COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — This “new” Terrelle Pryor was vastly better than the old one.
Pryor threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score to lead No. 18 Ohio State to a 38-7 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
“You hear he can’t throw and he can’t do this or that,” Pryor said of the heat he faced after blowing up in a loss the previous week at Purdue. “The criticism is a bit crazy and you have to live with it. That’s why it was so important that we won today.”
A week after a devastating 26-18 loss at two-touchdown underdog Purdue, the Buckeyes (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten) made Minnesota (4-4, 2-3) pay for its bad plays. The Golden Gophers had two major misplays in the secondary and two turnovers inside their own 20 that gave the Buckeyes 28 points.
“We put some things together. Everyone picked up their game. As we talked about in the locker room just now, we all got a little bit better,” coach Jim Tressel said. “We made some big plays in the second half and they made some mistakes.”
Pryor said he was a new man after four turnovers in the Purdue defeat. He played better against Minnesota, but it was difficult to tell how much because the Gophers made so many costly mistakes.
The sophomore spoke with Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James this week and also got encouragement from James’ teammate, Shaquille O’Neal. He also talked on the phone with former Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith before the game.
“Last week really humbled me. I may be a little too cocky,” he said. “I got so many phone calls from people trying to help me.”
Pryor hit on 13 of 25 passes for 239 yards with one interception and also ran for 104 yards on 15 carries.
Ohio State finished with 509 yards of offense, including 270 on the ground.
Minnesota didn’t offer much resistance, running its scoreless streak to 136:23 before MarQueis Gray’s late 16-yard touchdown pass to Troy Stoudermire.
Trailing just 7-0 through two quarters, the Golden Gophers started making mistakes. They gave Ohio State the ball at the Minnesota 15 after Stoudermire fumbled away a short pooch kick to start the second half. Three plays later, Pryor bolted around right end off a nice play-fake to score on a 15-yard run.
“The first play of the second half was critical, absolutely critical,” Minnesota coach Tim Brewster said. “We thought we could get some momentum going and obviously it went the other direction.”
Then Gophers quarterback Adam Weber lost a fumble at his own 22, leading to freshman Jordan Hall, on to replace injured tailback Brandon Saine who left with a concussion, scoring on an 11-yard run.
After a Minnesota punt, a foul-up in coverage led to Pryor’s 57-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open DeVier Posey, who finished with eight catches for 161 yards.
The two also had hooked up on a 62-yard score in the second quarter when another gaffe in the secondary left Posey unguarded 10 yards behind the defense.
“Guys were not doing their assignment,” Gophers linebacker Lee Campbell said. “One guy messes up (and) unless someone compensates for it, they are going to score.”
Minnesota played most of the game without top receiver Eric Decker, who hobbled off the field in the first quarter and didn’t return due to a recurring ankle injury. Still, the Gophers had four turnovers, eight penalties and numerous other miscues.
Weber was 10 for 23 for just 112 yards with two interceptions and his fellow quarterback, Gray, was 5 for 6 for 51 yards, and also ran for 81 yards on 11 carries. They were sacked four times and were harassed most of the day.
Hall finished with 38 yards and his first collegiate touchdown on 10 carries, with fifth-string tailback Jermil Martin rumbling 39 yards for his first career score.
One thing the Buckeyes kept coming back to was that Minnesota had beaten Purdue. In some small way, they felt they were getting back at the team that had beaten them.
“For us to shut Minnesota down was a good lift for us after the loss last week,” linebacker Brian Rolle said.
But it was nothing like the lift it gave the Buckeyes’ quarterback.
“I made a lot of mistakes last week,” Pryor said. “Today helped me grow as a quarterback.”