Wilson Hoping Indiana Won’t Get Braxton’s Best
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Indiana Head Coach Kevin Wilson is well aware of the challenge his team faces Saturday night under the lights in Bloomington.
Not only does Indiana host an undefeated Ohio State team coming off back-to-back wins over Michigan State and Nebraska – two of the better teams in the Big Ten Conference – but he has had visions of Braxton Miller dancing in his head ever since the Buckeye quarterback shredded the Hoosiers for 105 yards and a touchdown on the ground last season.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“He was a very dynamic true freshman, and in my opinion, we haven't seen his best because he's so young,” Wilson said this week as he prepares for a rematch with Miller and the Buckeyes.
“He will continue to grow. He has an unbelievable work ethic, drive, desire, and that's what you want a great football player to look like, and he's got a great future ahead of him.”
Miller has already run for more yards this season (763) in just six games than he did all of last year when he led the Buckeyes in rushing with 715 yards on the ground as a freshman.
He is also passing the ball much better this season – he’s completing over 61 percent of his passes compared to just 54 percent last year – which is the sign of a maturing quarterbac, at least according to Wilson.
“We've seen them making strides, but Braxton is the guy who makes it go because of his abilities,” Wilson said of Ohio State’s offense.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“He's the best runner on the field, and he's also a guy that they can throw the ball. Very seldom do you find guys that can really throw that can run, or guys that really can run that can throw."
He continued, “He's a little bit more of a dynamic runner than a thrower, but he throws the ball well and you have to commit so many guys up there, sometimes you take your eye off your target because you have to commit so many guys to the run.”
Indiana tried that approach a year ago. The Buckeyes were one of the worst passing teams in the country when Wilson brought his team to Columbus in week nine of the 2011 football season.
Ohio State was a 5-3 football team at the time, and Miller was coming off a heroic performance against Wisconsin under the lights at Ohio Stadium. He had run for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a win over the Badgers, and also threw the game-winning touchdown pass from 40 yards out in the final minutes of the game.
“Whether you're shadowing or spying him or just cancelling gaps and putting people on him, and as soon as someone takes their eye off the receiver, here comes the play-action pass and you can really get burned,” said Wilson, who has coached some dynamic football players in his career.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“But Braxton is a great player, plays physical for a quarterback. It's going to be a great challenge.”
Wilson actually had his Hoosiers on top of the Buckeyes, 10-0, in the first quarter of last year’s game. They were moving the football and holding Ohio State’s offense in check, right up until the moment Braxton Miller got loose in the open field.
Facing a 2nd-and-12 from his own 19-yard line, Miller took a snap in the shotgun with two receivers to his right and one to his left. The tight end, Jake Stoneburner, released up field on a quarterback draw play and took the outside linebacker out of the play.
Tailback Boom Herron sealed off the inside backer and Miller burst through the hole on his way to a school-record 81-yard touchdown run. He made two guys miss in the open field and got key blocks from wideouts Corey Brown and Devin Smith down near the Indiana 10-yard line as he jaunted into the end zone for a momentum-grabbing score.
Miller would also score from 20 yards out to give the Buckeyes a 27-20 lead at the end of three quarters. He only passed for 55 yards, but it was the first 100-yard rushing performance of his young career.
“They do a great job. I know their offensive coaches and line coach, and I know Coach Meyer in a reasonable way, but they were doing some of that last year,” Wilson said this week.
“The thing is that Braxton is in year two. And that's no disrespect to their coaches because they're doing a great job and doing some different things and taking advantage of his skill set, but in year two, he was going to be better than last year as a true freshman.”
Wilson did give credit to the new Ohio State coaches for developing Miller as a passer. He needs just 100 yards and four touchdowns through the air to eclipse his passing totals from all of last season.
“You've watched him set his feet and throw the ball now versus last year and that's coaching,” Wilson said.
“But that's also a kid that's committed to getting better, and he's playing at a good level. He's a great player.”
Miller has torched just about every defense he has faced so far this season. Wilson knows it’s going to be nearly impossible to shut him down completely, but they’re just hoping they can contain him.
“He's a great athlete and a great competitor and they have a great coaching staff, so hopefully we won't see his best on Saturday,” Wilson said, crossing his fingers.
“But he's a very special player, so what they're doing is great, but it's that kid too. I know of that kid and when you get chances to watch him I think he's probably one of the most dynamic kids (out there).”
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