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BILL PLASCHKE

Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor hogs the Rose Bowl stage completely

The prodigal prospect keeps his team on the field to set bowl possession record, running and passing the ball with ease. He eventually accounts for 72 rushing yards and 338 total yards.

January 02, 2010|Bill Plaschke
  • Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor gets ready to unleash a pass as Oregon's defense applies pressure in the first half Friday at the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor gets ready to unleash a pass as Oregon's… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Did you see that runaway Rose Parade float?

Veered off Colorado early Friday afternoon, rolled right down through the Arroyo Seco, huge thing covered in bits of mud and grass and drama.

For three breathless hours through nearly 100,000 bystanders it chugged, up and down, side to side, some folks fleeing, others screaming, everyone staring.

Did you see it? The University of Oregon football team saw it, and has the tire marks on its back to show for it.

Did you hear it? The college football world heard it, and the buzz will soon be deafening.

It was last seen rolling off into Heisman dreams and Ducks nightmares and bouquets of buckeyes.

And this year's Grand Marshal's Award goes to . . . Terrelle Pryor.

"You know what?" said DeVier Posey. "Wow."

Posey is an Ohio State receiver. Pryor is his quarterback. Wow is a fact.

On an afternoon when the magical Rose Bowl sunset was bathed in a young man's dawn, the prodigal prospect Pryor almost single-handedly led the Buckeyes to a 26-17 victory over an Oregon team that never saw it coming.

They didn't see the 23 pass completions (in 37 attempts) by loft and laser, for 266 yards after both drop-backs and sprints, for two touchdowns that broke backs.

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

They didn't see the leadership that drove the Buckeyes to a touchdown on the game's first drive, a go-ahead field goal after the score was tied in the second quarter, another go-ahead field goal after the Buckeyes fell behind in the third, then a clinching touchdown in the fourth.

On those four key drives, Pryor either ran or passed the ball on 70% of the plays, often both on the same play, eventually accounting for 72 rushing yards and 338 total yards, a Vince Young with pimples.

He was in more places Saturday than the Rose Queen, clogged up more lanes than post-parade traffic, an absolute thorn in the sides of Oregon visitors whose green defined not only their uniform, but their envy.

"Obviously, Terrelle beat us," said Oregon Coach Chip Kelly.

Beat them, and embarrassed me, after I had slobbered all over Oregon's offense in the Friday newspaper, picking the Ducks to run the Buckeyes silly.

I was wrong because, like nearly everyone else -- including some of his teammates -- I didn't count on Pryor keeping that Oregon offense benched.

Jeremiah Masoli and his fellas barely touched the ball, watching Pryor hog the stage during Ohio State's Rose Bowl record 41 minutes and 37 seconds of possession.

Sure, the Ducks have great plays, but they ran 36 fewer of them than Ohio State, the 89-53 play margin being the biggest Rose Bowl differential in 107 years.

"That killed us with the offense sitting on the sideline," said safety T.J. Ward.

Killed you? I've already had one local Buckeyes fan send me his address and demand that I apologize in person.

Tell you what. I'll apologize when everyone else apologizes for discounting this 20-year-old Rose Bowl MVP who had spent most of the two previous seasons failing to live up to expectations.

Entering the game he had 28 touchdown passes but 14 passes intercepted, with an 18-3 starting record that still didn't have a statement win.

As quarterback prospects go, the 6-foot-5 kid was once considered the nation's top dog, but recently he was best known for supporting convicted dog-killer Michael Vick by wearing Vick's name on his eye black at the start of this season.

"Not everybody is a perfect person in the world," Pryor said at the time, explaining his decision. "I mean, everyone does -- kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever."

By the time he committed four turnovers during a loss to Purdue in mid-October, his football made about as much sense as his youthful reasoning.

After that game, the Buckeyes' coaches essentially shut down his passing game, the team averaging 50 rushes per game during the remainder of the regular season while Pryor averaged 18 passes.

He gave a Tim Tebow-type speech to the offense after the Purdue loss -- "I'm not a loser, I promise that one day I will carry you guys" -- but he didn't walk the walk until Friday.

Maybe it was the month of bowl practice. Maybe it was the Oregon defense. Maybe, as with all great athletes, it was just time.

"This kid can play," said receiver Posey, his voice filled with wonder after catching the game-clinching touchdown pass. "It was a new year, and he is a new player."

Yet, for all his scrambling and scheming, the cool thing about Pryor is that he still seems to be a kid.

The game ended and Pryor tossed the ball aside and thrust his hands in the air and the first person he hugged was . . . an Oregon defender?

Sitting in a golf cart riding back to the locker room after an interview, he leaned out and slapped five and hugged . . . middle-aged boosters?

"I came out to show what it's like to be a complete quarterback," he said, his smile on a face that was, yeah, bereft of eye black. "For myself, it's probably the sky is the limit. . . . I thought I could have a game like this any time."

He certainly had one at the right time, rolling his way into Rose Bowl history, the brilliant end to one parade, the blooming beginning of another.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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