STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - This is the last column I ever thought I would write.
Ask my coworkers, my friends, or anyone who has heard me talk about the 2009 edition of the Ohio State Buckeyes, they'll tell you I have been one of the biggest critics of quarterback Terrelle Pryor since he came to Columbus in 2008.
Ever since he announced he was signing his Letter of Intent to play with the Buckeyes, I had a weird feeling in my gut about him. I don't know what it was, but it wasn't a good feeling. Kind of like the feeling Taco Bell gives you at 3 a.m.
This season was proving my point and I was walking around town saying, "I told you so." He was erratic, he was making bad decisions, he was locking in on receivers so hard that even the people working the concession stands knew where he was throwing. And the great Pryor speed wasn't being shown.
I was becoming a little worried about the "future" of the Ohio State Buckeyes, because I wasn't seeing the greatness that was supposed to be Pryor.
That was until Saturday. Because on Saturday, Pryor proved to even to the most cynical of critics that he can become an elite quarterback. He's not there yet, but he took a big step against Penn State.
The sophomore probably had the best game of his career in overall performance. He passed for 125 yards, ran for 50 yards and passed for two touchdowns and ran in another.
But what I noticed was that Pryor played smart, which I think he'll admit he hasn't done all season. There were times when he had to scramble and get rid of the ball. But instead of trying to force a throw to DeVier Posey or Dane Sanzenbacher who were double covered, he tucked the ball, ran, got out of bounds, or smartly threw it away. He looked like a smart quarterback capable of leading an offense.
Pryor has played on a big stage before, but personally for the Jeanette, Pa. native, there was no bigger stage as the one he played on Saturday. For the Buckeyes, a loss all but eliminated them from a chance at the Big Ten title. But personally, Pryor was making his first trip back to his home state and he was playing a team he very well have could have been playing his college for.
This could have gone either way. He could have choked. He could have posted numbers like he did against against Purdue when he was 17-of-31 passing, threw two interceptions and was sacked five times. Considering all the pressure he was under, along with the fact he was fighting an ankle injury the whole game, it almost might have been expected.
But Pryor stepped up, in a way he hasn't done since taking over the reins from Todd Boeckman last season. With the help of the offensive line that gave him all the time in the world, he was poised, patient and smart. He connected with Posey on a beautiful 62-yard touchdown and nearly hooked up with Sanzenbacher stretched out in the end zone, which would have been a 53-yard play.
The fact that Pryor played probably the best game of his career is only a bonus for Ohio State, which will face a very angry, determined Iowa squad next week. The Hawkeyes suffered their first conference loss Saturday, 17-14 to Northwestern.
Hopefully Saturday's performance wasn't a flash-in-the-pan for Pryor. If he can replicate this performance next week at Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes will all but be booking their tickets to Pasadena.
If he doesn't, than I'll be the first to admit I drank the Kool-Aid too soon. But I have a feeling in my gut I didn't. And this time, it isn't the Taco Bell.