the country, and it makes you wonder why. For the 25 years that I played or coached college football, almost every team in the country used the exact same punt protection. There were seven men on the line of scrimmage with a 2-foot split between each one, two backs lined up a yard behind the line of scrimmage in the center-guard gaps and a personal protector lined up 8 yards deep. It always was the same never changed, never varied.

Football is a game of repetition and creating good habits by doing the same thing over and over. You could go a whole year then without getting a punt blocked. Nowadays, you can't go a whole quarter. Guys don't know where to line up, and if they do, they don't know who to block.

It really is broken now. I wish coaches would go back and fix it.


When you figure that one out, let me know.

Terry Bowden is Rivals.com college football analyst. For more information about Terry, visit his official web site. Click here to view previous articles. To send Terry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

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