Ohio State makes Rose Bowl a Scarlet and Gray area
Frankly Scarlet (and gray), that was beautiful.
The play of your young, Vince-like quarterback, the schemes you drew up, the time-consuming marches down the field, the marching band -- you pitched the perfect game plan.
The two-tone hues on the mountains, as the sun set over the Arroyo Seco, even resembled Ohio State’s uniforms.
Woody, were you up there?
Friday’s 26-17 victory over Oregon in the 96th Rose Bowl was everything Columbus could have conjured.
It was vindication after three straight major bowl losses. It was the Big Ten’s first win here since Wisconsin over Stanford in 2000. It was equal parts grace and grit, precision, patience and poise.
The team from the cloud-of-dust conference started the game with six straight passes, with Buckeyes Coach Jim Tressel later saying, “We needed to come in flinging it.”
Ohio State entered the game 109th nationally in passing yet threw it 37 times against Oregon. Woody Hayes didn’t call that many passes in 20 years.
Oregon watched game film of Ohio State going cloth-coat conservative down the Big Ten backstretch and must have figured the Buckeyes wouldn’t allow sophomore Terrelle Pryor, whose passes have been known to flutter, to toss anything but shovel passes.
Instead, Pryor gaffed the Ducks -- he “TPd” them -- with a performance that now earnestly earns him comparisons to Texas quarterback Vince Young, who owned this Rose Bowl stage in 2005 and 2006.
Where does Pryor go from here?
“Sky’s the limit,” he said without boasting. “But without my teammates I can’t do anything.”
Pryor actually did everything, completing 23 of 37 passes for 266 yards and rushing for 72 in 20 tries. His 338 total yards compare favorably with Young’s 372 versus Michigan in the 2005 game and his 467 against USC the next year.
“The plan was to make him throw the ball,” Oregon defensive end Kenny Rowe said. “When he threw it that good, the plan didn’t go well.”
A crowd of 93,363 was treated to a good game even though the final stat sheet suggested blowout.
Ohio State ran 89 plays to Oregon’s 53. Time of possession, usually the most overrated stat in sports, meant something Friday because the Buckeyes held the ball for 41 minutes 37 seconds. And that meant 41:37 Oregon’s explosive offense didn’t have it.
“The only TOP I was worried about was Terrelle Pryor,” Oregon Coach Chip Kelly chirped.
Ohio State held an Oregon offense averaging 37.7 points to less than half that.
Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli had 81 yards passing and nine net yards rushing.
It looked as if the Buckeyes used a net. The same Masoli who embarrassed USC’s defense on Halloween night with his ball fakes was relegated to simple handoffs.
Ohio State defensive end Doug Worthington talked before the game about playing the field in “one-11ths,” with each man responsible for his sliver.
“Because,” as Worthington said, “if you let them out the gate they can go 88.”
When it came to holding the line, the Buckeyes were Lords of Discipline.
“They did a great job of staying in contain,” Oregon tailback Kenjon Barner conceded. “They studied well.”
This wasn’t going to be Ohio State all over again on the big stage. In three straight BCS game losses -- against Florida, Louisiana State and Texas -- the Buckeyes took early leads and lost.
So you figured it was Oregon’s game after the Ducks fell behind, 10-0, in the first half.
And the Ducks did come back, taking a 17-16 lead in the third quarter on a one-yard run by LeGarrette Blount.
Ohio State, though, had an answer for everything. The Buckeyes marched 59 yards in 11 plays and took the lead for good on Devin Barclay’s 38-yard field goal.
Barner’s 36-yard return of the ensuing kickoff set Oregon up nicely for a quick response, but Blount would soon fumble a handoff from Masoli, the ball bouncing 18 yards and out of the end zone for a touchback.
It was, end over end, the turning point of the game.
Blount’s season, which started with a sucker punch, ended with a gut punch.
In the fourth quarter, Ohio State’s offense played keep-away again, embarking on a 13-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a brilliant pass and catch, Pryor to DeVier Posey, for a 17-yard score with 7:02 left.
Pryor was really proud of that one.
“The back shoulder,” he said of the fundamentals of it. “I finally got it, after watching all that film of Peyton Manning.”
Oregon, still looking for its first Rose Bowl win since 1917, lost any chance of making it a dramatic finish when Morgan Flint’s 44-yard field-goal attempt, with 5:10 left, meandered to the right.
The Big Ten, which is exploring expansion talks, is already puffing its chest out.
The league that went 1-6 in bowls last year is celebrating a bowl season in which Wisconsin whacked Miami, Penn State defeated Louisiana State (a member of that conference, the SEC), and Ohio State got the world off its back.
“We needed it, just for the Big Ten as a whole,” Pryor said. “I know we battle each other all year long, but we we’re also playing for each other.”
In 60 minutes, the Buckeyes bucked a trend and the Big Ten became a Big Deal.