Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Despite Ohio State’s 35-23 victory Saturday, Penn State’s “White Out” crowd lived up to its reputation. They wore white jerseys, waved white pom-poms and shook the stadium with noise.
In the beginning of the game, they appeared to shake Braxton Miller too.
To change the play at the line of scrimmage, the sophomore quarterback had to shuttle from lineman to lineman and shout the instructions through their helmets’ earholes.
And as the noise level rose, Miller’s passes seemed to soar even higher.
On the first drive of the game, Miller was almost intercepted twice – one of which likely would have been returned for a touchdown – and overthrew a wide-open receiver who had nothing but green grass between him and the end zone.
At least three times in the first quarter, the player who has been billed as a Heisman candidate airmailed open receivers.
Senior receiver Jake Stoneburner described his demeanor as “jittery.”
OSU’s first six offensive drives ended in a punt – the last of which was blocked and recovered in the end zone to give the Nittany Lions a 7-0 lead and sent the white-cladded crowd into a frenzy.
Miller’s coach wasn’t worried, though.
“He had that look in his eye,” said coach Urban Meyer. “There’s twice this year I’ve seen that look – he’s such a competitive guy – it was Nebraska and this one. It’s a night game, it’s the rah rah, it’s the flash.”
The turning point for the OSU offense appeared to come on a misstep from the PSU defense. On a 4th-and-8 play late in the second quarter, OSU punted the ball away, but a holding penalty against the Nittany Lions gave OSU a first down and new life.
Stoneburner said the PSU defense looked tired and the Buckeye offense quickened its pace.
A few plays later and for one of the first times all game, Miller sprung free for a 33-yard dash to PSU’s six yard-line. Junior running back Carlos Hyde finished the job and ran into the end zone to knot the game up at 7.
It was a different offense after that. Miller appeared to calm down and – as has been the case for most of the year – the rest of the offense followed his lead.
“I was so excited I missed a lot of throws,” Miller said of his early-game performance. “The crowd was just energetic. We came back in the second half and I slowed down.”
As Miller slowed down, the offense sped up as it stuck with a no huddle offense. The PSU defense struggled to keep up. In the second half, the offensive line’s push was stronger and the running holes were bigger.
“We kind of caught them off guard, tired them,” Stoneburner said. “Our offensive line, Braxton and Carlos, they were running the crap out of the ball.”
By game’s end, OSU had amassed 234 yards on the ground compared to PSU’s 32. Miller, who ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns during the game, became the first person Meyer has ever coached to rush for 1,000 or more yards in a season.
Of Miller’s 134 yards, one especially stuck out. On a third down play near the goal line, Miller kept the ball on an option play, sidestepped a defender that appeared to have Miller in the backfield, accelerated forward and avoided two more defenders while leaping into the end zone.
The joke after the game was that Miller can juke people in midair.
“We work on that, we have a drill. Make seven people miss, dive across and hold the ball,” Meyer said of the play, smiling. “Only a few guys can do that.”
PSU scored in the fourth quarter to make things interesting, but a 72-yard bomb from Miller to Stoneburner put the game out of reach.
It wasn’t a perfect game for the Buckeyes, but it was one Meyer was proud of. After the game, OSU’s coach shot down a reporter’s notion that the team didn’t play a complete game.
“We got to get better but I want to repeat; we ran for (234) and they ran for (32),” Meyer said. “If you want to have a conversation about how well these guys plan, I’m into that.”
The win improved OSU’s record to 9-0 on the year and put the Buckeyes in sole possession of first place of the Leaders Division in the Big Ten.
OSU returns home Saturday to face Illinois. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.