Braxton Miller’s favorite play from the Wisconsin game Saturday may have been the block he threw that opened a path for Dontre Wilson’s sideline-to-sideline 15-yard run.
The Ohio State quarterback mentioned it proudly during his postgame interview on national TV, and coach Urban Meyer said at his weekly press luncheon Monday that Miller hasn’t stopped bringing it up to teammates.
“He’s been chirping about it all day,” Meyer said.
While he certainly applauded the body block that upended a defender, Meyer probably could pick a few other plays he liked better from the 31-24 win. Miller was named the Big Ten offensive player of the week after throwing four touchdown passes, three covering 25 yards or more. And all were delivered in perfect locations with great velocity.
“I thought his accuracy on the deep ball was outstanding,” Meyer said.
Wisconsin’s defense was committed to stopping the run — daring Miller to take shots down the field. That may have worked a year ago, but the Buckeyes are on pace to obliterate the single-season school record for TD passes, which means opponents may want to come up with another strategy.
“Our kids will get open, and they can catch. And we can throw a deep ball,” Meyer said. “That’s something we couldn’t do last year. There were games I refused to call it because they were going to be covered and we couldn’t throw it.
“This Saturday, we’re going to try the same thing. That’s a big part of who we are.”
The third-ranked Buckeyes will take a 5-0 record into another prime-time clash at 15th-ranked Northwestern, which is 4-0 and coming off a bye week. Many have pegged the game as OSU’s toughest test of the year, and the ESPN College GameDay Show will be broadcast from Evanston for the first time since 1995.
With 19 TD passes so far (Miller has six and back-up Kenny Guiton 13), the Buckeyes are on pace for 46 through the regular-season alone. The OSU record of 33 was set in 1995 when they finished 11-2.
Asked by the media about the improved passing game, offensive coordinator Tom Herman said: “What’s that saying, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’? We had to be (better). You guys saw how people started playing us the latter half of last year. In order for us to be able to be who we want to be running the football, we had to make that a viable threat.
“We worked our tails off all spring, all offseason and all two-a-days to make sure we were effective, if not proficient, throwing the ball down the field so people can’t load the line of scrimmage and stop the run.”
Herman, who also is the quarterbacks coach, was particularly pleased with a back-shoulder throw Miller made to Devin Smith for a 26-yard TD. That wasn’t Miller’s first option, and he went through his progressions and had the confidence to take on tight coverage.
“I think that’s a throw he wouldn’t have made (last year),” Herman said. “He could have made it — absolutely he could have. But he wouldn’t have made it because he didn’t trust himself. He didn’t trust what he saw, he didn’t trust when he saw it. He might have seen it a split second too late.
“The kid, physically, is not much different than he was last year. But mentally and consistency-wise, in his mechanics and footwork, he’s 10 times better.”
But Miller did have some glitches, which plagued him much of last year. Despite his athletic ability, he’s still prone to taking sacks and not being decisive in finding running lanes on scrambles.
Herman said Miller’s overall grade for the game was “not great, to be honest with you. He still made some mental mistakes that can be corrected in terms of some reads.
“We’ve got to do a better job of, when he does decide to scramble, going vertically and not losing yards. It’s much easier to call second-and-8 than second-and-13. They’re going to cover us every now and again. Be smart and don’t take negative plays.”
Ohio State (5-0, 1-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern (4-0, 0-0), 8 p.m. Saturday, ABC, 1410