In the days leading up to Ohio State’s 31-24 victory over Wisconsin, Buckeye coach Urban Meyer made it clear that quarterbacks junior Braxton Miller and redshirt-senior Kenny Guiton would both see the field offensively in the Big Ten opener.
Returning from injury, Miller asserted himself as OSU’s starting quarterback, playing all 68 offensive snaps. He threw for 198 yards and four touchdowns in what was his first game action since spraining the MCL in his left knee against San Diego State Sept. 7.
Meyer said he was impressed with Miller’s play, especially going up against a talented Wisconsin defense.
“(Miller) played very well. I think … (it) looks (like) he threw 200 yards, four touchdowns, two sacks. (Wisconsin) played very good defense. Didn’t realize how many seniors (there were) on the (Wisconsin) defense. (They’re a) well-coached, hard-playing outfit … I think the team we played is very good,” Meyer said.
Coming off the injury, Miller said his knee “felt good,” allowing him to rack up 83 yards on the ground. Initially, it was a bit tight, but things started to improve after a couple of drives.
“Just a little bit in the beginning of the game,” Miller said when asked if he was holding back to protect his knee. “I loosened up and you know how things get tight, you loosen up after a while. But the drive before the half, they opened up a lot, plus they came out with the ball again and (we) had to set the tone before we went into the locker room.”
Whether Miller would play was a game-time decision against Florida A&M Sept. 21, and he was scratched from the lineup just before kickoff.
After an impressive week in practice, it was hard to keep Miller off the field for long, Meyer said.
“There was no doubt who was going to be our starter,” Meyer said. “And we gotta keep moving forward and keep everybody locked in on the target.”
Being able to get out and run the ball effectively was a boost for Miller and the offense, senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown said.
“It was big for his confidence, especially for a quarterback like Braxton. I think that we saw the old Braxton (Saturday) when he was down there running. He felt like he could do it all tonight,” Brown said.
Miller’s three scores in the first half were a career-high in a half, for the Buckeye signal caller.
Junior wide receiver Devin Smith said Miller’s dedication during practice is what made the difference in his return to the field.
“All week he’s just been working, his footwork, his throwing mechanics and you could see it on the field,” Smith said.
Getting Miller back into the lineup “felt great,” redshirt-senior Jack Mewhort said. The offensive lineman said he was “happy to have (Miller) back out there.”
Guiton, who in Miller’s absence led the Buckeyes to wins against San Diego State, California and Florida A&M, was only on the field for special teams against the Badgers.
Meyer said he wanted to get Guiton onto the field after his performance during the past three weeks, but he was unable to find the right moment in the game.
“Oh, no not if (Miller’s) healthy. If he was healthy, I’d like to get Kenny in the game. Just in the moment it didn’t happen,” Meyer said.
Guiton has thrown for 664 yards and 13 touchdowns this year, but despite being relegated to backup in favor of Miller, he was the one of the first to come out and celebrate with the starter.
“He’s been my big brother ever since I got here. We’ve had a connection. We (are) roommates every game,” Miller said. “We talk about things outside of football. So we hang out all the time and (I’m) just happy to see him happy for me to be back on the field with the team.”
Next up, the Buckeyes hit the road to take on No. 16 Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. ESPN’s College GameDay will be at the game, the first time since 1995 that they will be at Northwestern. Barring any major setback, Miller will be the starting quarterback looking to help OSU add to the nation’s longest winning streak.
“It’s good. It’s 100 percent. I just wear a knee brace for caution and keep it real tight,” Miller said.
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