2011 was a hard year to be a Buckeye. It’s not necessary to go into specifics for the sake of everyone’s sanity, but needless to say losing a star QB, RB, WR, OL and living legend coach resulted in tough times for Columbus.
Interim head coach, Luke Fickell led his team out onto the field for some early season MACtion against the Akron Zips. The Silver Bullets pitched a shut-out and starting QB Joe Bauserman was made to look like Joe Namath, throwing for 163 yards and 3 TDs against Akron’s paperbag D.
The honeymoon was short-lived however, as the Bucks came out flat against Toledo in week two, squeaking by for a 27-22 win. The Scarlet and Gray would need a last second stop on 4th and 6 to remain unbeaten in 90 straight years against in-state opponents.
The Toledo struggles would be a harbinger for things to come as everything fell apart in week three against the Hurricanes. The game would see multiple QB changes from Fickell as he tried unsuccessfully to get anything going. Ultimately, the Buckeyes weren’t even able to muster a TD on their way to a 24-6 defeat.
A 37-17 win against Colorado the following week would serve to sate Buckeye Nation for a moment. The victory looked fairly pedestrian on paper, but was significant as it symbolized a change in direction for the Buckeyes. Bauserman proved unsuccessful under center, opening a door for true freshman, Miller to get his first start. Miller would not disappoint tossing for 2 TDs while also rushing for 80+ yards on the ground.
It seemed the Buckeyes had found their man, but in the following week the combination of Miller’s inexperience, coupled with a stout Michigan State D would result in a lackluster 10-7 loss. Both Miller and Bauserman performed so poorly, that Fickell mentioned in a presser he was considering opening up the QB job to all four contenders on the squad (Miller, Bauserman, Guiton and Graham).
Ultimately, Fickell decided to stay with No.5 in week six against the Cornhuskers and immediately it seemed the gamble paid off as Braxton and company would jump out to a 27-6 lead. Unfortunately Miller would sprain his right ankle in the third quarter and would not return. Bauserman would step in to spell Braxton and would complete only one of ten passes the rest of the way. The abysmal performance led to the birth of the Bauserbomb and catalyzed the biggest comeback in Nebraska football history.
The next week Fickell would lean heavily on RB Dan Herron in his first game back since suspension. The Bucks threw the ball only 4 times and would complete only 1 pass (a TD to TE Jake Stoneburner) to beat the Fighting Illini 17-7 and end their two-game losing streak.
Sitting at 4-3 (1-2 in the B1G) OSU was set to meet the #15 Wisconsin Badgers for a Halloween weekend matchup in the ‘Shoe. Expectations weren’t incredibly high for the Scarlet and Gray. The combination of Russell Wilson and Montee Ball seemed tailor-made for Buckeye beating, but as any battle-tested OSU fan knows…anything can happen on the banks of the Olentangy.
Setting the Stage
The Badgers would get the ball first and were stone-walled after just four plays. The Buckeyes weren’t able to capitalize and were forced to give the ball back. On Wisconsin’s next drive they would put together a 69-yard march culminating in a 22-yard pass to Ball for a TD. 7-0 Wisconsin and that’s where the score would stay for the first quarter.
Heading into the second, the two teams would trade possessions until 8:41 when kicker, Drew Basil was able to nail home a 39-yard FG to put the Bucks on the board. With the Silver Bullets largely shutting down the potent Badger offense, the score would sit at 7-3 heading into the locker room.
The Buckeyes would receive the ball to start the third and immediately began to make some noise bolstered by a Boom Herron 57-yard rush on the first play from scrimmage. The scamper would position the Buckeyes at the Wisconsin 18 and set up OSU for their first TD of the day: a Braxton Miller rush for a 1-yard TD.
The Scarlet and Gray would hold the Badgers to a three-and-out on their next possession. During Wisconsin’s punt, Corey Brown broke through the line to block the kick, setting the Buckeyes up on the Wisconsin 1-yard line.
Just three plays later Jordan Hall would find pay-dirt putting the Buckeyes up 10-7. The Badgers would answer on their very next possession, stringing together an 83-yard drive to narrow the lead at 17-14.
Heading into the fourth, fans on both sides were tense. The pace of the game was largely dictated by the defensive squads and all signs pointed to a final quarter that featured more of the same. Few, if any, predicted the offensive firestorm that was on the horizon.
OSU opened up the scoring with a Basil 22-yard FG and a Braxton Miller 44-yard TD run to put the Bucks up 26-14. The Badgers would counter on their next possession with a Wilson to WR Jared Abbrederis TD to make it 26-21 with roughly 4 minutes to go.
With their lead waning, the Buckeyes desperately needed a score. They wouldn’t get it on their next series and were forced to punt. Wisconsin immediately took advantage of the opportunity via a Wilson to Abbrederis 49-yard pass and subsequent two-point conversion to go up 29-26 with only two-minutes to go.
Suddenly the Buckeyes found themselves down in a game they had led most of the way.
Jordan Hall refused to accept that reality returning the Wisconsin kick 42-yards to mid-field. With time running down the Buckeyes were able to string together a few modest gains and had a first down in three plays. But the yards weren’t coming fast enough. With only one timeout left, Fickell chose to get a play in as the chains were being moved, snapping the ball with roughly 30 seconds to play. What happened next is still being talked about in Columbus.
The Turning Point: Braxton Goes For It All
Braxton received the snap in the shotgun, looked for open receivers and saw none. A Badger defensive lineman flushed him to his right and Braxton took off for what looked to be a a gain of one before he scampered out of bounds. But Miller had other ideas. Keeping his eyes downfield he let the ball go right at the line of scrimmage. Behold.
The audio really doesn’t do this play justice, as the entire stadium exploded in a raucous celebration.
Amidst the chaos, Braxton tore off his chin-straps and smiled at the camera, secure in his knowledge that he had just submitted his own entry into the litany of amazing moments witnessed at Ohio Stadium.
The score would put the Buckeyes up 33-29 and would be both the turning point and the nail in the coffin for the Badgers.
The win improved the Buckeyes to 5-3 (2-2 in conference) and kept them in contention for the B1G title. Unfortunately the Wisconsin play would be one of the last magical moments for the 2011 Bucks. Over the next five games they would go 1-4, finishing 6-7 on the season.
While the year as a whole was a low-light for the program, Miller’s Turning Point in the Wisconsin game will forever stand as an amazing moment in Buckeye history.
Until next week, Turning Points...out.