Meyer Nearly Turned OSU Offense Over to Guiton
By Brandon Castel
EVANSTON, Ill. — Ohio State fans weren’t the only ones thinking about Kenny Guiton Saturday. Even the team’s head coach wondered at one point if the Buckeyes have a better chance to win the game at Northwestern with the team’s backup quarterback in the game.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Unlike past situations when Guiton was called upon to save the Buckeyes, there was nothing wrong with starter Braxton Miller on Saturday night, at least nothing that would have kept him on the sideline.
“It bothers me just a little bit,” Miller said of his left knee,” but I run through it and it doesn’t bother me after the game.”
It wasn’t Miller’s tentative running or even the fact he misfired on a potential touchdown pass to a wide open Chris Fields that caused Meyer to get his backup warming up on the sideline.
Instead, it was Miller’s costly turnovers – particularly the two fumbles – that had Meyer “real close” to bringing Guiton off the bench to run the Ohio State offense at one point in the second half.
“My heart bleeds,” Meyer said, “but I almost put Kenny in there.”
Guiton ran the offense to near perfection for three weeks while Miller recovered from a sprained MCL suffered in the team’s season opener, but Miller still hasn’t fully recovered, at least not in his mind.
He certainly isn’t putting up the kind of numbers that were expected of a preseason Heisman Trophy front-runner, and the fact his longest run of the night went for just 15 yards says a lot about his explosiveness heading into Ohio State’s bye week.
Braxton Miller puts the ball on the ground against Northwestern
Photo by Dan Harker
His first fumble set Northwestern up for a go-ahead touchdown in the first quarter, and his second one kept the Buckeyes from cutting into the Wildcats’ 23-13 lead early in the third quarter.
“We were riding…I just didn't think that was the appropriate thing to do at that point,” Meyer said of making the switch.
“I had faith that No. 5 would get it done in the end and he did.”
Miller finished the game with 203 yards passing, but did not account for any touchdowns in Ohio State’s come-from-behind 40-30 victory in Evanston. He completed 15 of his 26 passes and netted 68 yards on 17 carries – not exactly a Heisman Trophy caliber performance, but Miller didn’t expect to come out of the game, even after his third turnover.
“I didn't know nothing about that, so I don't know,” Miller said in the locker room afterward.
“You know, it's Coach's decision. Whatever he feels like. ... It's all on him.”
Wide receiver Corey Brown caught six passes for 127 yards from Miller on Saturday night, but he wasn’t worried about the fact his head coach nearly made a change in the middle of the game.
“I don’t have a problem with either quarterback. It doesn’t matter who we have in the game because we have confidence in both of them,” the senior wideout said after the game.
“I think it’s such a brotherhood here, even if Kenny G went in, Braxton would understand. I think he knew he wasn’t playing up to Braxton’s potential.”
That’s where things get tricky for Meyer and the Buckeyes moving forward. If Miller is healthy and operating at full strength – both mentally and physically – it makes very little sense for Ohio State to make a change at quarterback. After all, this is the same player who led the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 record last season and nearly made it to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation.
But Miller doesn’t look like the guy who ran for over 1,200 yards last season. His longest run of the year is just 40 yards, and he has yet to score a touchdown on the ground after tallying 20 of them over the last two seasons. He is completing 65 percent of his passes this year, up from 58 percent a year ago, but he turned the ball over three times in a critical road game Saturday night.
If not for the heroic performance from tailback Carlos Hyde, the Buckeyes are likely looking at a much different world today. Instead, Ohio State’s streak remains intact at 18 in a row, and the Buckeyes are still in position for a national championship run.
They’re probably going to need a much better – and healthier – Braxton Miller if they’re going to get there.
“Braxton is still Braxton,” Brown said.
“He still made his plays and did what he does. He kept his head high and was still a great leader. We have faith in him and we know he’ll play better.”