Braxton Miller is a gamer. Ask any Ohio State aficionado, and they'll tell you the same. Whether it's making plays with his arm, or his legs, Miller poses the threat of a walking home run every time he steps on the field. That kind of play-making ability pays off at anytime, but especially late in games, when all it can take is big run here, or a long pass there to turn the tide of a contest around completely. As it sits, Miller is the current FBS leader for quarterbacks in game-winning touchdown drives in regulation or overtime, with six, with a whole senior year left to play – let's hope that number doesn't grow by too much; Buckeye hearts can only take so much. Let's takes a look at all six of those late game heroics, from the (forgettable) 2011 season, to the 2013 incarnation of The Game. Strap in, time for a nice walk down memory lane.
October 29, 2011: Wisconsin Badgers
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Anyone who believed that that Buckeyes team belonged on the same field as that Wisconsin team on paper: get real. The Badgers boasted one of, if not the most prolific offenses in school history, with now Super Bowl champ QB Russell Wilson, running backs Montee Ball and James White, and receivers Jared Abbrederis and Nick Toon. Even coming to the 'Shoe in primetime, many experts expected the Badgers, coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State, to promptly roll over the Buckeyes. The Bucks fought throughout the entirety of the game, holding a lead for the majority of the second half, until Wisconsin marched back behind Wilson and Abbrederis to take a 29-26 lead late in the fourth quarter.
But Miller, in the game that jumpstarted his young career, wouldn't let it end there. On his defining play, four plays after the Buckeyes took over with 70 ticks on the clock, he rolled right and threw deep into the end zone, finding freshman receiver Devin Smith for the go-ahead touchdown with 20-seconds left to play. Miller-time. With a final hold by the defense, the Buckeyes would hold on for a 33-29 victory, adding life to a season slipping away, and sending Wisconsin to its second heartbreak in as many weeks.
September 15, 2012: California Golden Bears
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Not only did Braxton Miller lead the Buckeyes back against Cal, but he did it twice. Even though Ohio State started the game hot, building a 20-7 lead over the Golden Bears in the first half in the process, the offense went stagnant in the third quarter, while Cal came alive, taking the lead, 21-20. Enter Braxton Miller. #5 found tight end Jake Stoneburner to retake the lead, going up 26-21. A 2-point conversion later, the Bucks found themselves up, 28-21. However, that rally itself wouldn't be enough. Cal running back Brendan Bigelow, already having taken an 81-yard carry to the house, chipped off another long touchdown run, this time for 59 yards, knotting the game at 28.
The Bucks weren't done. With the fourth quarter nearing a close, Miller found Devin Smith wide open (sounds familiar, huh?) for a 72-yard touchdown pass, going up 35-28 for good for the win. After sputtering, Miller got the Buckeyes back on track for the W.
November 17, 2012: at Wisconsin Badgers
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Miller certainly has a penchant for breaking Badgers hearts, huh? Not that OSU partisans will complain. Ohio State was riding a 10-0 record as they marched into Camp Randall. Ohio State's defense had held the Badgers in check for most of the game, holding them to seven points well into the fourth quarter, but not without a very fortunate bounce. Running back Montee Ball was well on his way to the end zone, ready to break the NCAA career mark for touchdowns, when he fumbled after the ball was popped out by Ryan Shazier and ultimately recovered by Ohio State.
Despite keeping Wisconsin out of the endzone for the most part, the Buckeyes had only managed 14 points themselves, one of those scores coming off of a Philly Brown punt return for six. The potent Scarlet and Gray offense had been neutralized.
Wisconsin had one last ditch effort to tie the game, which they did. A Curt Phillips touchdown pass with 8 seconds left to play forced overtime with both sides locked at 14.
Quiet for most of the afternoon, Braxton Miller stepped up and made a few key reads and runs, as he took the Buckeyes swiftly down the field to start the overtime period. He rushed for 12 yards in overtime, including the 8-yard scamper that set up a first-and-goal on the 2, allowing for the Carlos Hyde game winner. The Buckeye defense would come up again with another stop, and Ohio State would move on to it's annual date with Michigan with it's perfect record intact. Braxton Miller's personal one against Wisconsin remained likewise.
