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Saturday, November 15, 2008
Pryor-Wells backfield a runaway success


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Seth Perlman
 Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor (2) outruns Illinois' Tavon Wilson during the first half of the Buckeyes' win over Illinois Saturday.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A smile splashed across Chris "Beanie" Wells' face as soon he stepped outside Saturday morning.

The air was cold, the wind was blowing and plenty of carries were coming his way.

"I love it," the Ohio State junior running back said of the weather. "I love it, I love it, I love it, I love it."

Ohio State loved what it saw from Wells and backfield mate Terrelle Pryor in a 30-20 win against Illinois. On a day that demanded a viable ground attack, Wells and Pryor gashed Illinois for a combined 253 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries.

It marked the first time Ohio State had two players eclipse 100 rushing yards in the same game since Sept. 24, 2005, when quarterback Troy Smith and running back Antonio Pittman combined for 298 yards against Iowa.

"That's a real good thing," head coach Jim Tressel said.

Wells followed last week's 140-yard effort against Northwestern with 143 yards Saturday, bringing his two-game November total to 246.

"He's a little off pace for our little bargain," Tressel said.

During Ohio State's bye week, Tressel asked Wells what the number 467 meant to him. Wells wasn't sure, so Tressel filled him in.

Wells racked up 467 rushing yards in his final three regular-season games last year, including a career-high 222 yards against Michigan. He'll need a similar effort next week to eclipse the total, but in November, with the temperatures dropping, he usually steps up.

"Definitely," Wells said when asked if he could reach the mark. "With the way the offensive line is playing and everybody else is playing, the sky's the limit."

The sky was literally the limit for Wells on a 25-yard scamper early in the third quarter. After surging into the open field, the 237-pound Wells hurdled Illinois safety Donsay Hardeman.

He had a similar leap against Minnesota, his first game back from a foot injury, but this reached another level. Wells tweaked his right hamstring on the play, but he doesn't expect to miss any practice time.

"He looked like Edwin Moses," Tressel said.

Wells claims the leap wasn't planned, but Ohio State defensive end Thaddeus Gibson, who roomed with Wells on the trip, doesn't buy it.

"I've seen it in the making," Gibson said. "I expect it out of him. He's just that good of a back."

Wells acknowledged he can dunk a basketball, but Pryor is the one known more for his hoops exploits.

"Man, if [Wells] keeps doing that, I'm going to have to do it next week," Pryor said.

It'd be tough to bet against him right now.

Pryor racked up 113 seemingly effortless rushing yards and showed good touch on a 20-yard touchdown strike to Dane Sanzenbacher. He added his own highlight early in the fourth quarter, shoving teammate Brian Robiskie out of his way on a 26-yard run that set up a touchdown.

"He came over and was like, 'Terrelle, what are you doing?'" Pryor said. "I was, 'Man, my bad. I'm just trying to make a play.'"

Pryor averaged eight yards a carry and avoided a turnover for the second straight game after his critical fourth-quarter fumble cost Ohio State against Penn State.

"He showed a lot of patience," Tressel said. "He understands it more and more every day."