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Published: Thursday, 10/7/2010

Buckeyes focus on helping Pryor

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - At halftime of the Big Ten win over Illinois, everyone on the Ohio State team not named Terrelle Pryor had a total of 15 yards rushing. The Buckeyes were hanging on to a 14-10 lead, and Pryor had accounted for 140 of Ohio State's 155 yards.

The Buckeyes, and Pryor, limped through the second half, with junior tailback Dan "Boom" Herron asserting himself after Pryor injured his thigh. Ohio State survived a spell without Pryor, and his limited involvement in the offense in the fourth quarter, but the dependence on him is a concern.

"Terrelle's a great athlete and a great player, but we all have to do more," Herron said after the 24-13 win. "Everybody knows we can't expect him to carry the load, and we don't want him to."

The season reaches its halfway point this Saturday when Ohio State hosts Indiana. After five games, Pryor leads the Buckeyes in rushing with 373 yards on his 54 carries - a 6.9 yards per carry average. Pryor has completed 80 of his 123 passes (65 percent) for 1,014 yards and 12 touchdowns.

OSU senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said following practice on Tuesday that he didn't notice much difference in Pryor's mobility or execution, but added that Pryor mostly worked inside the pocket. Sanzenbacher said the rest of the offensive cast should be prepared to do more.

"You might be in a situation where you alter a few things, but obviously that's now up to us (players)," Sanzenbacher said. "I think as an offense, when something like that happens, we have confidence in the other guys coming in, but at the same time, we know we have to pick up the slack. We know there's that much more we have to do to make up for the absence."

With Pryor nursing that thigh injury, the Buckeyes turned to Herron down the stretch against Illinois, and he had 89 yards rushing in the second half. He carried the ball seven straight times on Ohio State's final scoring drive, putting the game away with his six-yard touchdown run with under two minutes to play.

Tressel cited Herron's success while the OSU coach fielded questions about the Ohio State offense being too dependent on Pryor.

"We did that (scored) without having too much quarterback run, which everyone said are we doing too much of that quarterback runs stuff," Tressel said. "Well, we did some of it early, but I was proud of the way our tailback game came on."

Sanzenbacher said he fully expects Indiana to try and pressure Pryor early and test his running ability, following the thigh injury.

"I think you would be dumb not to, if you thought you could exploit something," he said. "But, like I said, I think he's fine. I don't think it'll be a problem. Looking at it from the other end, though, you might want to adjust a little bit."

Pryor led the Buckeyes in rushing in 2009 with 779 yards on 162 carries. His 104 yards on the ground against Illinois pushed Pryor (1,783 career rushing yards) past Rex Kern (1,714) for second-place on Ohio State's all-time list for quarterbacks. Pryor has six 100-yard rushing games in his career, and three this season.

Illinois coach Ron Zook, who watched in vain as his team failed to stop Herron on the final Ohio State scoring drive, said despite Pryor's extensive skills, the Buckeyes have other effective weapons.

"Everybody talks about Terrelle Pryor being a great player," Zook said, "and he is, but those running backs are pretty good, too."

Contact Matt Markey at

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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