October 5, 2013: at Northwestern Wildcats
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From the get-go, Northwestern was out to prove that it could hang with the best the Big Ten had to offer, and with about 10 minutes left in the game, up 30-27, it looked like they were about to prove just that.
Northwestern was firing from all cylinders on offensel QB Trevor Siemian threw 245 yards and two touchdowns against a defense missing one of its leaders in safety Christian Bryant. Kain Colter completed all 12 of his passes for 98 yards and had a touchdown catch early in the game. WR Rashad Lawrence had 149 yards receiving, and RB Venric Mark ran for 60 yards after missing three games with a lower body injury. However, the Buckeye offense had an answer and would end up playing a major role in deciding the outcome.
Despite riding Carlos Hyde for the majority of the game (168 yards, 3 touchdowns) and despite a poor showing for most of the game (3 turnovers, 0 touchdowns), Miller completed four of four passes for 64 yards to spark the game deciding, 8 play, 81-yard touchdown drive, to help give the Buckeyes a 34-30 lead, stepping up right when his team needed him most.
After stopping Colter on a 4th-and-1, the Buckeyes were able to preserve the win, adding another touchdown off a failed Northwestern lateral in the waning seconds. The Buckeyes would win 40-30, moving on to 6-0 for the season, and extending the nation's longest win streak to 18. Despite having a quiet night on the whole, Miller still made plays when they truly needed to be made.
October 19, 2013: Iowa Hawkeyes
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The Hawkeyes have always been known for their tough, smash mouth style of play, and the Buckeyes got a taste of that early and often.
Iowa used a constant mix up of touch running, play action, and short passes to move the ball at will against the Buckeye defense, taking an early lead that wouldn't be given up until the third quarter.Their attack was balanced for the most part: QB Jake Rudock throwing for 245 yards and 3 touchdowns, and the Hawkeyes by committee rushing attack gaining 130 yards.
In the third, Braxton Miller orchestrated a 10 play, 75-yard drive for the go ahead score, 31-24, with just over 13 minutes to play. On the following OSU possession, Miller again would lead another long drive, this one 11 plays, 64 yards and capped by a field goal, expanding the lead to 10.
Ohio State would go on to win the game with the final score of 34-24, with Miller having arguably his most efficient game as a Buckeye thus far, going 22-of-27 for 222 yards, and 2 touchdowns, with no interceptions. The then perfect record of the Urban-era would march on.
November 30, 2013: at Michigan
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What a wild ride this one was.
An instant classic between two bitter rivals gave fans a shootout, as Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner threw for 451 yards and 4 touchdowns, seemingly saving his best game as a Wolverine for the biggest of stages. The Buckeyes had no answer for the Wolverines' attack – except to also keep scoring.
Carlos Hyde continued his late season tear, rattling off 221 yards and a score, while also committing a costly turnover, giving Michigan life after they had seemingly been put away with a two touchdown lead.
While Braxton Miller himself had a spectacular showing, rushing for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns, as well as passing for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns, he saved once again some magic for the end of the game, ripping off a huge 32-yard run to help catalyze the Buckes on a six play, 65 yard touchdown drive that would put them ahead for good, 42-35, with 2:20 left to play.
Michigan would of course have one more final chance to either tie the game or play for the win. They rolled the dice on the latter, and I think we all know how that panned out:
Photo Credit: ESPN
Giving quarterbacks 'wins' is almost akin to awarding them to starting pitchers. In some of the victories, Miller in particular played quite poorly, and ultimately for all Miller can control, there's much happening where he's at the will of his teammates.
For Ohio State fans though, it's certainly good to know that they do have an extremely talented and more than capable quarterback at the helm in 2014, with plenty of experience in late game moments.
There's an awful lot of quarterbacks that could be under center for Ohio State this coming fall, but you won't find many better than the one the Buckeyes will be going back into the trenches with.