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Pryor converts critical 4th down play on game-winning drive as Ohio State becomes first team in Big Ten history to win 10 games six straight seasons
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Fourth down, 10 yards and most likely the season was on the line for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes put the ball in Terrelle Pryor’s hands, and he used his legs to help them escape from Iowa with their Rose Bowl hopes intact for another week.
Dan Herron rushed for a 1-yard touchdown with 1:47 left and Ohio State (No. 9 BCS, No. 8 AP) rallied to beat Iowa (No. 20 BCS, No. 21 AP) 20-17 Saturday.
Terrelle Pryor threw for 195 yards and a touchdown for the Buckeyes (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten), including a crucial 14-yard run on fourth down to keep the game-winning drive alive.
The win kept Ohio State tied with Wisconsin and Michigan State atop the Big Ten standings heading into next week’s showdown with rival Michigan in the Horseshoe. It also preserved the Buckeyes chances for at least a share of the Big Ten title for a record-tying sixth year in a row.
“I was going to run the whole time,” Pryor said. “I found running room, had some good blocking. I just cut it up and went and got the first.”
Iowa (7-4, 4-3) went ahead 17-10 early in the fourth quarter on freshman Marcus Coker’s 1-yard TD run. But Devin Barclay’s 48-yard field goal brought the Buckeyes within 17-13, and Pryor engineered a 76-yard drive despite DeVier Posey’s drop of a sure TD pass.
Ricky Stanzi had 195 yards passing and a touchdown for the Hawkeyes, who’ve let up a go-ahead winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of each of their defeats.
The game went to the fourth quarter tied at 10. The Buckeyes blinked first — then rallied behind Pryor for its 12th win in 13 tries over the disappointing Hawkeyes.
Pryor threw an errant ball over the middle that was tipped, picked off by Shaun Prater and returned to the Ohio State 27-yard line. Coker, in for a struggling Adam Robinson, followed a 26-yard run with a 1-yard plunge to put the Hawkeyes ahead 17-10 with 11:53 left.
Barclay pulled Ohio State within 17-13 with a 48-yarder with 7:38 left, and the Buckeyes forced the Hawkeyes into a quick three-and-out.
That’s when Pryor redeemed himself.
Posey, who had blown past the coverage, had the ball slip right through his hands with 4:02 left to set up 4th-and-10.
It could have been a crushing play for the Buckeyes, but Ohio State coach Jim Tressel took Pryor aside and got him focused after Posey’s frustrating drop.
Pryor scrambled 14 yards to pick up a first down the Buckeyes had to have, and five plays later Herron was in the end zone.
“Yeah, I was mad. But, I mean, we had a 4th-and-10 to get to or we were going to lose another game. I hate losing with a passion,” Pryor said.
Pryor proved it, finding Dane Sanzenbacher for 24 yards to the Iowa 2 with 2:49 left, and Herron’s touchdown put the Buckeyes ahead for good.
Pryor finished with 78 yards rushing on 15 carries and survived two interceptions.
“It was huge and gave us that momentum,” Tressel said of Pryor’s critical fourth-down conversion. “I was afraid he was messing around and wasn’t going to get the first, but he made it.”
Stanzi’s fourth-down pass to Marvin McNutt was stopped just two yards shy of the first down on Iowa’s futile final drive.
Coker rushed for 70 yards on just nine carries for Iowa, as Robinson didn’t play until the second quarter because of what Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz called “academic indigestion.”
Robinson finished with just 27 yards — and worse yet, he could miss next week’s regular-season finale at Minnesota after getting drilled in the fourth quarter.
“My guess is he won’t play next week, but that’s preliminary,” Ferentz said.
Ohio State started the second half by driving 77 yards on 12 plays, and Pryor’s 5-yard TD pass to Reid Fragel gave them their first lead, 10-7.
Ohio State had Iowa stopped on the next drive, but Jermale Hines got flagged for drilling McNutt after a 3rd-down incompletion. Michael Meyer’s 31-yard field goal tied it at 10 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.
This matchup had long been circled as the biggest of the year in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes and Hawkeyes were picked 1-2 in the league’s preseason poll, and Ohio State’s 27-24 OT win in Columbus last year had many wondering what might happen when Iowa got Ohio State at home with a healthy Stanzi.
But the Hawkeyes spoiled a lot of the fun by dropping three games by a total of 12 points — including a fourth-quarter meltdown in a 21-17 loss at Northwestern last week — and it was more of the same on Saturday.
“Losing games is frustrating, and losing close games is frustrating,” Ferentz said. “We didn’t make enough plays to get it done in the fourth quarter.”
Iowa opened the scoring late in the first quarter on Stanzi’s 19-yard TD pass to McNutt. Ohio State answered by driving to Iowa’s 1-yard line, but the Buckeyes had to settle for Devin Barclay’s 18-yard field goal.
Pryor, who’d been flirting with danger the entire first half, floated a long ball toward the end zone that was picked off one-handed by Iowa’s Micah Hyde just before halftime.
It was Posey who let Pryor down late in the fourth quarter. But Pryor responded on the next play and carried the Buckeyes to the win.
“We felt like it was going to be a four-quarter heavyweight bout. Iowa’s never going to stop fighting,” Tressel said. “Our guys never stop.”