Buckeyes' Pryor grows up on, off the field

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Terrelle Pryor earned a passing grade last week, even if there are still a lot of questions about his, er, passing.

The Ohio State sophomore quarterback overcame two major tests -- mounting criticism from media and fans, and a shaky first-half performance against Minnesota. He's still not at a point where he can single-handedly win games for the Buckeyes, but he showed growth after hitting a low point as a college player in Ohio State's 26-18 loss at Purdue.

It started after last Wednesday's practice, when Pryor made a somewhat surprising appearance before reporters. He had been heavily criticized and his high school coach had questioned Ohio State's coaching staff, but he faced the music and handled himself well. For the same guy who made the "Everybody kills people" comment only weeks ago, Pryor appeared much more comfortable and mature in fielding questions.

"[The Purdue loss and fallout] opened me up to the world and opened me up to myself and who I am as a person, and us as a team," Pryor said. "Maybe that was the best thing that happened to us. Maybe we'll learn from it."

(I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that Pryor didn't shy away from the media like Tim Tebow did after a poor performance Saturday in a win (!) over Mississippi State. Pryor has received much more criticism in a year and a half than Tebow has in three-and-a-half seasons, but Pryor never dodged reporters after a game, no matter how poorly he played.)

Moving on to Pryor's more important test, the actual game against Minnesota. It was more of the same in the first half, as he completed just 3 of his first 9 passes and threw an interception in the end zone late in the second quarter. Ohio State twice entered the red zone and emerged with no points.

One encouraging sign was Pryor's willingness to run, as he carried 12 times in the first half.

The sophomore really picked things up in the third quarter. He completed three of four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he gained 15 yards, 11 yards and 19 yards on three running plays, the first of which went to the end zone.

Pryor finished the game with 15 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. He hit on two big passes to wideout DeVier Posey, but did most of his damage with his feet. It's a formula Ohio State must use the rest of the way: a minimum of 15 carries for Pryor (I'd like to see 17-23) and take shots downfield when they're available.

"Last week really humbled me," he told reporters afterward. "I may be a little too cocky. ... Today helped me grow as a quarterback."