COLUMBUS, Ohio - Terrelle Pryor took charge of Ohio State's offense, throwing four touchdown passes to lead the sluggish Buckeyes to a 28-10 victory over Troy on Saturday.
In the wake of an ugly 35-3 defeat at top-ranked Southern California, Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel had said that the nation's top quarterback recruit last spring and fifth-year senior Todd Boeckman would split the job 50-50 against the Trojans (2-1).
Pryor became the first true freshman to start for the Buckeyes in 30 years, since Art Schlichter in 1978. He played all but two snaps until the game was decided and an under-capacity crowd loudly booed Boeckman when he threw a first-half incompletion on one of those.
Pryor's touchdown passes covered 39 and 16 yards to Brian Hartline, 13 yards to Rory Nichol and 38 yards to Brian Robiskie. The 6-foot-6 standout from Jeannette, Pa., who won't attend his first college class until next week, completed 10 of 16 passes for 139 yards with one interception. He also ran 14 times for 66 yards.
Still, the Buckeyes (3-1) led just 14-10 at the start of the fourth quarter, at which point Troy had more first downs and total yards.
But Ohio State turned two punts from the Troy end zone in the fourth quarter into short touchdown drives. Pryor's four TD passes set a school freshman record for one game and for a season.
If this was the coming out party for a star, it sure arrived quietly.
Maybe it was a fallout from Sunday's arrival of Hurricane Ike that knocked out the power to thousands of homes in Columbus, some of which remain without electricity. Or, more likely, it was the Buckeyes' dismal showing in Los Angeles that dampened the fans' spirits.
Web sites were selling tickets all week at around half the $62 face value. There was a large patch of empty seats in the south end zone, and many other empty seats could be seen around the stadium. The announced attendance figure of 102,989 was the Ohio State's smallest home crowd in more than six years since a 2002 game against Kent State drew 2002.
The Buckeyes led 14-10 at the half and looked out of sync on both sides of the ball.
Pryor hit Nichol for a score on Ohio State's first possession, but then the offense floundered.
With Pryor at the controls, the Buckeyes punted on their next three possessions after Nichol's catch, with Troy responding with Sam Glusman's 22-yard field goal.
Kurt Coleman's first of two interceptions he took the ball right out of the hands of receiver Gerald Tate set up Ohio State's second score. On third and 12 from the Troy 39, Pryor threw a pass high over the middle to a wide-open Hartline at the 5, and Hartline fell into the end zone to make it 14-3.
After another Ohio State punt, the Trojans needed just five plays to cover 80 yards. Jamie Hampton flipped a short pass to Jerrel Jernigan, who covered the final 45 yards for the touchdown. Coleman, Donald Washington, Marcus Freeman and Jermale Hines all missed clear shots at Jernigan on the play.
Pryor made several big plays, but wasn't perfect. He was sacked for a 16-yard loss on the next-to-last play of the half, then was intercepted by Tavares Williams in the end zone on a desperation heave on the next play. Two of his touchdown passes were looped in the air, with the defense failing to recover after the receivers were open by several yards.
A 60-yard punt by A.J. Trapasso pinned the Trojans at their own 2 to start the fourth quarter. After a 40-yard punt, Pryor arched a TD pass to Robiskie at the goal line.
After a 17-yard punt, Pryor hit Hartline for his second touchdown reception of the day.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.