CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The seven longest plays of the season for the Ohio State Buckeyes were the half dozen plus one offensive snaps that quarterback Terrelle Pryor missed in Sunday's 24-13 win here over Illinois.
Pryor, who had a 66-yard run on Ohio State's second series of the game, took off towards the sideline on a designed running play early in the third quarter, but seemed to lose his stride and stumble awkwardly without being hit after a 10-yard gain.
The 6-6 junior and had to be helped off the field. He returned to the Ohio State locker room for care of what Pryor later described as a “minor thigh injury”.
Junior backup Joe Bauserman filled in, and the Buckeyes gained just four yards on their next five plays, with Bauserman throwing an interception near midfield.
Pryor returned and played all of the fourth quarter, but carried the ball just once more, on a short play for a first down. Pryor finished the game with 104 rushing yards on 11 carries, and went 9-of-16 passing for 76 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.
“I was in a full stride,” Pryor said about the play when he fell injured. “I thought I was going to go to the house. All of a sudden I heard something pop … and that's when I stumbled. It was probably the worst pain I've had in a while.”
Pryor credited his offensive front, the receivers, and junior running back Dan “Boom” Herron with taking up the slack after the QB was injured. Herron did most of the work late in the game, scoring the final touchdown to put Illinois away.
“My hat's off to the linemen, the receivers blocking and Boom running the ball the way he did,” Pryor said. “They got us a victory.”
Illinois coach Ron Zook said Pryor's long run early in the game to set up Ohio State's first TD was something Zook had feared the Buckeyes' might produce.
“The one play where Pryor got out there in the first half — that is the thing we talked about all week,” Zook said. “He has that capability. He's a big, strong, fast, and physical guy. Pryor is going to get loose on people a little bit.”
Pryor said after the win over Illinois that he expects to be ready to face Indiana at home next weekend.
“I'll be back. I was back for this game, so I'll be back,” Pryor said.
MOELLER INJURY: The already-depleted Ohio State secondary took another hit early in the game when senior Tyler Moeller, who plays the star or fifth defensive back position, left the field with an injury. Moeller did not return to the game, and was in sweats for the second half. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Moeller's injury was muscle-related, but did not elaborate.
WINDY CITY: Ohio State's quarterbacks struggled throwing the ball in a stiff breeze that averaged about 25 miles per hour during the game, and gusted to more than that. The Buckeyes had just 77 passing yards against Illinois, after averaging more than 266 yards per game over the first month of the season. Pryor completed just 9 passes for 76 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
TOUGH SLEDDING: The Buckeyes were held under 300 yards of offense (290) for the first time since their loss at Purdue last season. Ohio State came into yesterday's game averaging 506.8 yards of offense and 49.2 points per game.
TRIPLE TIME: Ohio State junior running back Dan “Boom” Herron was the victim of three face-mask infractions by Illinois in the game, part of the 9 penalties for 74 yards the Illini had marched off against them.