Braxton Miller Hopes to Channel Recent Success Against Michigan
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Braxton Miller will be in uncharted waters at “The Big House” Saturday in Ann Arbor.
Only two freshmen quarterbacks have beaten the Wolverines since 1972 (the year freshmen were granted eligibility), and both of them came during the 2008 season when Michigan was just 3-9 under first-year head coach Rich Rodriguez.
One of those two freshmen was former Buckeye Terrelle Pryor and the other was Purdue’s Justin Siller, but neither of them did it in Michigan Stadium. That is the task assigned to Braxton Miller in his first game against Ohio State’s most bitter rival.
Photo by Dan Harker
“I think Braxton is ready for it,” fifth-year senior Boom Herron said.
“He is definitely ready for the challenge. That's why we work in practice and watch film and prepare.”
Miller only has eight starts under his belt heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale, the same as Pryor heading into his first Michigan game back in 2008. They have been handed a completely different set of circumstances, but Pryor was 7-1 as a starter and Miller is just 4-4.
He has been the spark for Ohio State’s otherwise anemic offense, however, since taking over for Joe Bauserman back in week four of the 2011 season.
“I'm excited for him. I think he plays best in big games,” center Michael Brewster said.
“I'll just make sure to tell him the same thing as usual, just take care of the ball and go out there and play like you know you can.”
So far, Miller has proven to be a very calm and collected kid. From his wink to coach Luke Fickell to his last-minute touchdown pass to Devin Smith against Wisconsin, Miller seems to have a rare calm under pressure.
“He reminds me of me, of the fact that he never gets too high or too low, he just stays right in the middle,” Brewster said.
“When things are going good he doesn't get too crazy and when things are going bad he doesn't freak out, he just always stays right in the middle and that's one of the things I like most about him. I think he's done a really good job and he's going to have a chance to be a great quarterback.”
Greatness at Ohio State is typically defined in this rivalry, whether that be for coaches or players. That’s only magnified for quarterbacks, especially with the recent success by both Pryor and Troy Smith.
The game itself presents another level of intensity that often overwhelms a young football player.
“Your heart’s beating a thousand beats a minute,” senior left tackle Mike Adams said.
“After that first hit, though, everything kind of slows down and you can really focus in. Just the intensity of the whole game is just awesome.”
In his first game against the Wolverines, Pryor completed only five of his 13 passes for 120 yards. He did throw a pair of touchdown passes to Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie, but also had a pick in Ohio State’s 42-7 win in Columbus.
The next year, Pryor threw for only 67 yards and a touchdown, but the Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines 21-10 in Ann Arbor. Pryor also ran for 74 yards in that game, but he never really had a ‘dominant’ game against the Wolverines.
Last season, when the Buckeyes cruised past Michigan 37-7, Pryor did throw for 220 yards and two touchdowns while picking up 49 more yards on the ground. That was nothing compared to the three starts Troy Smith made against the Wolverines.
From 2004-06, Smith was 69-of-101 for 857 yards and seven touchdowns. He also ran for a pair of scores, and it was really his legs that helped the Buckeyes upset Michigan in 2004. Smith completed 13 of his 23 passes in that game for 241 yards, but more importantly, he racked up 145 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
This team isn’t putting any pressure on Miller to be like Smith, who was in his third year at Ohio State before he started a game against Michigan.
“You can’t really put too much pressure on the kid because you over-think things too much and a great game turns into a horrible game,” Adams said.
“But he’s a big-time player and they say ‘big-time players make big plays in big games.’ So I don’t expect anything less from him.
Just as importantly, Miller won’t expect anything less from himself.
“I know he’s got the confidence and he knows he’s going to go out and play a good game,” Adams added.
“We’re all behind him and I’ll be blocking for him, so I can’t wait to see how he does.”
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