NCF Nation: 2010 Rose Bowl coverage 2009 bowls

PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon's season was encompassed by two bookends of disaster. While what lay in the middle was mostly outstanding -- historically good, even -- the boundaries were made by two terrible incidents, though of much different gravity.

[+] EnlargeNathan Williams
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireA fumbled exchange between Jeremiah Masoli and LeGarrette Blount ended up a touchback for OSU.
Both featured running back LeGarrette Blount.

When Blount punched a Boise State player after the Ducks' humiliating season-opening defeat at Boise State, it became a launching point for a surprising run to the Pac-10 championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

And Blount's fumble with just over five minutes left in the third quarter of the Rose Bowl was the critical, transformational play in the Ducks' 26-17 defeat to Ohio State.

"That was kind of game-changing," said Blount, who spoke to reporters for the first time since the night he melted down at Boise State and was suspended for eight games.

Blount fumbled on a second-and-2 on the Buckeyes' 18-yard line. At that point the Ducks were down 19-17, but their offense had driven for a touchdown on its previous possession and appeared to be finding its rhythm.

After that play, little else went well.

"That one turnover probably was the turning point," tight end Ed Dickson said. "That was probably the game right there. We had the momentum, but once we had that fumble, you could feel the momentum switch."

With his mother in the stands sitting behind the Ducks' bench, Blount scored a touchdown to tie the game at 10-10. He mostly played well, rushing for 36 yards on five carries, looking like the 240-pound, physical runner who was expected to be one of the nation's top running backs during the preseason.

Then the fumble.

It wasn't the stuff of fairy tales. But life is often messy like that.

The fumble, to be fair, wasn't completely Blount's fault. "It was just a miscommunication between me and [quarterback Jeremiah Masoli]," he said.

The punch was his fault, Blount said. But he also wanted to deliver a clear message to reporters who encircled him in the back of the locker room.

No, he hasn't changed much as a person since the incident. Why? Because, he said, that terrible mistake wasn't who he is as a person.

"I'm the same person that I was back then," he said. "I made a mistake. That's all I can say about it. Emotions were running high and I just made a mistake. It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life and I take full responsibility for it. I shouldn't have done it. But you can ask my teammates. You can ask my family and friends. That's not the kind of person I am."

It caused a minor stir at Rose Bowl media day when Blount didn't show up to talk to reporters, despite BCS bowl game rules that every player should be available. Oregon coach Chip Kelly and other officials said Blount simply didn't want to talk.

"I didn't want it to be a distraction to my team," he said. "I didn't want to be chased down by ... ESPN. No offense."

Blount's Oregon career ended with the Rose Bowl. Now he wants to move on, and that means the NFL. Once a solid prospect, Blount's stock has fallen. He's obviously aware of that.

"I haven't really put the NFL stock stuff into perspective," he said. "I haven't really been thinking about it. I've heard people say my stock is down to undraftable and all the way up to my stock is fifth, sixth or seventh rounds. It doesn't bother me."

His Oregon career didn't get its redemptive, happy ending. Much like Blount's career, the evening started with promise but then featured a terrible mistake under the national spotlight.

But Blount is looking forward. That is, of course, all he can do. Maybe his happy ending is ahead? Maybe it will be in the NFL.

"I'm just trying to get there," he said. "I just want that shot. If I get that shot, I can definitely prove to people the [person] they think they saw [at Boise State] is definitely not what I am."

Pac-10 bowl season: Yuck

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- So how did the Pac-10 do this bowl season?

Did we mention the Pac-10 went 5-0 last year?

[+] EnlargeDejected Oregon
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesThe Pac-10 finished 2-5 in this year's bowl season following Oregon's loss to Ohio State.
Yeah, what about this year?

Pac-10 went 4-2 in 2007.

This year!

Er, the Pac-10 blog went 5-2 in its bowl picks.

No, the Pac-10 football teams.

Er. OK, the Pac-10 went 2-5 in the 2009 bowl season, its best win coming against 8-4, unranked Boston College.

One word: Bad.

The worst game? Arizona got stomped 33-zip by Nebraska.

Oregon State's 44-20 loss to BYU in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl wasn't terribly impressive, either, nor was California's 37-27 defeat to Utah in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, which made the Mountain West 2-0 in the post-season vs. the Pac-10.

Oregon, the Pac-10 champion, got decisively handled by Ohio State, 26-17, in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

Stanford gets a pass. It lost 31-27 to Oklahoma in the Brut Sun Bowl, but it didn't have quarterback Andrew Luck, who was out with a broken finger. How can a team hope to win without its star quarterback? What's that Sooners fans? Oh, Sam Bradford. Yeah. Good point.

Ah, but kudos to USC for taking the Emerald Bowl 24-13 over Boston College. And you too UCLA, for holding powerful Temple to 41 yards in the second half of a 30-21 win in the EagleBank Bowl.

How about those LA teams!

Yes, Pac-10 fans, you will take your knocks in the marketplace of trash talk. Accept it. The bowl season certainly put a footprint onto most of the talk about the conference being the best -- or at least the deepest -- in the nation this year.

But take heart. Lots of good players are coming back next year, including eight starting quarterbacks. The Pac-10 will be even deeper in 2010.

Maybe it will show a pulse next bowl season.

So just wait until next year.

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."

Oregon didn't see this Pryor coming

January, 1, 2010
[+] Enlarge
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images Pryor completed 23 of 37 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns in Ohio State's win over Oregon.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon felt good about its defensive plan for the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

The Ducks watched plenty of Ohio State film. They felt they understood what to expect from the Buckeyes offense. They wanted to run the ball and not take chances in the passing game because sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor was not a confident, consistent passer.

