Cody Cousino / Photo editor
After missing the first six games of the season, senior running back Daniel “Boom” Herron picked up right where he left off.
In his last game, Ohio State’s vacated Sugar Bowl victory Jan. 4, Herron rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown. Saturday wasn’t much different.
Herron came out on the first drive and set the tone for the Buckeye offense. On the day, he accounted for half of OSU’s offense, rushing 23 times for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Maybe it was senior leadership that OSU’s offense has needed this whole time, because Herron went from being a nobody this season to being the biggest playmaker on the offense.
Though Saturday was Herron’s first game back, he appeared to be in mid-season form. This should excite the Buckeye fans because the more carries he gets, the more confident the offense will become.
Establishing a running game behind playmaker Herron and back-up Jordan Hall will open up the dual threat of quarterback Braxton Miller.
It’s hard to call Miller a playmaker, not based on his performance but because of his lack of opportunity.
Miller has shown sure signs of playmaking ability over the last two weeks. Against Nebraska, before he was injured in the third quarter, he set the tempo for the OSU offense.
Without Herron in the backfield, it was Miller who positioned the Buckeyes to upset No. 14 Nebraska and make a statement in the Big Ten.
Before leaving the game, Miller was nearly perfect, completing 5-of-8 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown while adding another 91 yards on the ground.
Miller’s lone mistake was a lost fumble deep in OSU territory that set up a Nebraska score to cut the lead to 27-13 just before he injured his right ankle and left the game.
The rest was history.
Remember, he’s a true freshman and with maturation comes mistakes. He’s getting better.
Against Illinois, Miller completed just 1-of-4 passes with a 17-yard touchdown strike to junior tight end Jake Stoneburner in the fourth quarter.
Despite the win, it’s hard to determine whether someone can be a major playmaker when they aren’t given the opportunity to make a difference. The coaching staff has strictly limited Miller’s passing attack so far this season.
Right now, OSU is very predictable.
Wisconsin will be ready for Herron and the ground attack to carry the Buckeye load in two weeks.
If the Scarlet and Gray wants to compete against Wisconsin and through the rest of the season, the coaching staff needs to open up the playbook and allow Miller to take some chances with his arm.
It makes me think back to the 2008 season when Terrelle Pryor was a freshman and he won the starting job at quarterback over Todd Boeckman. I distinctly remember the Penn State game that season because OSU was winning when Pryor had a costly fumble early in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes lost that game and their aspirations to reach another BCS National Championship game were squandered.
This year, OSU has a similar situation with Miller taking the starting role over Joe Bauserman. Except this time, I feel if the game were on the line, the coaches wouldn’t put the ball in the hands of Miller. Instead, coach Luke Fickell would go to someone else or bring in Bauserman like he did against Miami in the fourth quarter.
I never doubted Pryor before or after that devastating Penn State game because I understood that he was a true freshman and he was going to make mistakes.
The difference is, Pryor continued to play, he continued to take chances and he continued to build poise and get better.
If Miller doesn’t have these opportunities to make these mistakes now, how will he ever build confidence moving forward and become a playmaker?
OSU has a sure playmaker in the experience of Herron but without Miller having the opportunity to prove himself, the Buckeye offense will continue to be very one-dimensional.
I say give him a chance in two weeks. Let Miller come out firing against Wisconsin and supplement his ability with the classic OSU ground game.
The Buckeyes have a chance to send a message to not only the Big Ten, but the entire nation in two weeks with the emergence of Herron and Miller together. Now it’s up to the coaches to make it actually happen.