Three years ago a freshman quarterback named Terrelle Pryor came of age with a fourth quarter drive at Wisconsin to lead the Buckeyes to a come from behind last minute victory. Flash forward to last night. Another freshman signal caller, Braxton Miller, showed his toughness, moxie (sorry Matt McGloin), and competitive spirit, when he led OSU to a last minute, come from behind win over those same Badgers. Talk about an eerie pre-Haloween occurrence.
Don't get me wrong. This was a very different game than the one Ohio State won 20-17 at Madison back on October 4, 2008. And whereas the winning drive on that evening was marked by control and precision, last night's was more a case of an improvised, desperate, backyard play. Still, the similarities are striking.
Pryor was a prodigy who took over for a senior quarterback and showed great promise, but had yet to put it all together. But that one drive in Madison proved he had more than potential. Although he would still take his lumps after that victory, there was no more debate about whether or not it was his team, and he never looked back for three years, leading the Bucks to a number of big wins.
Last night at a packed Shoe it was deja vu all over again. A freshman ballyhooed as the next superstar took a reeling team on his shoulders, and led them on a drive that took down a good team, and helped salvage a season.
Miller is clearly in a different situation, however. Although he, too, replaced a senior quarterback, it was not one who had tasted success, as Todd Boeckman had, but instead a highly ineffective one in Joe Bauserman. Miller also does not have the same kind of experienced talent around him that was at Terrelle's disposal. If Pryor was needed to spark the 2008 team, Miller is needed to save this squad. Talk about pressure. And last night, in front of a national audience, he came of age. Sure, he had played well at Nebraska before an ankle injury sidelined him late. And, yes, he had managed the team to a solid win at Illinois. But this was the night Braxton put it all together, making several huge plays with his legs and his arm. And this was the night when he showed the kind of ice in the veins that defines great quarterbacks. It was Miller time in Columbus, and hopefully the first of many big victories he leads the Buckeyes to in the next 3 1/2 years.
-This is as good a blocking team as I have seen at Ohio State in years. With Mike Adams back in the fold and all the key components healthy and eligible, the offensive line is very strong, especially in run blocking. Meanwhile Reid Fragel is like having a sixth lineman out there, and Zach Boren just destroys people as the best blocking fullback Scarlet and Gray in a long, long time.
-I have a man crush on John Simon. Just kidding, but I love this young man. He is the epitome of a Buckeye in my opinion, combining talent, hard work, and determination. Even being held on nearly every play he is still a difference maker.
-Jim Bollman can't leave town soon enough. Every game I get more frustrated with him. Bollman refuses to throw screens or short passes to guys coming out of the backfield, and fails to realize he has a special tight end in Jake Stoneburner. He calls runs up the middle even when there are nine guys in the box, and wastes almost every first down play. If not for Miller's amazing escapibility converting third and longs into first downs, the Buckeyes would be punting on nearly every drive.
-Luke Fickell doesn't get Tresselball. He blew a 27-6 lead at Nebraska, and then watched Wisconsin score twice in the final five minutes Saturday night, after victory seemed to be secure. Moving to a zone, prevent defense was a huge mistake in my opinion, and the collapse mirrored what took place at Lincoln three weeks earlier. I like Luke a lot, but he is no Jim Tressel!
-The Buckeyes may be wounded but they are still dangerous. I don't think anyone in the Big Ten wants to play OSU down the stretch. With Miller getting better, Boom back in the groove, the defense improving, and Posey soon to join the fun, this is a team that is approaching being really good. And who would have thought that a month ago?