Pryor’s Fourth-Down Scramble Keeps Buckeyes in Title Hunt
By Brandon Castel
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Cam Heyward said to call them the comeback kids.
Some might call them lucky.
With one more victory, though, the 2010 Buckeyes (10-1, 6-1) will be called Big Ten champs for the sixth-straight season after rallying for a 20-17 win at No. 20 Iowa (7-4, 4-3).
Seventh-ranked Ohio State trailed at the half, 7-3 for the second straight week, but again rallied from behind for a hard-fought victory against a tough Big Ten opponent. They came back from 14-3 deficit a week ago to knock off Penn State 38-14 in Columbus. This time they had to do in on the road in front of 70,585 hostile fans at Kinnick Stadium.
“Our guys don’t panic; they believe and keep fighting,” OSU Head Coach Jim Tressel said after the game.
“We felt like it was going to be a four-quarter heavyweight bout. Iowa’s never going to stop fighting, they’ve been in the midst of three of four games like that.”
Tailback Boom Herron scored the game-winning touchdown from a yard out with 1:47 to play, but it was Terrelle Pryor’s 14-yard scramble on 4th-and-10 that kept Ohio State’s title chances alive.
“I don’t know how many guys in the conference or in the country could have made that play,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
“So credit goes to them. He converted and it was just a great effort on his part.”
A week after losing on a last-minute touchdown pass by Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa, the Hawkeyes held a 17-10 lead over the Buckeyes early in the fourth-quarter. They took the lead on a one-yard run by tailback Marcus Coker, but it was set up by an interception thrown by Pryor.
It was only fitting that Pryor would be the one to lead the Buckeyes back, but not without some help from Dane Sanzenbacher, Devin Barclay and the Ohio State defensive line.
It was Barclay’s 48-yard field goal, Sanzenbacher’s ridiculous 24-yard catch and the defense’s ability to get pressure on Ricky Stanzi late in the game that allowed Pryor to lead his team to victory.
With the teams tied 10-10 at the start of the fourth quarter, Pryor was picked off by Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater, who returned it to the OSU 27-yard line. Two plays later, Coker had the Hawkeyes in the end zone for a 17-10 lead.
They wouldn’t score again.
Pryor shook off his second interception to drive the Buckeyes down the field to the Iowa 27-yard line. He was sacked on second down and freshman Corey Brown couldn’t hang on to his third-down pass, forcing Tressel into a tough decision.
Just like he did in the first half from the Iowa one-yard line, Tressel ran kicker Devin Barclay onto the field for a career-long 48-yard try. The hero of last year’s overtime win in Columbus, Barclay put it right through the uprights just like he did in overtime last season.
“It was a career-long for me,” said Barclay, who hit a 39-yard field goal in overtime last November to give the Buckeyes a 27-24 win.
“I knew that it was an important three points for us. I just wanted to put a good hit on it. I had a little breeze at my back and I let the rest take care of itself.”
A holding penalty on the ensuing kick return gave Iowa the ball at their own 19-yard line, clinging to a four-point lead. Unable to run the ball since the first quarter (81 yards on 25 carries for the game), the Hawkeyes put the ball in the hands of their senior quarterback on senior day.
Only Stanzi never had much of a chance.
He was sacked on first down by OSU defensive tackle John Simon, which left his 11-yard pass to Marvin McNutt five yards short of the first-down marker. His third-down pass was batted down at the line by Simon, and the Hawkeyes were forced to punt with just over six minutes on the clock.
The Buckeyes’ game-winning drive started at their own 24-yard line with tailback Brandon Saine picking up 11 yards on an inside handoff. Pryor ran for six yards on the second play and found Herron on a swing-pass in the left flat for nine more yards and another first down.
After back-to-back incomplete passes to tight end Jake Stoneburner, Pryor threw a beautiful deep ball to a wide-open DeVier Posey in the end zone, but Posey let the ball go right through his hands. The Buckeyes hurried back to the line for a make-or-break fourth-down try from midfield.
“We had them at 4th-and-10, and I think we had most of their receivers covered up, but he just snuck out,” Iowa free safety Brett Greenwood said of Pryor’s scramble.
“Give him credit, and give them credit. They found a way to get it done. It just comes down to that, and he made the play.”
From there, the momentum was all in the favor of Ohio State.
“That’s football,” Ferentz said.
“You’ve just got to keep trying and dig and see if you can’t make something happen. We just couldn’t get it done. They had a big pass on us and knocked it in from there.”
Three plays later, Pryor connected with Sanzenbacher near the goal line on play that was actually called directly by the junior quarterback.
“Actually the one that Dane caught, Terrelle actually called that play. It reminded me a little bit of Gonzo that one time,” Tressel said referring to the catch former Buckeye Anthony Gonzalez made against Michigan.
“He kind of bounced on his back and all that stuff.”
Sanzenbacher went up and made an amazing catch over the head of Iowa linebacker Troy Johnson and came down with his left foot a half-inch from being on the line. It set the Buckeyes up for a one-yard touchdown run and Cam Heyward took care of the rest with an 11-yard sack of Stanzi on the final drive.
“They were getting pressure all day long and they were real close to Ricky. To his credit, he stands in there and lets some go,” Tressel said.
“But our guys never stopped coming and as time went on maybe we wore on them a bit.”
The Buckeyes need a victory in their season-finale against archrival Michigan to secure at least a tie of the Big Ten title.
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