Saturday, January 2, 2010

Terrelle Pryor Wins Roses For Ohio State, Big Ten To Illustrate Bright Future

From my perspective it was a Big Ten coming out party, at the most prestigious venue in college football -- below the Hollywood sign and near the beautiful mountains. In what was the biggest game for Ohio State, where coach Jim Tressel wore his red vest and where fans in Columbus waited anxiously for a big victory, the large population screamed at the top of their lungs.

They finally can scream O-H-I-O! Given a few meltdowns, in a big conference with its own network, the Buckeyes used to stumble and collapse on the biggest stage in college football. Jim Tressel, the man in the vest, found redemption and recovered from a disgraced era.

For a long time, Ohio State stood as a misrepresented symbol, tarnishing a prosaic Big Ten Conference. There are people still categorizing the Buckeyes as a worthless program. That was fair when the Buckeyes had flaws and couldn't ever hoist BCS titles.

Rarely were the Buckeyes invited to play in an enormous bowl game, where biased folks ridiculed them, insulted them and neglected them. After problematic losses were suffered on the national stage, like in those dreadful meetings against the powerhouses of the Southeastern Conference, folks have been skeptical of Ohio State.

But now, a losing streak no longer exists, a Big Ten losing streak is snapped and Terrell Pryor is a savior by delivering the greatest win to begin a new decade. After being demolished in consecutive BCS games, after being doubted for winning much-needed BCS games, Ohio State experienced triumph and has finally established itself in a weakened conference.

In an ecstatic environment, before thousands of Buckeyes faithful, Pryor silenced disbelievers with a 26-17 breakout victory of seventh-ranked Oregon in the Rose Bowl game. For an entire week, Ohio State prepared for this moment and dreamed of roses.

Never mind shriveled roses. Pryor blossomed into a superlative hero, and greatness was sustained through his overwhelmingly tremendous dominance. The Buckeyes have a shot at legitimizing relevance within a prestigious program, where an entertaining marching band performs and where football games are hosted in an illustrious structure known as the "Horseshoe."

For much of the week, Tressel seemed humiliated by prior letdowns and burdens that had brought down the Buckeyes.

There was a loss of sprit, a loss of regard with the disintegration of a program. But now Tressel, who has three years remaining on his contract, is breathing a sigh of relief. And because he’s an old-school coach, Tressel's offensive schemes were routes opponents never saw coming.

Everyone should be impressed by his ability to change the style and exploit different schemes. He grasps a wise sense that Pryor should be involved in an average offense, and has nurtured and cultivated his superstar.

And, indeed, Pryor was mentally and physically prepared to withstand the grandest moment of his career. Pryor, the energetic sophomore, has stamina and the rushing ability that can help catapult the Buckeyes to championship victories. Instead he tried new options, with his aerial spectacle, and proved to the world he’s a stellar passer just as well as he runs and races to the end zone.

Even though Ohio State has been able to win five straight league titles, it has faltered to win meaningful games and harmed its reputation. Suddenly, in the second decade of the 21st century, Pryor has restored belief, not only for the long-waited masses in Columbus, but the Big Ten Conference as well.

It was sort of like witnessing an endless nightmare, in an unfavorable conference unworthy of regards. Before Ohio State celebrated together on New Years Day, this was a catastrophic conference.

The Big Ten went 4-11 in BCS games in the last nine games, thanks to Pryor, who had career highs in 266 passing yards and 23 completions. And he absolutely carried a reliable rush attack and ran for 72 yards. On greater imports, he led an energetic offense and was responsible for such a brilliant afternoon by converting 11 of 21 third downs.

To start, he played like the running icon everyone idolizes, and now he's compared to Michael Vick. To start, he was unstoppable moving the ball on his successive ground game, something the nation pictured when the Buckeyes recruited Pryor to become the nation’s No. 1 quarterback two years ago.

This was a program predicted to win a BCS title in 2002, but it’s never too late for a school to win. If this was a statement, the Buckeyes are bound to return and capture national title respectability. There’s a good chance Ohio State may not be the erratic school we viewed it to be before Pryor emerged into stardom, and paralyzed Oregon’s improbable chase.

Chip Kelly's high-powered offense wasn’t nearly as effective as it was during Oregon's storybook season. Although Ducks’ tailback, LeGarrette Blount, stormed to the goal line and broke the plane for redemption after he was forced to serve a suspension for punching a Boise State player in the face during an ugly melee in Oregon’s season-opener, a wonderful tale wasn’t completed.

The Ducks committed two turnovers inside the Ohio State 35. Their creativity wasn’t relentless or befuddling to throw off a well-aware Buckeyes’ defense. Missing in action was talented quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who completed 9 of 20 passes for a season-low 81 yards.

But Pryor clearly was the marquee player and stud, lifting the Buckeyes out of devastation and granted the team with the ultimate prize.

Watching many painful seasons of Big Ten flaws, Pryor has been named the biggest hero in the Big Ten.

He’s a remedy in a conference that badly needed joy.