The Ohio State Buckeyes escaped East Lansing with a 17-16 victory over the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday. The Buckeyes moved to 5-0 and remain the class of the Big 10, but it wasn’t easy. The Spartans did an excellent job against quarterback Braxton Miller and finally made him look human. With that being said, however, this may have been Miller’s most impressive performance.
Michigan State was able to keep Miller contained for the majority of the day. He still amassed 136 yards on the ground, but it took him 23 carries to get there. The Spartans did an excellent job of limiting Miller’s big plays, as his rushing long on the day was just 20 yards. In previous games this season he has had longs of 37, 55, and 65 yards. Michigan State’s ability to gang tackle and not let Miller get to the outside really contributed to slowing him down.
Miller also took several big shots from the Spartan defense and was forced to leave the game on two different occasions. Coach Urban Meyer expressed concerns earlier in the year about his quarterback taking too many hits, and a couple of times on Saturday it looked like his fears may become reality.
This was really the first time in his career that Miller was forced to win a game by using his arm from the pocket. As opposed to normally re-enacting a scene out of Tecmo Bowl and running all over the field.
Miller showed a lot of toughness in the face of adversity and most of all came away with a win. He only threw for 179 yards, but he went 16 of 23 for his second highest completion percentage of 2012. He made good reads, he was accurate, and hit a game changing 63 yard touchdown play. Perhaps most of all, he cemented his status as leader of the team and showed tremendous versatility. In his post-game interview he seemed relieved and appreciative that his team would be leaving with a win. He clearly understood that was the most important thing.
Miller’s performance will certainly be overshadowed by Geno Smith’s eight touchdown and 656 yard career day. And I literally mean career day. That actually could be a career for some quarterbacks and I would easily get winded walking the amount of yardage he threw. And it doesn’t matter that the Baylor Bears defense thought it was a game of two-hand touch, or that they had worse coverage than an Angelina Jolie Oscar dress. Smith’s performance was still spectacular.
However, Miller’s effort was impressive in its own right. The way he commanded the game may not earn him many Heisman points, but it probably turned the heads of a few NFL scouts looking for a quarterback that can play on Sundays.