Big Ten: Buckeyes-Ducks 010110

Ohio State seniors go out on top

January, 1, 2010
[+] EnlargeJake Ballard
Jeff Gross/Getty Images Tight end Jake Ballard's senior class finishes with 44 wins and four Big Ten championships.
PASADENA, Calif. -- They form one of the most decorated classes in Ohio State history, but their accomplishments always seemed to come with an asterisk.

A 43-8 record. Four Big Ten championships (three outright, one shared). Four wins against archrival Michigan. Four trips to BCS bowl games, including two national title games.

But without a bowl victory, Ohio State's seniors had an incomplete legacy.

Problem solved.

Ohio State's 19 seniors went out as winners following Friday's 26-17 win against No. 7 Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi. They helped to end the Buckeyes' three-game losing streak in BCS bowls and the Big Ten's six-game losing streak at the Rose.

The Buckeyes' seniors end their careers with 44 wins, one more than the previous high for a class set by three groups (1995-98, 2002-05, 2005-08).

"It makes up for a lot of misfortune and shortcomings," tight end Jake Ballard said.

"We needed to come out and win for these seniors," sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor said.

Ballard made the biggest catch of his career in his final game, a leaping 24-yarder on third-and-13 that set up Ohio State's decisive touchdown.

The Buckeyes also received contributions from seniors like kicker Aaron Pettrey (45-yard field goal), defensive tackle Doug Worthington (tackle for loss, tipped pass that led to interception), punter Jon Thoma (43.7-yard average), left tackle Jim Cordle and safeties Anderson Russell (six tackles) and Kurt Coleman (four tackles).

"Every loss that we've had at the end of every bowl has been a learning experience," said Coleman, who turned down the NFL draft after his junior season in large part to win a bowl game. "Last year [against Texas], we were so close to winning, and that was one of our biggest motivation factors going into the offseason.

"We put in the hard work, and it paid off."

Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg and Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller analyze Ohio State's win over Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl.
PASADENA, Calif. -- The play was weeks in the making.

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his close friend, sophomore wide receiver DeVier Posey, hadn't yet hooked up on a deep out into the end zone against single coverage. But they knew their time was coming.

[+] EnlargeDeVier Posey
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesDeVier Posey caught eight passes for 101 yards and the game-sealing touchdown.
"We've been practicing this throw for a while," Pryor said. "We knew if [the defenders] stayed off a little bit, the back-shoulder throw [would be there]. I finally got it. I was watching tapes of Peyton Manning and stuff like that, trying to get the footwork down."

Posey did the catching part, leaping to snare a 17-yard touchdown to put Ohio State up 26-17 with 7:02 left in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi. The connection capped the game's decisive drive, a 13-play, 81-yard march that gave Ohio State a two-score cushion.

"DeVier made a great catch," Pryor said

As good as Pryor performed Friday against No. 7 Oregon, he got plenty of help from an often overlooked group of wide receivers and tight ends. Wideouts Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher combined for 17 receptions, eclipsing their previous combined total by six catches.

Tight end Jake Ballard had arguably the game's biggest reception, leaping to haul in a 24-yard pass on third-and-13 that set up Posey's touchdown.

"This game, we felt like we needed to come in really flinging it around," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said.

Sure, but 37 pass attempts? Ohio State had no more than 32 in any game this season and attempted just 17 throws in each of its final three games.

"We knew that as a passing offense, we could do something like this," Sanzenbacher said. "We just weren't able to put it together in a game yet. ... I didn't expect it to that extent, but when you get the passing game started early and you get that chemistry going, you're going to go with it."

Ballard entered the game with just 13 receptions all season, none for more than 19 yards. Ohio State's tight ends often joke about how rarely a pass comes their way, but when it did Friday, Ballard was ready.

"I was improvising a little bit," Ballard said. "My guy didn't come off the edge, so I went to the flat and saw TP moving around back there. I went upfield, he saw me, threw it up, and I went up and got it.

"I'll remember that forever."

Final: Ohio State 26, Oregon 17

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Terrelle Pryor has arrived.

The Buckeyes sophomore quarterback turned in an incredible performance in a 26-17 win over Oregon, the one Ohio State fans have waited two years to see from the heralded high school signal caller. Ohio State's three-game losing streak in BCS bowls is over. The Big Ten's six-game BCS bowl slide and six-game Rose Bowl slide are both over.

You figured Ohio State would need to start the Big Ten repair process, and the Buckeyes came through against a very good Oregon team.

I'm heading down for interviews but will be back with much more from the Rose Bowl.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Terrelle Pryor just led the drive of his life.

And it could be the drive that ends Ohio State's BCS bowl losing streak and the Big Ten's losing streak in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

Pryor was extremely sharp on a 13-play, 81-yard scoring drive that ended with a diving touchdown reception by DeVier Posey, one of Pryor's best friends. Ohio State now leads 26-17, and it's up to the defense to hold the advantage.

Pryor was 4-for-5 passing on the drive, including a 24-yard rainbow to a leaping Jake Ballard on third-and-13. He also had two first-down runs on the drive.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Ohio State's defense has recovered nicely from its hiccup at the start of the second half. It's time for the offense to put together a sustained drive.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor looks a little rattled in the pocket right now, especially after the interception. The Buckeyes' offensive line needs to start generating some push against the smaller Oregon defensive linemen, who have been on the field a ton in this game.

