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Ohio State rolls to 31-16 win over UCF

Miller runs for 141 yards in Buckeyes’ victory

September 9, 2012
By JIM NAVEAU - Special to the Herald-Star , The Herald-Star

COLUMBUS - After Ohio State's 31-16 win over Central Florida on Saturday, OSU offensive lineman Marcus Hall said he has never played with a quarterback like Braxton Miller.

"He runs his butt off. He does it every game," Hall said.

There is no doubt about that. Miller's rushed 27 times for 141 yards against UCF, his second consecutive 100-yard game to start this season, and scored three touchdowns. He also completed 18 of 24 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown.

Where doubt creeps in, though, is if Miller can hold up under the pounding of running the ball as often as he has in the Buckeyes' first two games. He rushed 17 times for 161 yards in the season opener against Miami of Ohio last Saturday.

Those 17 carries by the sophomore quarterback earned the label of "too many" from coach Urban Meyer.

And then he went out and ran the football 10 times beyond "too many" when No. 14 Ohio State (2-0) held off Central Florida (1-1).

Miller's heavy workload was partially a product of starting tailback Carlos Hyde going down with a sprained knee late in the second quarter, but mostly because he is, by far, Ohio State's best offensive threat.

"Braxton Miller is the most talented runner on the team," Meyer said. "That's too much, 27 hits. He's blown out right now. We have to be smart. Right now, he's our best answer."

Miller said, "I've never run the ball 27 times in my life. I wasn't that sore last week, but 27 is a lot more than 17. I'm sure I'll feel something tomorrow."

Asked if he would like to see another running threat soon in OSU's backfield, he said, "Absolutely."

Central Florida never led, but was possibly more of a threat than many people expected.

It was a 10-10 game until Miller scored the second of his three TDs on a 6-yard run with 15 seconds left in the first half. Then, after OSU's lead grew to 31-10 on 12-yard touchdown pass from Miller to Jake Stoneburner and an 8-yard TD run by Miller, the Knights tried to make a comeback.

They cut the lead to 31-16 by the end of the third quarter and were inside Ohio State's 10-yard line as the game ended.

"We played sporadically and didn't tackle as well as we needed to. You can't do that against a team like Ohio State," Central Florida coach George O'Leary said.

Ohio State jumped out to a 10-3 lead five minutes into the second quarter on a 37-yard scoring run by Miller and a 24-yard field goal by Drew Basil.

Central Florida hit two big pass plays in a 5-play, 78-yard drive to tie the game at 10-10 on a 1-yard pass from quarterback Blake Bortles with 6:54 to play in the first half. The Knights' final score came on a 2-yard pass from Bortles to Billy Giovanetti with a minute and a half left in the third quarter.

That was as close as Central Florida could get, though. And that last trip inside OSU's 10-yard line wouldn't have happened without a fumble by running back Rod Smith at the Knights' 43-yard line when the Buckeyes were trying to run out the clock.

Miller's 44 carries are 20 more than any other Ohio State ball carrier in the first two games.

That number is only nine fewer carries than tailback Eddie George had in the first two games of his Heisman Trophy winning season in 1995.

Miller's average so far of 22 carries per game is well beyond what Alex Smith at Utah and Tim Tebow at Florida averaged as sophomores with Meyer as their coach. Tebow's average was 16 carries a game and Smith averaged 12.

Even when Denard Robinson almost single-handedly carried Michigan's offense on his back in 2010, he averaged just under 20 carries a game.

Freshman Bri'onte Dunn (29 carries on seven carries) led Ohio State's running backs against Central Florida. Hyde had 27 yards on seven carries.

But even before Hyde, who is expected to be out "a week or two" with a medial collateral ligament sprain, according to Meyer, was out, Miller was the centerpiece of OSU's offense.

Fourteen of his 27 carries came in the first half.

"We don't want to run Braxton all the time. He's the leader of the offense and we need him all year," fullback Zach Boren said. "With him taking as many carries as he did today, we definitely don't want that. But when we need to win a game, we're going to put the ball in Braxton's hands. You know he's going to be carrying that ball."

The big question for Ohio State is what is the right number of carries to try to ensure that he will be carrying the ball in all 12 games this fall.

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