COLUMBUS — Eight games into his third season, Ohio State junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor is working his way through the Buckeyes' record book. With the first two yards Pryor gains Saturday against Minnesota, he will become just the third Ohio State player to compile 7,000 yards of total offense.
Pryor is 26-4 as a starter at Ohio State, and with 1,818 career rushing yards, he has passed All-American Rex Kern and moved into second place among OSU quarterbacks and is only about 250 yards away from overtaking Cornelius Greene as the career leader.
In No. 11 Ohio State's most recent win, a 49-0 dismantling of Purdue, Pryor was 16 of 22 passing for 270 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions. Since the game was so one-sided and the Buckeyes were in control from the start, Pryor was not asked by coach Jim Tressel to run the ball.
Tressel said Tuesday that some of those play-calling decisions are now being made by his quarterback.
“He's starting to call a few more of them,” Tressel said. “He came to us at one point in the game and said, ‘here's the way they're playing this, we've got to throw this” and all of a sudden he hits a 19-yard route. He had it cold.”
Tressel said Pryor called the next play in the series and that the quarterback's grasp of the offense is enhanced each week, but that understanding all of the concepts is a more complex process.
“Are we to point yet where we say, ‘hey, we're just going to give him a formation and he's going to take over'? ... probably not there yet,” Tressel said. “Will we ever get there? We'll see.”
As the Buckeyes prepare to travel to Minnesota this weekend, Pryor sits sixth in the Big Ten in passing, completing 134 of 203 passes, with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. He is throwing for 221.9 yards per game and is third in the conference in passing efficiency, hitting 66 percent of his passes.
“I get asked a lot about how Terrelle is doing, and the best way to answer that is to say he just keeps getting better and better,” senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said following Saturday's game.
“He's better at reading the defense, better at making adjustments, better at making decisions under pressure — he's never satisfied with his performance, and he works really hard every day at becoming a better quarterback, and that's something I really admire.”
Pryor has the Buckeyes first in the Big Ten in scoring with 40.8 points per game with a league-leading 41 touchdowns. Ohio State's 449.4 yards of offense per game is the Big Ten's second-most productive output.
“I think he's becoming more comfortable,” Tressel said about Pryor, who has directed the second-most efficient red zone offense in the Big Ten, with 30 touchdowns produced in 44 trips.
“Where you really have an appreciation of his growth is when you're getting ready for a team, and we're getting ready for Minnesota, so you watch him last year against Minnesota and you've been watching him every day now, and he's like a different guy,” Tressel said.
Pryor said he doesn't concern himself with the Big Ten race or Ohio State's chances of getting a bid to a BCS bowl, instead choosing to be singularly focused on the next game.
“We'll just let that take care of itself,” Pryor said about the bowl situation. “Just let the other teams beat each other. A lot of things are going to happen. These next five or six weeks are going to be pretty crazy. We just need to get better. There's always room for improvement.”
The Buckeyes (7-1, 3-1) play at Minnesota (1-7, 0-4) on Saturday night, making their first appearance in the new TCF Bank Stadium.
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