Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee
While Braxton Provides Flash, Offensive Line Delivers Knockout Punch
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller delivered his usual flair on Saturday, turning in another effervescent performance that left Tim Beckman’s calamitous Illinois defense falling all over itself.
“Braxton Miller is a fantastic football player. He can break you,” said Beckman, who coached Urban Meyer’s defense at Bowling Green a decade ago, which by now seems like another lifetime for both coaches.
“When you think you've got him caught up on a pass rush he can run the football. He does a fabulous job. Braxton Miller is a fine, fine football player.”
On one play, Miller disappeared in a crowd of scarlet and white football jerseys, only to emerge unscathed on the otherside. He darted in and out of traffic, breaking ankles and leaving proverbial jock straps all over the field at Ohio Stadium.
He bobbed one way and weaved the other, ducking any punches the Fighting Illini threw at him like the man Cassius Clay, who appeared on the front of Miller’s sweatshirt after the game.
“He fuels this Ohio State team with his ability to make guys miss,” Beckman added after his team’s 52-22 loss on Saturday.
“And that is how he hurt us today. He also made big plays with his arm and exposed some coverage issues in our secondary.”
Miller finished with 73 yards on the ground and 226 through the air. He accounted for three touchdowns, including a 51-yarder to backup tailback Rod Smith on a wheel route out of the backfield, but it was Carlos Hyde and Ohio State’s powerful rushing attack that delivered the knockout punch against Illinois.
With Hyde doing most of the tough running inside, and Miller making guys miss on the perimeter, the Buckeyes racked up 330 yards on the ground in Ohio State’s 10th win of the season in 10 tries.
“Today’s performance was a top-five (team),” said Meyer, who remains undefeated in his tenure as the head football coach at Ohio State.
“You’d like to end it a little better instead of a fumble return for a touchdown, but when you control the line of scrimmage, that’s usually a top-five team.”
The Buckeyes have now rushed for over 200 yards in four of their last five games, and over three hundred in three of the last five. They are second in the Big Ten in rushing offense and first in yards per carry.
Miller has now rushed for over 1,100 yards in 10 games, and he’s on his way towards 1,400 in his first season with Urban Meyer. With his two-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Miller (13) tied Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball for the most rushing touchdowns in the Big Ten, but it’s Hyde (14) who leads the conference in total scores heading in to the final three weeks of the season.
“I run with passion, aggression and attitude,” said Hyde, who racked up 137 yards and three touchdowns on the ground Saturday.
“I feel like I can’t be brought down and I run with that in my mind, which allows me to run hard. It doesn’t matter who scores more running touchdowns between Braxton and me because I just want to help my team win in whatever way possible.”
There is no telling where the Buckeyes would be without Miller, certainly not undefeated right now. Backup Kenny Guiton proved to be a capable reliever out of the bullpen in Ohio State’s come-from-behind win over Purdue, but it’s Hyde who has racked up 12 touchdowns in six games since returning from a knee injury that cost him 2.5 games earlier in the year.
He has 737 yards on the ground this year in just seven games. He has carried the ball only 144 times, which is 75 fewer than Ball, who is tied with both Miller and Hyde for the most rushing touchdowns in the Big Ten.
But it wasn’t just Hyde on Saturday. Backup Rod Smith looked good again before his fumble, and freshman Bri’onte Dunn salted the game away with 73 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“He's a little looser with the ball, but I thought he ran very hard,” Meyer said of his third-string running back.
It was most impressive because Dunn was running behind five backups on the offensive line, but Taylor Decker, Jacoby Boren and the boys up front only continued with the starting five had already started.
“It all has to do with my offensive line. When those guys go, I go because when they do better, I can do my job better. And they did great today,” Hyde said after the game.
“Coach Meyer really challenged them to take control of the line of scrimmage this week, and they stepped up to the challenge.”
The Buckeyes are 10-0. If they’re going to complete the perfect season, it’s going to fall largely on the shoulders of Miller, the one true gamebreaking Meyer has on his offense. Suddenly, however, he’s not alone.
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