Buckeyes Ran “Playground Routes” on Winning Touchdown
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It looked like an artistic masterpiece, but Saturday’s game-winning pass from Braxton Miller to Devin Smith turned out to be more like a finger-painting.
Devin Smith makes the winning catch against Wisconsin.
Photo by Dan Harker
Trailing by three points in the final minute of the game, Miller winked at Ohio State Head Coach Luke Fickell before delivering the knockout punch to Wisconsin on a 40-yard touchdown strike to his friend and fellow freshman in the North end zone of Ohio Stadium.
The play looked like it was perfectly draw up, other than Miller’s heroics in the backfield which allowed him to get off the heave just before he crossed the line of scrimmage.
Smith was standing wide open in the end zone and hauled in the pass like a punt just before being drilled by Wisconsin cornerback Marcus Cromartie. The play was shown over and over on the highlights, but that wasn’t exactly how the coaches drew it up.
“We were scrambling,” sophomore wide receiver Corey Brown said Tuesday.
“We usually don’t switch sides with the formations, but they told us to switch sides so we were wasting time. They didn’t give us a play or nothing, so we were out there just running playground routes.”
Actually, the OSU coaches did try to call a play. It turns out they were just fortunate it never got to most of the players on the field.
“There was a lack of communication on the players part,” Brown said after practice.
“I just think we were so into the moment that our emotions kind of took over. We weren’t really listening to anybody, we were just trying to hustle.”
The Buckeyes had just picked up a key first down on a three-yard run by Boom Herron on 3rd-and-1. They had used a timeout to set up that play and they were scrambling on first down with the clock ticking towards the 30-second mark.
All they needed was a field goal to tie the game, which is why everyone—including the Badgers—expected Miller to pull the ball down and get out of bounds to stop the clock.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Instead, Miller kept his eyes down field as he scrambled to his right. That’s when he spotted Smith, who had gotten behind Wisconsin’s defense on a deep post route over the middle.
“I think there was only one wideout, which was Devin, who got the real play,” Brown said.
“I think I ran a deep out or something like that.”
Outside of Smith, Miller didn’t even know where his receivers were going to be on the play. They didn’t even know where they were going to be, which actually may have helped cause the confusion in Wisconsin’s defense.
The backside safety did not keep the play in front of him and Miller used Brown to decoy the other safety towards the sideline and away from Smith.
“Braxton told me he pointed to me to get the safety to run over so he could throw it to Devin,” Brown said.
“On his part, that was like a veteran move.”
This was only the fifth start of Miller’s young career, but already the freshman out of Wayne High School is starting to show signs of greatness that made him one of the most highly-coveted dual-threat quarterback prospects in the country.
“He’s getting more wise with the game of football and playing quarterback and I think that’s something that will continue to grow as the years go on for him,” said Smith, who has been on the receiving end of four of Miller’s six touchdown passes.
“I think at the beginning of the season he wanted to run but as he started playing more games he started realizing keep the play alive and if you can throw it throw it, and that’s what he did.”
It was a legendary pass by a kid who has not thrown the ball much in his first season at the helm of the offense. Miller has completed 33 of his 63 passes this season for 492 yards, but he has yet to pass for more than 100 yards in a game since the season-opener against Akron.
“He’s starting to look more like a quarterback every day,” said Brown, who was one of the first players to click with Miller when he enrolled at Ohio State back in January.
“He’s getting better every week. It’s going to be scary to see him come Michigan week.”
If that’s the case, this offense could be pretty scary, especially considering the fact they will be getting DeVier Posey back from suspension a week earlier against Penn State.
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