UCF at Ohio State: Braxton Miller Stakes Claim as Big Ten's Best Quarterback
On paper, it wasn't a blowout: Ohio State 31, UCF 16. And really, the game could have been much worse for Ohio State, as UCF had four drives end in Buckeyes territory without any points scored, with another ending at its own 48-yard line.
That all said, this was Ohio State's game from start to finish, and that's because it was Braxton Miller's game from start to finish. Miller threw for 155 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-24 passing, but he was also the team's workhorse in the rushing game. On the ground, Miller registered 27 of Ohio State's 51 carries, 141 of OSU's 256 rushing yards and all three of the Buckeyes' rushing touchdowns.
Moreover, Miller made plays that, frankly, very few quarterbacks in the entire nation—much less the Big Ten alone—can make. His first touchdown of the day was this beauty on a designed QB draw:
Sure, the blocking was good and UCF wasn't in position to make a play from the start, but Miller's athleticism and instincts are what made that run look easy.
But Miller made the hard plays, too. What goes down in the scoresheets as a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jake Stoneburner was the type of masterpiece that can break a defense's back.
The play started on the right side of the field, and Miller encountered pressure in the pocket there. After avoiding one UCF player's grasp, Miller broke left on a scramble then threw across his body and dropped the pass perfectly to Stoneburner in the back of the end zone.
The most important aspect of Miller's performance, however, was what he was able to accomplish when things went south. On several occasions—none of which will go unnoticed by the Ohio State coaching staff—there was some miscommunication, and in every instance Miller found himself holding the ball with nobody to hand it to.
Instead of merely curling up where he stood or firing the ball wildly out of bounds, Miller assessed the situations, found holes and maximized his yardage—sometimes even for first downs. That's the type of poise and confidence you're just not supposed to see yet from a second-year quarterback.
Miller's 141 yards rushing on Saturday were the second most a quarterback has ever rushed for in a single game in an Ohio State uniform. Miller probably shouldn't mind the fact that he missed the record too much, since he's the one who set it the week prior, with 160 against Miami University. Le'Veon Bell is still likely to lead the Big Ten in rushing yardage after two weeks, but barring a massive week from Montee Ball, Miller's going to be second in the conference at the end of the day.
Who's the best quarterback in the Big Ten?
Miller's throwing wasn't perfect. He threw a horrific interception that included the unholy trifecta of bad technique, bad accuracy and a bad read. His fundamentals still need help, especially when it comes to footwork.
And yet Miller's throwing issues are so minor (we're still talking about a guy who's completing two-thirds of his passes so far) compared to the talent and production he brings to the table, that it's absolutely fair to start thinking about Miller as the best quarterback in the Big Ten right now. And he's two games into his sophomore season.
Oh, it's not a stone-cold lock, of course. Denard Robinson looked much better against Air Force than he did against Alabama (funny how that works), and if Taylor Martinez can keep up this new-found passing acumen against real defenses, his case could be as strong as anyone else's.
But in terms of bringing as much to the table as possible—rushing ability, passing ability, durability and leadership—Braxton Miller looks like the best the Big Ten has to offer.
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