4 years ago I sat in the north end zone row AA at a night time tilt between Ohio State and Penn State. It was the kind of game that would’ve made Bo and Woody proud, it was a 10-6 ugly defensive struggle that drained every ounce of energy and alcohol from my body.
The lasting memory of the game was watching Terrelle Pryor, the overhyped freshman sensation from just outside of Pittsburgh, PA hoist a bomb in the end zone only to have it intercepted right in front of me.
Pryor was a cocky cat who wasn’t used to failure much in his high school days and the end result had him crying with his helmet on as he sat on the OSU bench as time expired.
Pryor never did match his hype at OSU. Sure he won two BCS games and went 31-4, but in the big games when we needed a boost Pryor couldn’t provide it. He was a great numbers QB but you couldn’t count on him in the clutch (ahem Purdue game).
Fast forward to this past weekend. Same scenario for the Buckeyes but different situations. These Buckeyes were not a top ten force like they had been in the Pryor era. They were a 4-3 team trying to make something out of a season that started with scandal and morphed into a nightmare. They were facing a Wisconsin team that was coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State yet still had a shot to win the Rose Bowl.
The game was reminiscent of the Bucks loss to Nebraska earlier in the year, they looked better than their opponent but had allowed them back into the game thanks to poor defensive breakdowns that led to two Wisconsin scores in two minutes and a 28-26 deficit.
As the offense took the field for the last time I finally got a look at Braxton Miller the much ballyhooed QB from southwest Ohio who was a four-star recruit but lacked the national appeal that Pryor had. I had heard a little bit about him but hadn’t really seen him due to my work schedule (not having saturdays off sucks). He seemed decent but his stat sheets showed that he wasn’t a good passer at all (hence that 1-4 classic versus Illinois that OSU somehow won). Yet here he was taking the field trying to salvage what little bit of a season OSU had left.
With under a minute left Miller guided OSU into Wisconsin territory and set us up with a first and ten with under 40 seconds left. Miller took the snap dropping back deep, he felt the pressure collapsing around him and spun out and began to run for the first down as he approached the line of scrimmage Miller slowed up and right before he crossed the line of scrimmage he tossed a perfect bomb into the end zone that landed in freshman wide receiver Devin Smith’s hands. To say it was nuts at the bar I watched the game at would be an understatement. Pandemonium ensued and OSU was back on top for good thanks to a defensive stop in the last 20 seconds.
Miller saved our season but he did so much more than just that.
Miller did something no OSU QB since Craig Krenzel of all people could do, he came through in the clutch and in the process gave the Buckeyes hope for the future whether it’s next week or two years from now.
Miller came of age under the lights as a freshman and began his legacy. Unlike Pryor who was made off of his name alone Miller has done something to warrant the hype that is about to surround him at one of the biggest football schools in the country.
He put the team on his back for the final drive of the game, made a dazzling play and gave the Buckeyes a win and if they play their cards right the Buckeyes can still find themselves in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game and Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. Not bad for a kid who I wasn’t even sure was able to run an offense two days ago.
Honestly I like Miller more than Pryor, and not because of the scandal and backlash. He’s quicker, has a better arm and doesn’t seem hesitant in his decisions where as Pryor likes to take off at the first sign of danger. Miller seems like a natural at the position. If he can put the passing together next year then Miller could find himself as a darkhorse Heisman trophy candidate.
He has a long way to go interns of production numbers before he starts dreaming about awards but after this past Saturday he’s off to a great start.
Miller did what Pryor couldn’t do under the lights at The Shoe. He led the Buckeyes back from the dead and gave us all a reason to party until four in the morning.
Pryor got his hype from his name, Miller is about to get his from his play. The stories have already begun too. Just before he took the field Miller apparently looked at embattled coach Luke Fickells and winked at him before leading the winning drive.
Did it happen? Who knows. But with the result of the game it’s a hell of a story to tell people and a great way to begin a career.
I wish I was in the south end zone this time to see it.