COLUMBUS — The Ohio State faithful gasped when quarterback Terrelle Pryor had to be helped off the field in the third quarter of Saturday's win at Illinois, and then sighed in relief when Pryor later returned and finished the game.
Pryor said he has a strained thigh muscle, and he does not expect to miss any time, so as it turns out the injury from the Illinois game that could have the most significant impact on the season occurred much earlier.
Defensive back Tyler Moeller reportedly could be lost for the season after tearing a pectoral muscle against Illinois, according to the fan site Bucknuts.
Moeller was doubled-over in pain several times after leaving the game in the first quarter. He returned to the locker room and watched the second half from the sidelines in sweats. Following the 24-13 Ohio State victory, coach Jim Tressel said he believed Moeller's injury was “muscle” related, but Tressel said he did not know how serious it was.
The team returned to Columbus Saturday evening following the Big Ten win, and Moeller was expected to undergo an MRI Sunday, the Web site Bucknuts reported.
Moeller has started all five games this season at the “star” position, which is the fifth defensive back used by Ohio State on the majority of the defensive plays. He is the fourth-leading tackler on the team with 20 stops and leads the team in tackles behind the line of scrimmage, accounting for 33 yards in losses by the opposition.
Moeller redshirted in 2006, then was a special teams demon and backup linebacker the next two years. He missed all of last season after being seriously injured while vacationing with his family in Florida.
While at a sports bar/restaurant, Moeller was struck in the back of the head by an assailant, who has since pleaded guilty to the attack. Moeller hit his head on the floor after he was struck and spent several days in intensive care with swelling and bleeding inside his skull.
He needed surgery to relieve the pressure, and then a lengthy rehabilitation before he was finally allowed to return to football last spring, with limitations. He was cleared for contact work before fall camp opened in early August and won the starting job at the star position, which is essentially a hybrid linebacker/safety.
Moeller was replaced in the Illinois game by freshman Christian Bryant, who finished with five tackles against the Illini.
Pryor's injury looked much more serious at the time, since his left leg appeared to buckle in stride, without being hit. After he was assisted off the field, Pryor walked gingerly to the locker room, had his thigh wrapped by the trainers, and returned to the action a short time later.
Tressel said he was concerned that Pryor had re-injured his knee, which was surgically repaired early this year, following the Rose Bowl win over Oregon.
“I was just wondering if he had fallen on that knee ... and re-aggravated something,” Tressel said. “Once I got over there and saw him getting up and going, I felt a lot better.”
Pryor carried the ball just once after returning to the game. Ohio State ran the ball most of the final quarter, with junior tailback Dan Herron doing the bulk of the work as the Buckeyes drove down to score and put the game away.
“It was hard,” Pryor said. “There's no way I could do anything except hand the ball off and throw a couple passes. It hurt even dropping back.”
Pryor, who had 104 yards rushing in the game, including a 66-yard sprint, said he expects to be ready to play Saturday when the second-ranked Buckeyes host Indiana. “Hopefully, with the ice and the treatment, we can get that taken care of and I'll be back to good,” he said. “I'll be back.”
Contact Matt Markey at:email@example.com or 419-724-6510.