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Posted on Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football team gobbles up two running QBs, ready for another in Ohio State's Braxton Miller

By Kyle Meinke


Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller has passed for 762 yards and nine touchdowns and run for 595 yards and six touchdowns.

Associated Press

The fulcrum of Ohio State's offense is a running quarterback.

Could that be an advantage for the Michigan football team?

The past two weeks, the Wolverines have faced Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez , two of the Big Ten's best mobile quarterbacks outside of their own Denard Robinson.

Michigan was suffocating both times, and steamrolled both offenses en route to easy wins.

Next up: Ohio State's Braxton Miller, a freshman who has been one of the Buckeyes' best offensive threats heading into this weekend's game against No. 17 Michigan (noon, ABC).

"He’s just flat-out a playmaker, if he’s going back in play-action or whatever it might be," Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said this week. "He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a rather big guy and has great feet.

"He’s difficult to defend."

Yet, Michigan (9-2, 5-2) has proven to be capable of defending quarterbacks such as Miller.

The Wolverines were successful two weeks ago against Scheelhaase, sacking him four times and limiting him to 184 total yards -- including just 14 rushing. Last week, Martinez completed just 9-of-23 passes and needed 16 rushes to gain 49 yards.

Michigan held Illinois to 214 yards, 162.2 off its season average, and Nebraska to 260, 131 yards off its season average. Those are encouraging numbers heading into another matchup against a team that relies on a mobile quarterback.


Michigan defensive lineman Mike Martin, right, celebrates with Ryan Van Bergen after making a play in the 2009 game against Ohio State. The Wolverines' defensive line is looking to contain the run Saturday against Buckeyes' quarterback Braxton Miller.

Ohio State has struggled this year offensively, averaging 24.3 points per game and only 22.1 in Big Ten games. That's eighth in the league. Miller has been the Buckeyes' best threat.

He has run for at least 99 yards in three of Ohio State's past four games and has six rushing scores in that span. The Buckeyes featured him more in quarterback draws in recent weeks, and he's also been successful in the speed option out of the pistol formation. He also scrambles well when the passing game breaks down.

A key to stopping Miller could be forcing him to the air. He has completed less than half of his throws in his last three games (20-of-46 for 270 yards, three touchdowns and one interception), and the Buckeyes went 1-2 in that stretch.

While Miller ran for a team-high 105 yards in a loss last week against Penn State, he was 7-of-17 passing for 83 yards. He has eclipsed 100 yards passing only twice this year, and completed just one pass in a win against Illinois on Oct. 15.

"He still has to become more and more consistent in the passing game, and I think that is kind of reflective of everyone overall that is involved with him," Buckeyes offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said, alluding to protection breakdowns and problems in the receiving corps.

Nebraska, like Ohio State, is one-dimensional in favor of the run on offense. The Wolverines had little problem with disposing of the Cornhuskers, 45-17.

Ohio State, though, benefits from the return of star wideout Devier Posey, who will be playing in his second game back from suspension. The senior had four catches for 66 yards last week, and is a leader of the offense.

That could open up things for the Buckeyes in the passing game, where no one stepped up as a playmaker in Posey's absence. However, Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said the Wolverines still need to focus first on stopping the run.

"Our approach, in everything we do, no matter who we’re playing, is always stop the run first, whichever way it comes," Mattison said. "To be a good defense, you have got to be good against the run. There’s no gray area in that."

The Buckeyes have beaten Michigan in the past without much threat of a passing game, including in 2001, '02 and 2008. They've won seven in a row in the series, and nine of 10 overall.

Last year, Ohio State beat Michigan with the pass and run, with dual-threat quarterback Terrell Pryor wreaking havoc on the Wolverines' beleaguered defense. Pryor was 18-of-27 passing for 220 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 49 yards on 12 carries.

Pryor, however, departed for the NFL in the offseason after being ensnared in a memorabilia-for-benefits scandal that also cost his coach, Jim Tressel, his job.

That has thrust Miller into the spotlight as a true freshman. He's performed well, but The Game will be different than any other he's played in.

"All we can do is try to explain, show him, have people relate to him who have been there on the team," Bollman said. "But as far as everything, there comes a point and time where he's going to have to experience it. He's going to have to walk out that tunnel himself and see what it's really like."

Of course, Michigan's defense also is nothing like last year's. The Wolverines have shown great improvement across the board, including in scoring defense, where they're sixth in the country, and rush defense, where they're 41st.

Senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said the key to Michigan's improvement against the run this year has been its aggressive approach.

"There's a lot of times we have eight men in the box, which wasn't necessarily the case in the past couple of years," Van Bergen said. "We have a more aggressive mentality. We attack blockers rather than read where they are going and try to make plays."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

All I can think is: This is sooo different and sooo much better a time leading up to The Game. Many of us had almost forgot what it's like to have so much more confidence (compared to that feeling of dread) on pre-game Fridays. We have Brady Hoke, Al Borges, Greg Mattison and Michigan Team 132 to thank for this feeling. I know the players on Michigan Team 132 are all going for a statement in this game. The seniors in particular want to make this last game against TSiO a lasting message of victory. But the undergrads have also suffered 1, 2 or 3 years of hurt so they'll be resolved to end that torment once and for all. Like others, I do feel some regret that TSiO will not bring the same coach and all the same players to Michigan Stadium tomorrow. But it's fair to counter with the fact that this TSiO team will be getting a thorough "introduction" to their own future when it comes to facing the Michigan Wolverines. To them I say: Welcome, Nut State, to the Big House. ;-)


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

The spread may not be the answer- but neither is having no defense against it.


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

"More and more of the big ten now goes with spread attacks and running quarterbacks -Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State" Have you noticed that none of those teams are anywhere close to winning their respective divisions, and all of them have at least 3 losses in the B1G ? NW ... 5th of 6 in the Legends MINN 6th of 6 " " " IL ...... 5th of 6 in the Leaders NE ..... 3rd of 6 in the Legends OSU .. 4th of 6 in the Leaders The spread is not the answer ... just ask RR how that worked out for him in the B1G. As Coach Hoke and his staff have shown, a solid to great D, good special teams, and a good O (pro style or spread or hybrid) are the keys to a winning season. Go Blue ! Destroy Ohio !


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 2:24 p.m.

We owe Denard Robinson a lot. More and more of the big ten now goes with spread attacks and running quarterbacks -Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State (now and even more so under Meyer). When Michigan plays these teams- our defense is dominate. After practicing against Denard, their inferior versions of the running quarterback are no problem. Great coaching by Mattison, but do we all remember the Carr years? Teams with speed and running quarterbacks humiliated us. Oregon state, Utah, Appalachia State. How Carr beat Florida remains a mystery to me. And when were we ever beaten by speed this year? Never. RR' s inferior recruits don't seem to lack that on either side of the ball. Which brings up my hopes. That Michigan emphasizes speed as much as bulk in their coming years and recruits speed. That Michigan always has a dual threat quarterback on staff and enough dual threat plays in practice to never go back to the Lloyd Carr years of losing to Appalachia state and every spread team they played.


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

I think all of Big College programs are going to want at least a running QB, it's "the thing" now. I don't think it's hurting to use that - via a hybrid offensive scheme. But I agree: the "Pure Spread" looks more and more like a pipe dream as it's been tried by a number of schools. Takes too much time to develop and learn, the recruiting is different and doesn't always produce the balance needed. My impression is that the Pure Spread will fail because it's too dependent on the players executing perfectly at top speed on every play. It's not just a matter of conditioning: a small error in a handoff often results in either getting snuffed, turning over the ball or just a broken play (wasted time & opportunity). Good example: Denard Robinson - fabulous one time, goat the next (under the Spread system).


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

Defenses learn and adapt. The spread has been around long enough know defensive coordinators have been adapting to the speed required. That was not so much true even four or five years ago. Urban Meyer said as much on an ESPN pre-game segment earlier this season. There's a balance of size, strength and speed that's needed. LSU's defense is the protype of the strong/fast defense. USC's defense did a fine job with Oregon's spread. We've hashed and re-hashed the issue of RR's recruits. Obviously they weren't complete busts. But just as obviously we have depth issues. Mattison's genius shows in how he's taken what he had and used it to its greatest effect. No defensive coordinator worth his salt is ignorant of the need for speed. Mattison is worth an ocean's worth of salt. He gets it. And he'll continue to get it into the future.


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

would love to have seen Michigan play the Vest, with all his thugs, Pryor, and all the other cheaters and criminals. We'd have won that game 20-17. But this will be different. Michigan wins big tomorrow. 31-10.


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 12:21 p.m.

This belongs in Sports Section...not in News Section.


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 12:04 p.m.

Michigan is going to smash some buckeyes. It's Michigan's turn now. Michigan 35 -- Nutville 14. GO BLUE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!