Miller and Buckeye Offense have had Total Makeover Since Last Trip to Illinois
By Rob Ogden
Aside from the fact that his team got the win, Braxton Miller's last trip to Champaign, Ill. wasn't a memorable one for the quarterback. As the Buckeyes prepare to head back to Illinois, Miller tried to recall that game.
scampers for yardage against Illinois in 2011
Photo by Jim Davidson
"I can't even remember, but I know that we threw one touchdown. I completed one ball," said Miller, who completed 1-of-4 passing attempts in the Buckeyes' 17-7 win over the Illini on Oct. 15, 2011.
Today, that stat line is nearly unfathomable for the team that averages 29 passes per game and leads in the Big Ten in passing efficiency.
The one pass Miller completed that day was a touchdown to tight end Jake Stoneburner.
Two quarters passed without the Buckeyes even attempting a pass.
Then-freshman Evan Spencer was among the vast majority of Ohio State receivers that didn't catch a pass that day.
"It' definitely different now," Spencer said. "It was just two completely different offensive strategies, two different offensive minds. I'm sure we executed the game plan, obviously it wasn't as good as we planned it to be. At the end of the day, it sucked, but we got the 'W'."
The Buckeyes utilized an offensive game plan fit for Woody Hayes. In fact, the last time Ohio State had gone an entire game with just one pass completion was 1976, Hayes' third-to-last season as Ohio State coach.
Rod Gerald was the quarterback then, and Ohio State lost to Missouri 22-21. Gerald attempted 116 passes that season, but only one during that game.
In 2011, Miller finished the game with eight more rushes than passing attempts.
But even coach Urban Meyer, known for his spread offensive attack, said he wouldn't have done things much differently.
"I know they had a young quarterback and a fairly non-functional group of wideouts," Meyer said. "I would imagine you'd do what we did: Run the quarterback a lot. Do what you gotta do to walk out of there with a win."
That's exactly what the Buckeyes did, and they were glad to get it.
"Going back to my freshman year, we were fighting and clawing to get every win that we could, so getting the win felt good," Spencer said.
With the way Illinois (3-6, 0-5 Big Ten) has been playing this season, the Buckeyes might be able to go without throwing a single pass Saturday and still cover the 32-point spread.
But with the way Miller's been playing lately, they would be crazy to do so.
Looking back on that game, Miller said he realizes how far he's come, and questioned whether he was ready for the big-time back then.
"I was thrown in there early," he said. "I don't think I was ready at that time, but I did what I had to do. It was kind of a big stage at the time, and it was kind of tough because I was so young and I really didn't expect to play as a freshman."
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