Before Ohio State’s (7-0, 3-0) game against Iowa (4-3, 1-2), junior quarterback Braxton Miller said his left knee was still suffering from an MCL sprain he sustained in his team’s win against San Diego State Sept. 7.
After running 18 times for 102 yards against Iowa Saturday, Miller put any doubts regarding his ability to perform on his knee to rest.
Miller said his knee felt better Saturday than it had since the season opener against Buffalo.
“I don’t feel as well since the first game of the season (against Buffalo),” Miller said. “I had a knee injury and (it) set me back a little bit, but (I) felt pretty good out there, good week of preparation. And the (offensive line) did a hell of a job.”
On top of his rushing performance, Miller completed 22 of 27 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. It was a career high in completion percentage for Miller, with the exception of the game against SDSU when he only attempted two passes.
Junior tight end Jeff Heuerman, who recorded a career high five catches for 38 yards against the Hawkeyes, said he thought Miller showed he was fully back from his injury.
“I agree, he had an incredible game, he was 22 of 27 and with my drop, that’s even better than that,” Heuerman said. “So he had an incredible game. I think you’re definitely right, we’re seeing the electric Braxton and I think he really showed that, that he was back tonight.”
Heuerman added that Braxton’s ability to make plays running the ball is a huge boost for the Buckeye offense.
“He definitely made some of those Braxton plays he makes, the scramble plays and things … he did have a lot of good scrambles that you’re used to seeing him doing that you haven’t seen much this year,” Heuerman said.
Senior running back Carlos Hyde agreed, mentioning that Miller has “crazy talent.”
“When Braxton’s running, I’m always expecting a big play. You never know, that guy has unbelievable … crazy talent,” Hyde said. “He can make something … from nothing into something. To see him get a first down, I see him scrambling one way then another way and I thought he was going to pull up and throw it but he got the first down and that was big.”
The two players motivate each other to step up their play when they are on the field, Hyde said.
“We feed off each other. I definitely feed off of Braxton,” Hyde said. “When I see him pull it down and take off for a long run and he gets fancy and stuff I get excited to see that. I’m sure the fans are excited to see that. Braxton, I think he got back to his old self today, I feel like. That was good to see.”
Miller was coming off a performance against Northwestern where he failed to score a touchdown and turned the ball over three times. Miller said during the two weeks leading up to the game against Iowa, a lot of time was spent working on ball security.
Coach Urban Meyer said a big part of Miller’s improvement from the previous game was his work ethic on the practice field.
“I just noticed in practice he looked really good this past week. We were plus one week so we went pretty hard Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,” Meyer said. “I can always tell when he’s feeling good, when he’s running, carrying out fakes. Those type of things. And he’s becoming a much better practice player and obviously that correlates to production. I can see it now. He looks better, he looks like he feels great.”
Despite the good week of practice, Miller did fumble the ball once against the Hawkeyes in the fourth quarter, but it was recovered by Buckeye junior wide receiver Evan Spencer to prevent a turnover.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said Miller seemed much more calm Saturday than he did against Northwestern.
“He was relaxed. I think he had a great week of preparation very similar to the Wisconsin week, and I think his biggest thing that we’ve really preached all week or two weeks really was just go have fun,” Herman said. “Take the pressure off yourself, go have fun, go play, not necessarily be a gunslinger but trust yourself a little bit and go have fun and he did that and did it really, really well.”
Meyer noted that despite his quarterback’s talent, the offensive line was vital to Miller’s big game.
“(Sophomore) Taylor Decker is coming of age. I feel good about him. I feel good about the line and that’s where winning football, certainly offensive football, starts and they’re my favorite players on the team,” Meyer said. “Those five guys, that’s where you start.”
Redshirt-senior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said the offensive line appreciates having Miller as much as he appreciates them.
“It’s really exciting to have a dynamic player like that. He makes huge plays a lot … It’s why you play football, stuff like that. Sometimes improvising is the best way to do it,” Mewhort said.
Sophomore linebacker Joshua Perry said the Buckeyes trust Miller to lead the team and find a way to win.
“We always put our faith in Braxton because we know what kind of player he is, we know what type of leader he is, so whether he’s 100 percent, we have complete faith in him that he can get the job done,” Perry said.
Next up, the Buckeyes look to push their winning streak to 20 games when they host Penn State (4-2, 1-1) Oct. 26 at 8 p.m.
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