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Quarterback Shines For Ohio State

Miller showed fans plenty of good things in victory

September 25, 2011
By RUSTY MILLER , The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Even though he's just a freshman and in his first autumn on a college campus, Braxton Miller played like a grizzled upperclassman.

Miller tossed two touchdown passes to Devin Smith as Ohio State rebounded from a lopsided loss for a 37-17 victory over error-prone Colorado on Saturday, extending the Buffaloes' school-record road losing skid to 19 in a row.

"I slept pretty good," Miller said. "I really didn't have any jitters at all."

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Declared the Buckeyes' starter on Thursday after Joe Bauserman's lackluster play failed to energize the offense, Miller's numbers weren't sparkling. But his direction of the offense was.

"Braxton did a good job," said Jordan Hall, who rushed for 84 yards and a TD and also had a 90-yard kickoff return to set up another score for the Buckeyes (3-1). "He was calm. He's going to be special."

The Buckeyes made the switch after one of the worst passing days in school history in a 24-6 loss at Miami last week. Bauserman was 2 of 14 for 13 yards and Miller hit on only 2 of 4 - in the final few seconds of a lost cause - for 22 yards with an interception.

Against Colorado, Miller completed only 5 of 13 passes for 83 yards. But he threw scoring strikes covering 32 and 17 yards to Smith and also ran for 83 yards on 17 carries.

"He gave us a lift," said Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell. "He gave us some things we needed."

Drew Basil added 13 points, including hitting all three of his field goal attempts, and Carlos Hyde also ran for a score.

Ahead 20-7 at the half, the Buckeyes only had to drive 50 yards before Miller hit Smith with his second scoring pass. After Colorado countered with a field goal, Hall brought the kickoff back 90 yards before he was brought down from behind at the 5. Hyde then scored on a sweep on the next play to make it 34-10.

Colorado (1-3) has not won a road game since Oct. 27, 2007, at Texas Tech.

"We have a long way to go as a program," first-year coach Jon Embree said. "We have a long way to go from the standpoint of getting to where we are competing and not hoping to upset an Ohio State."

Averaging 26 points and almost 394 yards per game, the mistake-prone Buffaloes did amass 314 yards but still were never in the game.

Tyler Hansen, who threw for 474 yards and three touchdowns in an overtime loss at California, had TD passes of 11 yards to Toney Clemons and 14 yards to Tyler McCulloch. Hansen completed 22 of 39 passes for 238 yards with no interceptions.

The Buffaloes, with just one turnover in their first three games, lost two fumbles in the first half while falling behind by two touchdowns. They also had nine penalties and several other mistakes.

After their first possession, Darragh O'Neill shanked a punt that covered just 20 yards and put the Buckeyes in control at the Buffaloes 43. Seven plays later, Hall vaulted up the middle for the touchdown.

Tailback Rodney Stewart and Hansen miscommunicated on a handoff with no defender around after the ensuing kickoff, the ball coming free with Ohio State's Adam Bellamy falling on it at the Colorado 22. Basil then converted a 28-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.

The Buckeyes, who did not complete a pass to a wide receiver in the Miami loss, broke through early in the second quarter when Miller lobbed a 32-yard scoring pass to Smith, who was running a post pattern and had three steps on the defensive back.

More than creating big gainers, Embree was impressed with how Miller avoid big losses.

"He did a good job of getting it back to the line of scrimmage or getting 2 or 3 yards out of something when we should have had him for negative yardage," he said.

Late in the half, with Colorado still within range down by just 10 points, Stewart was interfered with by a teammate on a punt return and fumbled, with Zach Domicone recovering for the Buckeyes at the Colorado 11. Two plays later, Basil converted a field goal to make it 20-7.

The Buckeyes were out of the Miami game early. Seven days later, they played with some fire.

"We had to play with some emotion," said Fickell, whose team had been ranked for the previous 103 weeks before this one. "We wanted to get back home and get that feel of emotion, get those guys on the sideline, get the students into it. That's what we saw out there today, from the beginning of the game really all the way to the end."