Cody Cousino / Photo editor
During what has been a rocky 2011 Ohio State football season, it’s been tough to not hit the panic button and wonder if Braxton Miller would ever become the quarterback Buckeye fans anticipated him being when he was named the top quarterback recruit in the nation a year ago. Although not always his fault, conservative play calling and his sudden inability to throw a spiral left many worried Buckeye fans doubting that Miller could eventually progress into the next great Buckeye quarterback.
Following Saturday’s 33-29 victory over Wisconsin, any doubts about Miller had suddenly been erased.
With OSU football legends Eddie George and Shawn Springs in attendance, Miller played the best game of his young college career on Saturday, as he rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns and added 89 yards and another touchdown through the air.
And oh, what a touchdown it was.
With the Buckeyes trailing by three with less than a minute left and poised to suffer their latest heartbreak, Miller scrambled right and then moved within inches of the line of scrimmage before launching the ball 40 yards and into the arms of fellow freshman Devin Smith for the game-winning touchdown. For OSU fans who have become all too accustomed to fourth quarter collapses this season, it was unlike anything that any Buckeye fan had seen from the Scarlet and Gray.
Whether it was Maurice Clarett’s thrashing of Texas Tech in 2002, Troy Smith’s improbable victory over Michigan in 2004, or Terrelle Pryor’s game-winning touchdown run against Wisconsin in 2008, many OSU greats have a signature moment that signifies the beginning of their Buckeye legacies. Miller’s quasi-Hail Mary on Saturday was just that.
And while there’s still room for improvement in Miller’s game, as you’d generally like to see a quarterback throw for 100, if not 200, yards, the rest of the season sets up nicely for Miller to make those gains.
The Buckeyes will take on lowly Big Ten opponents Indiana and Purdue in the next two weeks, before match-ups with currently ranked Penn State and Michigan teams close out the regular season for OSU.
Should Penn State, which still faces Nebraska and Wisconsin, lose a game in addition to a potential loss to the Buckeyes, OSU will control its own fate in the Big Ten Leaders division. That means that four more wins would likely place the Buckeyes in the inaugural Big Ten championship game.
And while picking up wins over Penn State and Michigan may seem tough, they also now seem far from impossible for the Buckeyes, thanks to improved play from Miller, the looming return of top-receiver DeVier Posey, and a new pistol formation that seems to have brought out the best in both Miller and running back Daniel “Boom” Herron.
A potential win in the Big Ten championship game would land the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl for just the third time in the past 16 years — an accomplishment that even the most optimistic OSU fan thought was out of reach three weeks ago. Should that be the Buckeyes’ fate following the 10 months of turmoil this program has endured, that legend that Miller started on Saturday is only going to grow.