Braxton Miller finds his legs

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
11:15
AM ET

AP Photo/Jeff HaynesBraxton Miller has been a bigger threat in the run game the past few weeks.
Braxton Miller entered the 2013 season as a Heisman favorite because of his ability to make plays with his arm and his legs. Last season, he was one of five FBS players with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 2,000 passing yards, and his 105.9 rushing yards per game were the fourth-most by an FBS quarterback.

When Miller injured his knee against San Diego State in Week 2 this season, Ohio State was forced to adjust by calling fewer designed rushes, which kept Miller in the pocket.

Miller has attempted 86 percent of his passes in the pocket this season, an increase of 19 percentage points from last season. He has also attempted 9.2 designed rushes per game this season, four fewer than last season.

However, in the past two weeks, against porous rush defenses in Illinois and Indiana, Urban Meyer has opened up the playbook and allowed Miller to run wild. As a result, the Buckeyes have rushed for 752 yards and nine touchdowns in their past two games.

Miller rushed for 328 of those 752 yards, just 82 fewer than he had in his previous seven games combined.

He’s added 15.8 clutch-weighted expected points on running plays in those two games, which means he was moving the chains and improving Ohio State’s chance of scoring.

The key to his success has been the return of the zone read. Last season, Miller rushed for 448 yards and averaged 9.3 yards per attempt on zone-read rushes. Taylor Martinez is the only quarterback who gained more yards on the zone read than Miller last season.

In his first seven games this season, Miller attempted just 25 zone-read rushes and gained 87 yards on those runs. In the past two games, Miller has 15 zone-read rushes and has gained 216 yards (14.4 yards per attempt).

As a result of his improved rushing, Miller has been among the nation’s best quarterbacks in the past month.

Since Week 9, Miller has the highest Total QBR (92.6) in the nation. He is averaging 299.5 yards of total offense per game and has been responsible for 16 touchdowns during that time.

Navy’s Keenan Reynolds (134.2), Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch (125.5) and Auburn’s Nick Marshall (108.8) are the only quarterbacks who have averaged more rushing yards per game than Miller (100.8) in those five weeks.

On Saturday, Miller will be tested against a Michigan defense that held him to 57 yards on 20 rush attempts last season, his second-fewest rushing yards in a game in which he had at least 15 carries. In that game, Miller was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage nine times, including four sacks, and gained just 9 yards on the zone read.

If Miller can carry his momentum from the past few weeks into the Michigan game, he may lead Ohio State to its 24th consecutive victory and find himself back in contention for the Heisman Trophy.

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