For the better part of the past two seasons, Ohio State’s junior quarterback Braxton Miller has been the crutch the Buckeyes lean on when things go wrong.
But so far this season, Miller’s third as the starter for OSU, that crutch has started to splinter.
Now with Iowa and the eighth-ranked run defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision coming to Columbus, Miller said Wednesday OSU has to be careful not to repeat its early season mistakes.
“(Iowa has a) pretty good defense, you know, probably the best we’ve faced so far. Got to have good preparation throughout the whole week,” Miller said.
Miller made his return from an MCL sprain against Wisconsin Sept. 28, throwing four touchdown passes, but then struggled against Northwestern the following week. No touchdowns and three turnovers, including two fumbles, had fans calling for redshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton.
Miller said he struggled against the Wildcats with ball security, but the fumbling issues are something that can be fixed.
“I’ve been watching film on it. I really wasn’t holding the ball correctly when I was cutting (through) the holes, and I wasn’t holding the ball real tight and it’s an easy fix,” Miller said.
Coach Urban Meyer said Miller played well against Northwestern, but he can’t ignore his issues with ball security.
“I expect him to be ‘Braxton Miller’ with better ball security,” Meyer said to the media Wednesday. “You take away those two fumbles, he actually played pretty good that game, real good, but that’s like saying take away a bad golf shot on the 18th hole. That’s the way it is.”
Despite his praise of Miller, Meyer said he was close to putting Guiton in the game after Miller’s second fumble.
Since Northwestern, Meyer said he has noticed Miller working harder on holding onto the football.
“I see a guy that I wanted to see and I did see, a guy that recognized the mistakes he made, and then he’s going to work hard to correct them,” Meyer said. “No. 1 was ball security, that was the No. 1 issue.”
Miller said Wednesday the coaching staff made him carry a ball during team stretches to practice ball security.
“It’s always just keep it tight when I take off and run, QB run or anything like that,” Miller said. “Throughout the stretching at the beginning of practice, it’s ‘hold it tight.’ They had me hold the ball throughout the whole stretch.”
Although ball security has been a big focus for the coaching staff, it might not be the only issue Miller is struggling with.
Miller said his knee made it difficult to run the way he wanted to against Northwestern, but he is almost back to full health.
“I’d say just a little bit on my cutting-wise and you know,” Miller said. “Just not my old self in running a little bit, but I’m still working on it, it should be good.”
Miller, though, is still a valuable leader for OSU, senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown said after the game against Northwestern.
“He’s still vocal. He’s still going to tell us what we need to do,” Brown said. “He’s the quarterback of the team so whenever he talks, everybody listens, and we’re just going to follow his lead and go where we need to go.”
Miller will look to right his wrongs from the previous game when the Buckeyes kick off against the Hawkeyes Saturday, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.
For Miller, success will depend on if he is able to get back to the standard he’s set for himself.
“I wasn’t fully myself throughout the whole game,” Miller said. “Playing on grass a little bit, you know, little bit on my running, I just wasn’t my old self, I felt like and you know just got to keep getting healthy, getting treatment on it and just get back to my old ways.”
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