Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller was named the Big Ten offensive player of the week and showed why he was considered a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy before the season with a dominant outing Saturday night against Penn State.
But to coach Urban Meyer’s trained eye, Miller’s showing was far from flawless.
“There’s still some things where he ‘cowboyed’ it a few times, which means, when things kind of broke down, he panicked in the pocket when he didn’t have to,” Meyer said at his media luncheon Monday.
“We already had a meeting this morning about it. He needs to know where his check down is. … He panicked in the pocket three or four times, and he panicked to the point where he didn’t know where his check down was. That’s a problem. That’s not good quarterback play.”
But Meyer had no qualms with the way Miller performed apart from a handful of minor miscues.
He accounted for five touchdowns — three passing and two running — and was 18-of-24 through the air for a career-high 252 yards in a 63-14 victory over the Nittany Lions. He also rushed 11 times for 68 yards in winning his second Big Ten honor this year and third of his career.
The junior from Wayne High School has elevated his play since nearly getting benched in the third quarter at Northwestern on Oct. 5. Meyer said he was “real close” to putting back-up Kenny Guiton in the game after a Miller fumble — his third turnover of the night.
But Meyer is glad he didn’t give his QB the hook. Miller would go on to lead the Buckeyes on three touchdown drives in a 40-30 comeback victory and followed that with perhaps the two best games of his career against Iowa and Penn State.
In a combined nine and a half quarters, he’s completed 46-of-60 passes (76.7 percent) for 563 yards and five TDs. He’s rushed for 191 yards on 35 attempts (a 5.5 average) and two scores. Plus, he hasn’t committed a turnover in that span.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Meyer said. “I think he knows, and I’ve told him … if our center doesn’t play well, we’re going to make a change if we have a good center behind him. And you see that in some other positions that as guys improve, we’re going to make a change.
“He’s not used to being second fiddle in his high school and college career so far. I love him to death. He’s like a son to me. We get along great. But he knows I have a job to do, and that’s to make sure the best players are on the field.”
Meyer has no doubts that a healthy and inspired Miller belongs not only on the field, but also in the discussion of the elite QBs in the nation. The OSU coaches were hoping he could complete 70 percent of his passes this season but would have been happy if he connected on two-thirds of his throws.
He’s at 70.6 percent, a huge jump from his 58.3 clip last season.
“Fundamentally, he’s a much better player than he was a year ago and his knowledge of the offense (has improved),” Meyer said. “I see it every day. The thing we can’t do — and I challenge our coaches all the time, and myself — we can’t get bored and create these new plays because you’re bored with the old ones. The old ones work fine. Just do it over and over again.
“This is his second year in the same system. The more a quarterback does the same system … you should be better. But he’s really better.”
Buckeyes honored: OSU hybrid back Dontre Wilson was named the Big Ten freshman of the week. He had 96 all-purpose yards and a touchdown against Penn State. His night included a career-long 49-yard kickoff return.
Teammate Joey Bosa was named the conference’s top freshman last week.
Safety C.J. Barnett has been named one of 15 semifinalists for the Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back.
The fifth-year senior from Northmont High School is third on the team in tackles with 39, including 11 in a win over Northwestern. He had five tackles and an interception against Penn State.
Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier has been named one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s outstanding linebacker. He’s tied with teammate Noah Spence for the Big Ten lead with 9.0 tackles for loss.
Injury report: Special teamer Devan Bogard, a sophomore from Cleveland Glenville High School, suffered his second torn ACL on the same knee when he was injured on a kickoff against Penn State.
Bogard had been making the transition from safety to linebacker, where the Buckeyes are thin.
“He’s a great kid,” Meyer said. “That’s a big blow.”
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at Purdue (1-6, 0-3), noon, Big Ten Network, 1410