Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is growing up before our eyes. On Saturday Miller was roughed up by a physical Michigan State defense but the Spartans were never able to deliver a knockout blow to the sophomore quarterback.
Miller was quick to return to the field on the opening drive of the game after being knocked out on the sideline by what was called a late hit. A fumble in the second half was the result of a blow to the knee. After testing negative on an ACL test, Miller once again returned to the field. Banged and bruised, nothing would stop Miller from leading Ohio State to their first Big Ten win of the season.
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No. 14 Ohio State improved to 5-0 with a 17-16 win against No. 20 Michigan State (3-2) in the Big Ten opener for both teams. Miller was efficient with his passing, but far from explosive, going 16-for-23 for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Miller once again made a difference with his legs, leading all players with 136 rushing yards on 23 carries. Miller lost two fumbles though, showing that he is still prone to make a mistake at times.
Against Michigan State and their struggling offense, Miller and the Buckeyes were able to overcome the challenge and errors. The Buckeyes allowed just 34 net rushing yards and held the Spartans to just four third down conversions out of 15. Michigan State’s offense has struggled with new starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell taking over the offense but he made some good passes Saturday that were simply dropped by young and inexperienced wide receivers.
Any time Michigan State did make some noise, the Buckeyes seemed to have an answer. The Spartans kicked a field goal early on in the third quarter to trim Ohio State’s lead to 7-6, but five minutes later the lead grew back to four with a Buckeye field goal by Drew Basil. Maxwell soon connected with Keith Mumphery for a 29-yard touchdown pass to put the Spartans on top, 13-6 but the lead was short-lived with Miller connecting on a 63-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith on the ensuing possession. The long touchdown gave Ohio State a 17-13 lead, and the Spartans were unable to muster up enough offense to strike back.
This has been the tale of the Spartans this season. Michigan State used defense to pull out a 17-13 season opening win against Boise State, and considering what Boise State’s offense has been this season it now appears that that game was not really as much of a defensive showing as we once thought it might be. The Spartans scored just three points at home against Notre Dame two weeks ago and they had to dig deep to put 23 on the scoreboard against Eastern Michigan last week.
Despite Michigan State’s poor offense right now, Ohio State answered the call in East Lansing by gutting out a hard-fought, defensively sound victory.
Kevin is a national college football writer for quadrust.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Submit your mailbag questions via Tumblr. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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