COLUMBUS — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has described sophomore Braxton Miller as an athlete playing quarterback instead of a quarterback who makes athletic plays.
Miller’s performance in the Buckeyes’ 56-10 win over Miami (Ohio) was as up and down as it was during his freshman season, but Meyer said there were other signs Miller is heading in the right direction.
“The quarterback position is unique to all sports because he has to manage so much,” Meyer said. “He’s got to manage basically the entire offense. He’s got to stay positive and he has to be a leader.
“He showed that today. The way we started, I told him in the second quarter that he was doing a great job keeping it positive.”
The positivity had to be forced, as Miller and the offense sputtered, being forced to punt on their first four possessions. Miller had to learn Meyer’s up-tempo spread offense during the offseason, and the young quarterback couldn’t seem to get into a groove early.
“I’ll just say the first quarter threw us off a lot,” Miller said. “We came out there not attacking the things that we really wanted to attack. We were just trying to figure out what the defense was going to do.”
Miller said Meyer approached him and asked him what plays the quarterback would like the coach to run so that he could get comfortable and the Buckeyes could begin executing. Miller offered some suggestions, and Ohio State began to fly down the field for touchdowns.
“He works with you,” Miller said. “He’s a calm coach.”
Even when Ohio State began lighting up the scoreboard against the RedHawks, Miller still showed the inconsistency that has plagued him as a starter. He missed several wide-open receivers, and needed several of his teammates to make athletic catches to save wayward throws.
But there wasn’t much wrong with Miller’s legs, as he rushed 17 times for a career-high 161 yards, good enough to set the school’s single-game record by a quarterback. The previous record was 146 yards by Cornelius Greene against Wisconsin in 1974.
“I ran 17 times?” Miller said. “I didn’t realize that, but I’m fine with it.”
His coach was not, especially after Miller began suffering leg cramps in the third quarter and had to be replaced by backup Kenny Guiton.
“We ran Braxton too many times,” Meyer said. “We’d like to run him in the 10-12 range, and very few of those 17 were direct runs. There were some scrambles and some of them were plays where he read the defense or a defensive player and kept the ball.”
The most telling sequence of how Miller is able to jump from a high to a low within the flow of a game came in the second quarter when he was stripped of the ball, but sprinted through a handful of RedHawks to run it down and recover it. He ran a draw up the middle on the next play for a 33-yard gain to the Miami 9-yard line.
“You have to go out there and have fun,” Miller said. “Enjoy the time with your teammates and make sure you’re doing all the right things in a positive way. If you’re doing anything in the negative way, there’s nothing that’s going to get done at that point.”
The signature play for Miller came immediately after the second-half kickoff.
Miller swept past the left side of his offensive line, used a skip step to fake out a Miami defender and sprinted 65 yards into the end zone. The touchdown gave Ohio State a 28-3 lead and Miller, his coach and his teammates knew they were on their way.
“He needed that, we needed that,” Meyer said. “Every great athlete at some point has that moment where he goes from average to good, and from good to great. I don’t know where he is in that progression, but maybe that got him to being a really good player for us … because he has to be.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or email@example.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.