It's hard to believe Oregon won't score again, even without LaMichael James, so Ohio State needs points soon as it leads 19-17 with 13:03 left.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Ohio State has the lead again at 19-17, but it's hard to think it will last.

The Buckeyes continue to drive into Oregon's red zone but stall before the goal line. Since their opening touchdown drive, they have had four field goals, as both Devin Barclay and Aaron Pettrey have been terrific. But field goals usually don't beat Oregon.

The Ducks, meanwhile, have converted two red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. Terrelle Pryor just had one of his first really bad throws of the game, as he missed Dane Sanzenbacher for a possible touchdown.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Special teams coverage continues to kill Ohio State in this game, and the defense seems to be letting down just a touch.

Kenjon Barner's 39-yard kick return set up an Oregon 12-play, 53-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, as the Ducks now lead 17-16. Ohio State has to be a little stunned to be trailing, given how the Buckeyes have executed most of their game plan. Barner has been the player of the game for Oregon.

The Buckeyes' money-down defense struggled on that drive, as Oregon converted two third downs and a fourth down.

Oregon is turning its red zone chances into touchdowns, while Ohio State twice has had to settle for field goals. Terrelle Pryor needs to reverse that trend this half.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Ohio State's biggest question entering the Rose Bowl presented by Citi was how much freedom Jim Tressel would give to quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

After one half, we've got our answer: a lot.

Pryor attempted only 17 passes in his final three games of the regular season, as Ohio State ran an offense geared toward no mistakes, especially from the quarterback. He already has 24 pass attempts today and has helped Ohio State convert five of 11 third downs.

Pryor has no more than 31 pass attempts in a game this season. Of course, that came in a dreadful loss to Purdue.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Some quick thoughts at halftime of the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi, as No. 8 Ohio State leads No. 7 Oregon 16-10.

Turning point: Oregon had two quick scores to tie things up at 10-10 and reclaim the momentum with 9:05 left in the half. But Ohio State had the perfect answer, a methodical, 19-play drive that ate up more than eight minutes of clock. The Buckeyes added two late field goals and can feel pretty good about themselves at halftime.

Best call: Ohio State twice went to running back Brandon Saine on a wheel route, and it worked both times. Terrelle Pryor found Saine for a 13-yard score and a 46-yard completion to set up a short field-goal try.

Best player in the half: Ohio State's Pryor. He looks calmer in the pocket and has made several big throws, and the Buckeyes are airing it out more than normal. Pryor completed 15 of 24 pass attempts for 149 yards and a touchdown in the half. He came in averaging 21.5 passes per game.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Ohio State wants to reduce the number of possessions in this game and keep Oregon's high-powered offense off the field.

The Buckeyes just executed their plan to perfection.

After Oregon had tied the score at 10-10, Terrelle Pryor led a 19-play drive that ate up 8:03. Aside from ending with a touchdown, it was the perfect answer to the Ducks' surge. Ohio State converted three third downs and a fourth down, including a third-and-15 where Pryor found Dan Herron.

Devin Barclay converted his second field-goal attempt and Ohio State leads 13-10.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon's offense is awake.

Can Ohio State's defense slow down the revived Ducks?

The running game has really got going, as LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and LeGarrette Blount helped Oregon tie the score at 10-10. Ohio State also got beat on a fourth-and-9 play as Ducks wideout Jeff Maehl made a diving catch just beyond the marker. Blount entered the game to a huge roar and scored on his first touch.

Special teams aren't helping the Buckeyes, as Barner has broken off big returns every time he's touched the football. Ohio State entered the game ranked sixth nationally in punt coverage and 36th in kickoff coverage, but Jim Tressel can't be happy with those units.

Once again, the second quarter hasn't been good to the Big Ten in a BCS bowl.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Ohio State junior running back Brandon Saine first made his mark as a receiver out of the backfield, and he's showing why today.

The Buckeyes already have executed two successful wheel routes to Saine. The first went for a 13-yard touchdown, the second for a 46-yard gain down the Oregon 4-yard line. We know how much Jim Tressel likes the swing pass, but featuring Saine as a receiver seems to be working nicely as Ohio State leads 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Saine entered the game with just 15 receptions on the season.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Ohio State's defensive front has drawn comparisons to the 2002 version that helped the Buckeyes win the national championship.

So far, the front four is dominating this game. Cameron Heyward and Thaddeus Gibson already have tackles for losses, and Ohio State is forcing a run-heavy Oregon offense into third-and-long situations, which puts pressure on the Ducks' underused receivers and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

About the only negative for Ohio State's defense was a dropped interception by safety Anderson Russell, which could have been returned for a score. Masoli likely hasn't seen so many defensive linemen in the backfield since the Boise State game.

As expected, Ohio State is dominating possession time and has a chance to add to its 7-0 lead.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon defensive tackle Brandon Bair said this week if the Ducks could force Ohio State to pass, they'd be in good shape.

Turns out, Ohio State was more than willing to air it out on its first possession of the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi. Jim Tressel called six consecutive pass plays, one of which Terrelle Pryor turned into a 24-yard scramble. The passing set up a big Brandon Saine run, and Pryor ended the 10-play, 74-yard drive by finding Saine for a 13-yard score as Ohio State leads 7-0.

Pryor looks very relaxed out there, and he showed good patience in waiting for Saine to get open along the sideline. Ohio State's offensive line, which played well down the stretch, is giving him time to throw. I still think the Buckeyes should run Pryor a lot in this game, but he's clearly more comfortable throwing the ball today than he was for most of the season.