UW football vs. Ohio State: Key to success — pressure Pryor and contain his receivers

2010-10-17T00:30:00Z 2010-10-17T08:05:32Z UW football vs. Ohio State: Key to success — pressure Pryor and contain his receiversTOM MULHERN | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

University of Wisconsin junior defensive end J.J. Watt had just spent most of Saturday night's football game chasing Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor around Camp Randall Stadium.

Now, in the aftermath of the Badgers' 31-18 victory over the top-ranked Buckeyes, Watt was trying to explain to a throng of reporters what that experience was like.

"Oh, my gosh," Watt said. "That guy's fast, he's big. I had him wrapped up once and he got out. I had him wrapped up another time; he got out. I'm chasing him all over the place. I need subs here and there.

"He's a fast guy — and he's my size, too. So, I'm trying to tackle a guy my size, running fast. Not an easy task."

For the record, the 6-foot-6 Watt is listed at 292 pounds. Pryor is listed at 6-6 and 233 pounds. But he seems even bigger on the field. In the buildup to the game, too, he almost seemed like Superman, given the things he had done this season with his arm and his legs.

Pryor came into the game as one of the leading Heisman Trophy contenders. He ranked fourth in the Big Ten Conference in total offense at 283.8 yards per game and had a 25-3 record as a starter.

But UW free safety Aaron Henry thought a little too much attention was given to Pryor and Ohio State's offense coming into the game.

"Defensively, we stepped it up to a whole 'nother notch," Henry said. "They were talking about how great Ohio State's wide receivers were and how great their pass game was. Nobody gave credit to our secondary.

"I know week in and week out, even last year, nobody really gives credit to our secondary. For us to go out there and play the way we did, we knew Terrelle Pryor's weakness. We knew once he started scrambling, we were going to stay on our man and when he crossed that line of scrimmage, we were going to go tackle him."

The plan coming in was to pressure Pryor as much as possible, but in a controlled manner. Pryor is at his most dangerous on scrambles and broken plays, when he can use his incredible athleticism.

The Badgers did a decent job of that, with three sacks, including two by Watt. Still, things never felt comfortable when Pryor was on the field.

"(He) just kept staying alive and moving around," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "He's just a big guy that's hard to tackle. He's an exceptional player."

In their first two games against Pryor, the Badgers did a solid job. He was a combined 18-for-32 passing for 231 yards, while rushing 25 times for only 55 yards. But he had two key drives that killed the Badgers in both games. He led the Buckeyes on the game-winning touchdown drive as a freshman in their 20-17 victory two years ago.

He had another key scoring drive right before halftime last year in Ohio State's 31-13 victory.

This time, Pryor was 14-for-28 for 156 yards and no touchdowns. He threw one interception late in the fourth quarter. He also had 18 carries for 56 net yards, counting sacks.

"We knew what kind of routes they were going to run," UW strong safety Jay Valai said. "We watched a lot of film and studied him. On the back end, it was pretty simple."

The same could not be said for the guys up front who kept chasing Pryor. But Watt had to give credit, in the end, to the guys behind him. While the UW secondary has not gotten much credit the last two seasons, it showed it is much improved.

"I cannot say enough about the play of the back seven," Watt said. "They were unbelievable tonight, covering their receivers. Ohio State has some of the best skill players in the nation. Our guys did an unbelievable job staying with them and giving us opportunities to get sacks."

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