So the plan was simple.

"The plan was to make him throw the ball," Ducks defensive end Kenny Rowe said. "But when he threw it that good, the plan didn't go well."

No, it didn't. Ohio State piled up 419 yards in its 26-17 triumph, while making the Ducks fancy-pants offense look mostly pedestrian.

Pryor threw 37 times -- six more attempts than he had in any game this season -- but the critical problem was he completed 23 of them for 266 yards with two touchdowns and a mostly meaningless interception on a deep ball on third and long.

"It was surprising to us," coach Chip Kelly said. "We felt, watching their last couple of games where they didn't throw it very much, they were rather conservative. They came in and opened it up. Obviously, Terrelle beat us."

Said end Will Tukuafu: "I was surprised. I think [Pryor] was surprised. But they were feeling it. He threw up the right balls to the right guys. They made the big plays."

Not only did Pryor beat the Ducks with his arm, he was able to do things the defense expected but couldn't stop. Pryor also was the game's leading rusher, gaining 92 yards on 20 carries. Most of those yards came on scrambles, many of which featured Pryor just eluding fairly solid pressure from the Ducks.

"He's big and he's fast and he's tough to bring down," linebacker Casey Matthews said.

And that passing and running helped the Buckeyes convert third down after third down -- they were 11 of 21 on the night -- and to possess the ball for 23 more minutes than the Ducks.

"You're breaking your neck for two plays and this guy scrambles and stuff," Tukuafu said. "It's frustrating, but he's a great athlete."

Kelly reiterated that he doesn't care about time of possession. But his quick-strike offense does need the ball. It only ran 53 plays on the night. The Ducks averaged 69 plays per game this season.

"If I were to draw up anything that could stop us, it's keeping the ball out of our hands," tight end Ed Dickson said. "Their offense kept the ball out of our hands."

Pryor kept the ball out of Oregon's hands.

Every Oregon player and coach seemed surprised that Pryor was able to play such a complete game, to look like the dual-threat quarterback that his talent suggested but his play rarely produced.

In the other locker room, however, at least one guy wasn't surprised with Pryor's performance.

"I always thought I could have a game like this anytime," Pryor said.

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."

Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller and Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg analyze Ohio State's win over Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl.

Final: Ohio State 26, Oregon 17

January, 1, 2010
The Big Ten ended a streak of six consecutive losses in the Rose Bowl and six consecutive BCS bowls overall with an impressive 26-17 victory over Oregon.

And a miserable Pac-10 bowl season ends at 2-5.

How the game was won: It was won by a thoughtful mixture of (Jim) Tressel-ball and a "hello world" moment for Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who dominated the game with his arm and his feet. It wasn't quite Vince Young, but it's not unreasonable to recall Young's sophomore performance in the 2005 Rose Bowl against Michigan. What did Young do the next year?

Turning point: Trailing 19-17, Oregon faced a second-and-2 from the Buckeyes 18 yard line. But LeGarrette Blount couldn't handle a hand-off from Jeremiah Masoli and Ohio State recovered the fumble. From that point on, the Buckeyes took control.

Stat of the game: Ohio State was 11 for 21 on third down. Oregon was 2 for 11. The Ducks couldn't get the Buckeyes off the field. And they couldn't convert and keep drives alive.

Player of the game: Pryor completed 23 of 37 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns and one fairly meaningless interception. He also rushed for 72 yards on 20 carries.

Unsung hero of the game: Ohio State's pass defense. Oregon is a run-first team, but most of the season in effectively mixed in the pass. Not tonight. Masoli completed 9 of 20 for 81 yards with an interception.

What it means: It means the maligned Big Ten improves to 3-2 on the bowl season and earns redemption for its recent run of bad performances in big games. Meanwhile, the Pac-10 licks its wounds after an embarrassing performance during the bowls. As for moving forward, both teams figure to be back in the thick of things next year. Both teams welcome back a lot of guys, including Pryor and Masoli.

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.

Ohio State is starting to feel it

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon, down 26-17 with 5:10 remaining, needs two scores after missing a 45-yard field goal.

Can the Ducks force a three-and-out and get the ball back?

Or does Ohio State end the Big Ten's six-game losing streak in 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.

Buckeyes put pressure on Ducks

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Terrelle Pryor is having his hello world moment at Oregon's expense.

The Buckeyes went 81 yards in 13 plays to go up 26-17 with 6:01 remaining. Pryor and the Buckeyes converted three times on third down on the drive -- 5 yards, 13 yards and 6 yards.

The Buckeyes are 9-of-18 on third down. Oregon is 2-for-10.

Oregon is down two scores with seven minutes left.

That would seem like plenty of time, but not if the Ducks defense can't get third-down stops.
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 leads Oregon 19-17 heading into the fourth quarter.

The pace of the game favors Ohio State, but Oregon's quick strike offense can get a team at any moment.

At this point, LeGarrette Blount's fumble on a second and 2 from the Buckeyes' 18-yard line is the play of the game.

If it remains so, that will feel rife with symbolism: Blount's punch at Boise State started the season badly. His fumble may end it the same way -- bookending a fantastic season.
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.

Buckeyes back up, 19-17

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- A lead is always a good thing, and Ohio State now leads Oregon 19-17.

But here's something to note: The Buckeyes scored a touchdown on their first drive. They haven't scored a touchdown since then.

They've kicked four field goals.

Field goals are good, but not as good as touchdowns.