Quick Hits: A look at offense and defense

Miller's emergence key as surging Ohio State controls its destiny

Braxton Miller/Photo by Chris Crook

Stories by Tyler Robinson

Following each of the Ohio State football team’s last two games, much of the postgame talk has centered on a single pass completion.

In the Buckeyes’ 17-7 victory over Illinois on Oct. 15, much was made about the offense only completing one pass (albeit a touchdown) for the entire game. Once again, a lone aerial connection was the talk of the town last Saturday night in Columbus, only this time for a very different reason.

Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller rescued the Buckeyes from defeat against Wisconsin with a 40-yard touchdown strike to fellow freshman Devin Smith with 20 seconds left to play as Ohio State held on to win, 33-29, under the lights at Ohio Stadium.

It was the kind of play that Buckeye faithful hope will be a springboard for Miller as he continues to develop into the playmaking quarterback many feel he can become.

After the game Miller said that his confidence is building each day through practice and conversations with his father.

“I talk to my dad every time before I go out on the field and he just tells me have confidence in what you do and things will work out with you,” Miller said.

Coach Luke Fickell has noticed growth in Miller since he took over as starting quarterback of the Buckeyes.  

“He’s learned to grasp things a lot more,” Fickell said following the win over the Badgers. “And we know he can throw it. We know he can do a lot of different things. It’s just understanding what we want him to do and having the confidence and doing it.

“I think we’ll still see him continue to grow and have a lot of abilities to throw it as well.”

Miller finished the game with just 82 yards with seven completions, so there is little doubt the young signal-caller still has a ways to go in his development.  

“But he understands and we’ll make sure we keep on him to understand we have a long way to go,” Fickell said. “Be humble and make sure where you are right now is because of what you’ve done working in the last five weeks.”

Run defense stout as Ohio State springs upset of Wisconsin

Andrew Sweat/Photo by Chris Crook

In what sophomore defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins called its biggest challenge of the season so to this point, the Ohio State defense limited the prolific run game of Wisconsin to just 89 yards last Saturday night.

The Badgers came to Columbus boasting the eighth-best ground game in the country, averaging 252.1 yards per game.

Coach Luke Fickell praised the efforts of the Buckeyes’ front seven defenders in slowing down Wisconsin.

“Our big focus on defense was to stop the run,” he said. “And you know what, I think we did a heck of a job. The guys up front, the front seven, really learned a lot from last year and the couple of last years we played them and did exactly what we asked them to do at stopping the run up front.”

Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat, who led the team with eight tackles against the Badgers, credited the defense’s success to practices as far back as before the season began.

“Obviously Wisconsin loves to run the ball,” he said. “In the preseason we worked on staying square. I mean if you get your shoulders turned and run out of the way, Wisconsin will gash you. And we knew that we had to stay square against them. I thought we did for the majority of the game.”

Junior defensive lineman John Simon said the crowd of 105,511, which was the seventh-largest in Ohio Stadium history, was a huge boost for defense.

“We thought it was big tonight,” he said. “We wanted to have the crowd on our side … which we knew they were going to be, and just making sure in critical situations that we had them maybe distracting the (Badgers) offense a little bit with communication, things like that. And I think we benefited from it.”

With the victory, the Buckeyes nearly control their own destiny in the team’s quest to earn the Big Ten Leader’s Division bid to the inaugural conference championship game.

Hankins laid out the team’s objective for the remainder of the season.

“We hate the feeling of losing and we said to ourselves that we’re going to win out this season,” he said. “So that’s what we got and that’s our main goal right now.”