CLEVELAND (AP) — When people said No. 11 Ohio State had no offense, quarterback Terrelle Pryor took offense.
The sophomore threw for a career-high 262 yards and ran for 110 yards to help the Buckeyes rebound from a disheartening loss and the criticism that went with it and beat Toledo 38-0 on Saturday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“I’m just here to win,” said Pryor, who threw three TD passes and ran for another score. “Whether it’s 100 yards passing or 100 yards rushing … it’s not always realistic. Of course I want it, but I’ll still do whatever I can to get a win.”
It was a resounding response by the Buckeyes (2-1) a week after a crushing 18-15 loss to No. 3 Southern California. The Rockets are no Trojans, but Pryor and the Buckeyes got the confidence-boosting performance they needed.
Pryor set career bests in completions and attempts (17 for 28) and tossed TD passes of 76 yards and 18 yards to Dane Sanzenbacher on the Buckeyes’ first two possessions to set the tone against a Toledo defense that came in giving up 45 points and almost 500 yards a game.
“I thought he threw the ball much better than he had in previous weeks,” said Toledo (1-2) coach Tim Beckman, a former Ohio State assistant.
In the wake of the loss to USC, Ohio State fans were critical of coach Jim Tressel, complaining about his conservative approach and play-calling. But a decidedly pro-Buckeyes crowd of 71,727 roared its approval as their team steamrolled through the Rockets (1-2), who were hopeful of adding another big upset to their resume after tripping up Michigan 13-10 a year ago.
On third-and-7 from his own 24 on Ohio State’s first possession, Pryor flipped a pass over the middle to a wide-open Sanzenbacher. He split the secondary and raced the distance.
Pryor — who was hesitant to run and seldom threw longer than 10 yards in the first two games — rushed for two first downs and passed 12 yards to Duron Carter for another the second time Ohio State had the ball. That helped set up a quick look-in pass to Sanzenbacher, who was sandwiched by defensive backs but pulled in the ball to make it 14-0.
“(Terrelle is) a perfectionist. He’s never completely satisfied with his performance,” Tressel said. “I think he had more fun (than last week). When you succeed and score points, it’s a lot more fun playing offense.”
Ohio State’s defense held Toledo’s Aaron Opelt, leading the nation in total offense with 437 yards a game, to 181 yards.
“That was our focus, to get to him and make him throw it quickly,” defensive end Thaddeus Gibson said.
Opelt hit on 22 of 45 passes for 197 yards but was sacked twice, hurried 10 times and intercepted once.
“We were off today,” Beckman said.
Asked if he’d ever been shut out before, Opelt said, “If I did I’d remember, so I don’t think so.”
With Ohio State’s front wall bearing down on Opelt, he had to throw the ball away on four of the Rockets’ first six plays. It didn’t get much better after that as they managed just 210 yards.
Dan Herron ran for a 4-yard score and DeVier Posey also caught a TD pass from Pryor, who had two interceptions.
Tressel chided Ohio State’s fans earlier this week, saying he felt bad about how “miserable” they were after the USC defeat. A sign on a scarlet-and-gray bus parked near Browns Stadium listed the six straight top-10 teams that have beaten the Buckeyes since 2006. Next to the list was written, “Miserable OSU fans.”
The Buckeyes seemed committed to making the Rockets — particularly Opelt — miserable.
Early in the fourth quarter, Opelt hit Eric Page with a pass at the 6 but he was hit by Kurt Coleman and fumbled at the goal line, with linebacker Ross Homan recovering for a touchback.
It was that kind of a day for the Rockets.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Toledo safety Barry Church said. “It’s very disappointing. To get shut out really hurts.”