The Ohio State annual Scarlet and Gray Game hasn't always been exciting or necessarily fun to watch. Yesterday, during 2009's scrimmage, however, the excitement factor was in full overdrive.
Even before the game started, the atmosphere in and around Ohio Stadium seemed more like the Buckeyes were getting set to open the non-conference season than hold an early spring scrimmage.
The fans were descending on the Horseshoe from all directions—from the north and the Lane Avenue tailgating parties; from the east and the High Street hangouts; from the south through Buckeye Grove; and from the west past Value City Arena and over the Lane Avenue bridge, where I personally noticed a line of people at least a half-mile long making their way to the stadium.
Why did this spring game have such a different feel to it?
The Buckeyes are young on both sides of the ball. Coach Jim Tressel and his staff are breaking in a lot of new players in key positions—guys whose names you may not know now, but will come to know over the course of the season.
Could all these people really be streaming in to see if Taurian Washington is the next Ted Ginn or if Austin Spitler is the next A.J. Hawk?
Sure, some savvy fans were there to see how these young guys would perform, but the overwhelming majority were there to see a player with a name they already know.
"I gotta see Terrelle Pryor with my own eyes," said Bobby from Westerville, a die-hard fan who sat next to me in the northeast corner of the stadium. "And I want to see if he can throw the ball."
There you have it. It made perfect sense.
The Buckeye Nation is sensing something magical about the still teenage phenom from Jeannette, a town in Pennsylvania so small that its entire population could fill Ohio Stadium 10 times over.
On a sun-drenched day, in front of his faithful followers, Pryor delivered the magic they desired to see with their own eyes.
His two long touchdown passes were things of beauty.
The first was a 44-yard rainbow that landed perfectly in the hands of Washington as he crossed into the end zone.
On the second, Pryor zipped a pass on a line through two defenders to Ray Small, who turned that spectacular pass and catch into a touchdown as he zigged and zagged through defenders into the end zone.
Pryor finished 13-of-18 passing for 191 yards and the two scores. More importantly, there was no sign of the awkward, shotput-like throwing motion he sometimes displayed last season.
"I'm getting better at those little things—footwork, throwing the ball in there, and learning the offense," Pryor said.
His coach agreed. "I thought Terrelle threw it extremely well," said Tressel, who was so pleased that he deviated from the pre-game plan by holding Pryor out of the fourth quarter and shortening the period from 12 minutes to eight.
Many fans saw what they needed to see by halftime—Pryor's two touchdown passes came within 30 seconds of one another to end the first half—and they made their way out of the stadium at the half.
Those that stayed cheered loudly when the public address announcer revealed the official attendance midway through the third quarter.
"Today's official attendance is 95,722, which sets the Ohio Stadium and national spring game attendance records."
Icing on the cake.
Check out this cool time lapse capture of Ohio Stadium filling with fans on Saturday.
JIM TRESSEL SHEDS THE VEST
Coach Tressel seems to be having a great time this spring. The usually close to the vest coach has been looser, more open.
Tressel did little coaching during the game. He seemed to be having too much fun on the sidelines.
At one point he paused behind the Scarlet bench and joked with former Buckeye stars Ginn, Chris "Beanie" Wells, and Bobby Carpenter.
The fun trickled into Tressel's post-game press conference.
When asked about Pryor's early exit in the third quarter, Tressel answered in perfect deadpan.
"He was talking trash and he got ejected, right?"
The reporter pressed, "You tossed him?"
"Tossed him. Tired of his stuff," the coach said smiling as he answered.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
On the size of the crowd in Ohio Stadium for the spring game...
"That's the Buckeye Nation for you—it's amazing what this fanbase is like," freshman lineman Jack Mewhort said. "At the beginning of the game I couldn't even hear the snap count, and one of the older guys just said, 'get used to it.'"
OTHER NOTABLE SPRING GAME ATTENDANCES
Penn State: 76,500