Miller earns his ice

With Hall and Hyde now hurting, Miller has to carry Buckeyes offense to victory

Updated: September 8, 2012, 6:01 PM ET
By Austin Ward | BuckeyeNation

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The projected starter was already on the sideline in street clothes.

By halftime, the next guy in line was in sweatpants.

Maybe quarterback Braxton Miller is meant to be the leading rusher for Ohio State, but with its options at running back dwindling Saturday against Central Florida, there wasn't much choice but to put even more work on the sophomore's shoulders. And 27 carries, 141 yards and three touchdown runs later, the Buckeyes had a 31-16 win to their credit and the focal point of the offense had a bulky ice bag tucked underneath his black track jacket as a reminder of how it was earned.

"I've never had that many [rushes] in my life," Miller said. "It's a lot.

"I'm sure I'll feel something tomorrow."

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteWith their running back depth chart down to third string, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller had 27 rushes in Saturday's 31-16 victory over Central Florida.
Miller admitted he was already dealing with that soreness after the Buckeyes turned to him time after time to spark the offense on Saturday at Ohio Stadium, a call he repeatedly answered with the backfield running short on available bodies.

The starter coming out of spring practice, Jordan Hall, has missed both games as he wraps up his rehabilitation from surgery to repair a torn tendon in his foot after a freak accident at his home in June. He was joined on the bench by his replacement when Carlos Hyde left the game in the second quarter with a knee sprain that could potentially put him on the shelf for two weeks.

The other choices were a fullback, a true freshman or the guy taking the snaps -- and there wasn't much doubt which runner coach Urban Meyer was going to pick.

Miller was already going to be involved in the zone-read game and as a scrambler when the passing attack broke down. But more often than not, the Buckeyes were even taking the option of handing off or throwing away from Miller, dialing up draws and counters, power rushes and sweeps as he racked up yardage against a defense that was among the best in the country last season at stopping the run.

"Braxton is the most talented runner on the team," Meyer said. " ... We had to find a way to win that game.

"That's too much. That's 27 hits and he's blown out right now. We've got to be smart, but someone has to run the ball right now, and he's our best answer."

That might not change given the seemingly perfect marriage of Miller's acceleration and strength and Meyer's spread offense, which will continue to lean on the sophomore to light the fuse while also providing a few explosions.

Miller handled the former better as a passer in his second game of the season, completing 18 of his 24 passes for 155 yards with a touchdown and an interception. And he was obviously responsible for the latter, starting with his untouched, 37-yard scoring scamper up the middle on the opening drive to stake the Buckeyes to an early lead.

But he also showed signs of wearing down late in the game -- and maintaining the pace he's on early in the year might eventually make it difficult to make it to the end in one piece.

"He can't survive a 12-game schedule, especially in the Big Ten, running the ball as much as he is," fullback Zach Boren said. "At the same time, we needed Braxton today, and he showed up.

"He's kind of the backbone. He's a playmaker, and when we need the offense to go, we put it in his hands and he goes with it."

The Buckeyes put it there plenty to get past the Knights. And Miller earned both the win and his ice.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter