COLUMBUS - The criticism of Ohio State's offense and its struggling sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor started when the season began with a less-than-spectacular win over Navy. A few arrows came in from here and there, targeting the Buckeyes and coach Jim Tressel, whose hands are on the offensive control panel.
The condemnation intensified after a one-touchdown performance by the offense against Wisconsin two weeks ago, and then it turned to saturation bombing after Saturday when the Buckeyes crashed at Purdue, falling to a team that had lost five straight games as Pryor turned the ball over four times.
Seven games into 2009, Ohio State owns the Big Ten's least productive passing attack, and its 10th-ranked offense. Despite a very uncharacteristic view from the bottom of that offensive heap, Tressel said yesterday he intends to stand by his man - Pryor - as the Buckeyes prepare to host Minnesota this Saturday and the increased challenges that lie beyond.
"I don't think that's what Terrelle needs," Tressel said yesterday when asked about the possibility of benching Pryor. "Terrelle's problems are no different than the whole team's [problems]."
Tressel indicated that more of the blame for the team's shortcomings should land in his lap, and not be piled on Pryor.
"Probably the first reflection that I have personally is that I've certainly got to do a better job of helping this group understand what it takes to do the things they would like to do, and I haven't done as good a job as you need to do," Tressel said.
"Football is an emotional game. It's an attitude game. It's a game that's affected by everyone else within your group and we've got to do a better job of making sure we understand that. And we've got to do a good job of making sure we really, really know what it takes to win."
The Buckeyes are 3-1 in the conference and just a game out of first place behind unbeaten Iowa, but a second Big Ten loss would likely end any thoughts of winning a fifth straight conference championship or making a Rose Bowl trip.
Tressel said despite Pryor's scuffle with consistency - he ranks ninth in the Big Ten in passing efficiency and has thrown eight interceptions and just 10 touchdown passes - Ohio State has not considered inserting backup Joe Bauserman to play certain situations.
"We haven't had that discussion," Tressel said. "I don't believe at this moment that that would be the best thing for the team, and ultimately you make all your decisions based upon what does the group need at this moment."
Tressel said he still feels that Pryor gives the Buckeyes the greatest opportunity for success, and that he is not just sticking with the former top recruit in the nation for fear of damaging Pryor's psyche.
"I think you always try to keep in mind people's feelings, but not to the point where it will hurt the team," Tressel said.
"To me, that's what our
responsibility is. Our responsibility is to the group. Now,
that doesn't mean we don't care about the individual. You do all you can do to help every individual, but not at the expense of the team."
Ohio State junior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said he believes that the flak the Buckeyes have faced since the ugly loss at Purdue comes with the territory, and Pryor should not bear most of the responsibility for the 26-18 defeat.
"We didn't play well, and there's no hiding that," Sanzenbacher said. "We know we're going to take criticism for it."
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The criticism of Ohio State's offense and its struggling sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor started when the season began with a less-than-spectacular win over Navy. A few arrows came in from here and there, targeting the Buckeyes and coach Jim Tressel, whose hands are on the offensive control panel.