by Rusty Miller
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—In one of the biggest games of his young college career, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor said it was his fault his team lost.
Pryor threw an early interception that led to a Southern California touchdown. Then he failed to rally an offense that mustered just 265 yards against USC’s defense as the Buckeyes again lost a high-profile, national television game, 18-15 Saturday night.
|PREMATURE CELEBRATION— Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) celebrates with Ross Homan after a safety against Southern California in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Sept. 12, in Columbus, Ohio.
“We should have beat them by two or three touchdowns. Easy, man,” Pryor said. “The ball just went the wrong way, like I keep saying. We needed this win. It just hurts right now, but we’ve got a long season to go. We’re going to fight and we’ll be back in it. We’ve got a good chance.”
He said it was all the offense’s fault.
“We’ve got to punch it in offensively,” he said. “It just comes down to me. I take the whole blame for it.”
Pryor, the nation’s top recruit a year ago from Jeannette, Pa., completed 11 of 25 passes for 177 yards with the one interception. He also rushed 10 times for 36 yards, with USC’s defense pinching in from the ends to prevent him from using his speed to break out of the pocket.
“We didn’t think we’d be able to take him out of the game as a runner,” USC coach Pete Carroll said. “We thought we could try to control him.…We were very much in tune with him. We really thought he was the show. He’s really a good football player.”
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said the Trojans’ defense conspired to confine Pryor.
“They were definitely going to bring people off the edge and keep us from getting Terrelle outside,” he said.
He preferred to look at how another difficult game—Ohio State has a history of losing these spotlight games—might help season the sophomore quarterback.
“Every ballgame adds to your experience and can help your game,” he said. “We made some big plays. We made some other ones that we’ll work on.”
Pryor said the loss wouldn’t be the end of the Buckeyes.
“I’ve been telling you this for the past four weeks—we have a great team, an excellent team,” he said. “I knew we were going to fight them good. Everyone had the heart and believed in it. We knew we could beat USC. But the ball turned the other way. They played a good game. My hat’s off to SC. Maybe we’ll meet them later on.”
The loss was the Buckeyes’ sixth in a row to a top 10 team.
Still, this was nothing like the 35-3 bludgeoning USC administered to the Buckeyes a year ago at the Coliseum. It was nothing like those painful, lopsided and embarrassing losses to Florida and LSU in the national title games after the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
A raucous, scarlet-clad crowd of 106,033— the largest ever at the old gray hulk on the banks of the Olentangy River—was silent at the end, but it sure wasn’t up until then. They roared and hollered, sang and chanted, booed and cheered for three hours, 14 minutes.
If anything, the defeat might have been one small step toward regaining some respect from fans and poll voters across the country. The Buckeyes dropped just three spots in the Associated Press Top 25and are ranked ahead of the other four one-loss teams in the rankings.
Maybe in losing, and losing close, they might not be an afterthought among the best college teams in the land.
“USC’s a good team, but I’m not going to say they’re any better than us,” defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said. “We’ve just got to learn from our mistakes and just keep playing.”
Next comes a game against high-scoring Toledo, then the Big Ten beckons with Illinois.
Pryor said the loss didn’t cast a pall on the year. Not even close.
“We needed this win. It hurts right now, but we’ve got a long season to go,” he said. “We’re going to fight and we’ll be back in it. We’ve got a good chance.”