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Pryor faces first bout with failure

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The play called for a typical quarterback sneak: No frills, up the middle, lower your shoulder and go.

But Terrelle Pryor isn't a typical quarterback. He's an atypical freshman who can do atypical things. So when he saw a chance to make a play, he went for it.

He had never failed before, so what could stop him now? On third-and-inches from midfield, with Ohio State leading 6-3 early in the fourth quarter, Pryor saw the middle bunching up and bounced outside.

"I thought I was scoring a touchdown," he said. "I was looking at the end zone. I was going to beat No. 9 (Penn State safety Mark Rubin). Then he punched it out. "

"It was the worst feeling of my life."

It was a feeling Pryor likely has never felt. He had taken some heat during his first five collegiate starts, but he hadn't committed a critical turnover or lost a game. He hadn't fumbled. The nation's top recruit had backed up his hype.

Last week, Pryor's teammates questioned whether Ohio State should bring back Todd Boeckman or go to a two-quarterback system. Pryor responded with a Friday night challenge to coach Jim Tressel -- bench me if I struggle -- and a Saturday afternoon spectacle against Michigan State at Spartan Stadium.

He continued to show beyond-his-years poise against Penn State, converting key third downs and hitting Dane Sanzenbacher and Brian Robiskie down the field. Even without much help from Chris "Beanie" Wells, Pryor made his share of plays.

But his decision on the quarterback sneak cost him dearly. Penn State recovered the fumble and drove for the game-winning touchdown.

"I think he saw a couple gaps or penetration, perhaps, I don't know," Tressel said, "and tried to slide outside. I think the helmet hit the ball or something hit the ball and it was unfortunate."

Offensive quality control coach Nick Siciliano accompanied Pryor to his post-game news conference and sat as the distraught quarterback answered questions.

"He continues to be a great player," Robiskie said. "Right now, he feels the loss is on his shoulders, but he knows he played a great game. It is up to us seniors to build him back up."

Ohio State's quest for a third trip to the BCS title game is officially over, and the Buckeyes need Penn State to lose twice to have a shot at an unprecedented third consecutive outright Big Ten title.

The goals have shifted, and for a senior-laden team, moving forward won't be easy.

"This is not what we saw for ourselves," punter A.J. Trapasso said. "This is not how we saw our season panning out."