Bielema Sees Some Russell Wilson in Braxton Miller’s Game
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Bret Bielema knows a thing or two about Ohio State quarterbacks.
Most of what he knows, he would probably like to forget.
Since the 42-year old Iowa grad became the head coach at Wisconsin back in 2006, his Badgers have just one victory over the Buckeyes. It was a huge one back in 2010, when Ohio State came to Madison as the undefeated No. 1 team in America.
Bielema’s boys got the better of Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor on that day, thanks in large part to a 97-yard kick return from David Gilreath and constant pressure from J.J. Watt.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Otherwise, Bielema has never won a game as the head coach at Wisconsin against an OSU quarterback. He lost his first meeting with Todd Boeckman back in 2007, went 1-2 against Pryor in three meetings and then dropped what looked like a sure victory in Columbus last season against Braxton Miller.
The rookie quarterback torched Bielema’s defense on a 44-yard touchdown run that gave Ohio State a 26-14 lead in the fourth quarter, and he would win the game on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith with just 20 seconds on the clock.
It was a punch to the gut for Bielema, but not because Miller’s ability took him by surprise.
“I go back to high school, you knew there was a tremendous athlete and a tremendous kid,” Bielema said this week during his press conference in Madison.
“We tried to recruit him as well, just a really, really gifted human being. Live arm last year, didn't know how accurate it was, but this year that's probably the thing, his accuracy. Probably a little bit of a combination of, A, one more year experience, but also the scheme they put in around him.”
Miller is putting up big numbers in his first season running Urban Meyer’s new offense in Columbus. He’s teetering on the verge of a Heisman campaign, even with two weeks left, and his performance as a sophomore has reminded Bielema of the guy who ran his football team a year ago.
“I'm not saying he's Russell Wilson, but he carries a lot of those same things,” Bielema said of Miller.
“I think that's why Russell, last year after the game and everything that happened there, Russell sought him out. He'd kind of been hearing about him and who he is and what he is.”
As the Badgers and Buckeyes prepare to meet again on the field of battle up in Madison, Bielema was asked to compare Ohio State’s sophomore quarterback to the guy who came up to Camp Randall and beat Wisconsin on a last-second touchdown as a freshman back in 2008.
“I guess obviously the two starting quarterbacks last to play at Ohio State, but no comparison,” Bielema said of Miller and Pryor.
“I've been a huge fan of Braxton's. I saw him as a junior in high school. We recruited Josh Harrison from his high school. So had a chance to be around him and his high school coaches, see what kind of person he is. He just exudes everything you would like in the world of college football. I think he's just a tremendous talent too.”
The Badgers have faced some good quarterbacks this season, including Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez and Nathan Scheelhaase at Illinois. None of them, however, present quite the challenge Miller will on Saturday as the undefeated Buckeyes come to town.
“Taylor plays in a system that really isn't like Ohio State's,” Bielema added.
“To go to where we are today, Scheelhaase was a little bit banged up. Purdue played three different quarterbacks. Michigan State plays a drop back style. So it was hard to get a read there.”
Outside of Martinez – who threw for 181 and ran for 107 in a Cornhuskers victory – the Badgers haven’t really played any quarterbacks even close to Miller’s level this season. It’s not just No. 5, but he really makes everything go for the Buckeyes.
“Then just good players around him to make him look good as well,” Bielema said.
“I just wish we didn't have to play him every year because he truly is special.”
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