Quarterback Terrelle Pryor leads Ohio State versus Southern California Saturday.
By Matt Markey Toledo Blade
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Ohio State faced top-ranked Southern California in Los Angeles a year ago, Terrelle Pryor was the freshman, the backup, the understudy, and the future for the Buckeyes.
In that game Pryor got his first real taste of life as the quarterback at Ohio State, and 12 months later he is ready to call on the lessons learned when the No. 8 Buckeyes host the No. 3 Trojans Saturday night in front of a national television audience.
"I was a rookie in that game, so I learned a lot of stuff from last year's game -- how fast everything is, and how quick you have to release the ball," Pryor said. "It was a fun game last year too, but we just fell short and had penalties and mistakes like that -- you can't have mistakes against them."
The Buckeyes turned the ball over three times, and took 10 penalties in the 35-3 defeat. Pryor alternated with senior Todd Boeckman, and rushed for 40 yards while completing seven of the nine passes he threw. He understands the whole spotlight will be on him this time around.
"I know I'm the focal point on offense, and I'll take that because I've been going through that all my life, through high school and all, but we have a lot of players that can do stuff with the ball," Pryor said. "You also got to know that everyone on the team ought to be a focal point -- they're just as good."
Pryor, who went 14-of-21 passing for 174 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Buckeyes' 31-27 win over Navy on Saturday, said he anticipates this weekend's game will match the hype it has spawned.
"It's going to be a fight, and it's going to be a war. I'm looking forward to it," he said. "It's what you dream of -- it's going to be a real fun game."
USC opened the season hammering San Jose State, 56-3. The Trojans have won seven straight titles in the Pac-10 and recorded seven straight seasons with 11 or more wins.
"They're a great team, and they do everything well," Ohio State senior defensive lineman Doug Worthington said. "They have a great offensive line -- one of the best offensive lines in the country. It's going to be a great challenge. We have to prepare like it's a regular game -- but it's also a great challenge, and we're up for it."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, whose team has lost its last five meetings with teams ranked in the top five nationally, said he did not think all the time the Buckeyes spent preparing for Navy's unique option offense would diminish Ohio State's readiness for USC.
"It was the schedule, and in my opinion, it probably was good for us to have to really get focused in on something so different, so totally unique to this game," Tressel said.
"If you didn't prepare for that offense, you really would have been in trouble. Our job now is to get better, because we know the team coming in next is a great football team. It's going to be an exciting moment in this stadium, so our task is to get better and make sure we're up for the challenge."
In eight seasons under Tressel, Ohio State has a 24-1 record in Ohio Stadium against non-conference opponents. The only loss came in 2005 when No. 2 Texas beat the Buckeyes 25-22.
Ohio State senior linebacker Austin Spitler knows a year's worth of frustration and anticipation will finally end.
"This is the week we've all been waiting for," Spitler said. "Come 8 p.m., this place will be rockin'."
(Contact Matt Markey at mmarkey(at)theblade.com.)
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