Thomas Bradley / Campus editor and Chris Poche / Design editor
Ohio State football appears to have settled on a quarterback in freshman Braxton Miller. So the question the team now faces is how to protect him.
During his first career start for OSU, Miller was sacked three times and dealt several other hits during OSU’s 37-17 Saturday win against Colorado. Miller, who was visibly shaken after some of the hits, didn’t look any worse for the wear as he addressed media after the game.
But that could change if the he continues to suffer physical punishment.
The Buckeyes’ offensive line had their hands full with Colorado, which had blitzed opposing quarterbacks 64 times in its first three games, according to OSU senior center Michael Brewster.
The defensive pressure figures to intensify for Brewster and Miller as they prepare for Saturday’s game against Michigan State, which leads the nation in total and pass defense.
“We knew (Colorado) was going to give us a lot of different looks,” Brewster said. “We wish it (the offensive line) would have been a little cleaner, but sometimes you’ve got to adjust on the run. If we clean it up, we’ll take some more hits off (Miller).”
Brewster added that Miller could help reduce the chance of injury, saying, “Maybe he’ll learn how to slide.”
The offensive line will have to adjust to its tactics to suit Miller’s style as well.
Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said that Miller was unpredictable while practicing in the days leading up to his first career start.
“This week in practice (Miller) would be rolling out and you’d just never know,” Mewhort said. “We’ll go back and watch the film and we’ll correct some things.”
Some of the beating Miller appeared to take on Saturday can be attributed to his 17 rushing attempts. Miller finished the game with 83 rushing yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
First-year head coach Luke Fickell said that he didn’t expect Miller to run and scramble as much as he did in the quarterback’s first start.
“Probably not … you’ve got some ideas about of what’s going to happen,” Fickell said. “And probably some of those (runs), he made the decision to run a little quicker, maybe.”
Miller said that he will continue to take advantage of any openings he sees in opposing defenses and won’t shy away from running the ball.
“Holes open up,” Miller said. “And if nobody’s open, I’m going to take off, get the yards because that’s what my team needs.”
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jim Bollman said that he believes Miller has performed well in three games he’s played this year.
On the year, Miller has attempted 29 passes against 30 rushing attempts. Bollman said he’d like to see Miller throw the ball and, like Brewster, slide to avoid contact.
“I’ll be just as excited when he sits back there in the pocket and throws one down there like he should too,” Bollman said.
With 145 rushing yards on the year, Miller is OSU’s third-leading rusher. Fickell and Bollman might choose to favor Miller’s arm and throwing ability for the sake of the rest of his body.
“How do you totally diminish (Miller’s rushing attempts) — you don’t want to diminish it entirely,” Bollman said.
Bollman said the threat of a mix of rush and pass attempts by Miller is a valuable asset to the team.
For now, Buckeye Nation can rest assured knowing that Miller survived his first start, despite the hits he took.
“Braxton’s a tough kid,” Mewhort said. “He’ll bounce right back, so that was good to see.”
Saturday’s game against the Spartans is set for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.