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Pryor drives Ohio State past Wisconsin

Oct 5, 2008 - 5:43 AM MADISON, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- Terrelle Pryor passed his first major test with flying colors. In the process, the freshman also preserved Ohio State's national title hopes.

Pryor ran for the go-ahead 11-yard touchdown with just over a minute remaining Saturday night, leading the 12th-ranked Buckeyes to a 20-17 victory over No. 17 Wisconsin in a Big Ten Conference slugfest.

It was a rousing win for the Buckeyes, who apparently have recovered from an embarrassing loss to Southern California earlier this month.

The loss to USC potentially damaged Ohio State's bid for a third consecutive appearance in the BCS championship game. But the Buckeyes still have a shot to play in Miami in January, thanks largely to Pryor.

The highest-touted incoming quarterback in the country, Pryor certainly has impressed Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, who installed the freshman as his starter two weeks ago.

"He's coming of age," Tressel said. "I don't know if anyone has come of age, but he's improving."

Ohio State (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) handed the Badgers their first home loss since November 12, 2005. Wisconsin lost a home game for the first time under third-year coach Bret Bielema, who entered with a 16-0 record at Camp Randall Stadium.

"Obviously, I'm very disappointed for our players, our coaches and the fans," Bielema said. "I thought the crowd out there was absolutely unbelievable."

"This is a tough environment, and this is a tough team that we're playing," Tressel added. "So what it means to us is that this is a significant accomplishment."

Despite playing in front of the hostile crowd at Camp Randall, Pryor proved that he belongs under center for Ohio State, which had used Todd Boeckman as its starter earlier this season.

"Every snap (Pryor) gets, he learns from," Tressel said. "He was under duress tonight. They were playing hard, they were coming after him, they were going to make him do things with lots of people in his face."

"I'm pretty beat up," admitted Pryor, who was sacked four times.

The Buckeyes faced a 17-13 deficit after Wisconsin's P.J. Hill scored on a 2-yard run with 6:36 remaining.

That set the stage for Pryor, who orchestrated a 12-play, 80-yard drive capped by his electric scoring run on an option around the left edge with 1:08 remaining. The freshman completed passes of 19, 27 and 13 yards while helping Ohio State convert two third downs on the march.

"It was incredible the way he handled that last drive," Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells said. "He's a special player, and he has so many great things ahead of him."

Ohio State sealed the victory when star cornerback Malcolm Jenkins intercepted Allan Evridge at Wisconsin's 27-yard line with 53 seconds left.

Pryor finished 13-of-19 for 144 yards while Wells rushed for 168 yards and a TD on 22 carries for Ohio State.

"We talked about being able to go low on Wells and Pryor because they are big bodies," Bielema said. "They are tough to bring down for certain positions on our defense."

Evridge completed 13-of-25 passes for 147 yards, one TD and an interception. Hill ran for just 63 yards on 16 carries for the Badgers (3-2, 0-2).

Wells opened the scoring just over three minutes into the contest when he raced for a 33-yard TD.

The Badgers took the lead, however, in the second quarter on Evridge's 9-yard scoring strike to Mickey Turner and Philip Welch's 20-yard field goal.

Ryan Pretorius kicked two short field goals over a 12-minute stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters to give Ohio State a 13-10 edge.