Miller Finds Stride At Key Time

Ohio State junior quarterback Braxton Miller played his best game of the season last weekend vs. Iowa - a mere game after nearly being pulled at Northwestern. After being told to just have fun, Miller came through perhaps a season-changing performance.

The best game of Braxton Miller's junior season was a long time coming.

The quarterback compiled 324 yards of offense in Ohio State's 34-24 hard-fought victory over Iowa last weekend, showing the skills that made Miller a preseason Heisman Trophy contender. He was efficient in the passing game, completing 22 of 27 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Miller, who missed the better part of three games this season because of a sprained MCL, also showed elusiveness in the ground game. He carried 18 times for 102 yards. Miller appeared to turn things around after nearly being pulled in Ohio State's previous game at Northwestern.

OSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said after the game that he saw a comfortable and relaxed Miller on the field.

"I think his biggest thing we've really preached all week was just go have fun," Herman said. "Take the pressure off yourself. Go have fun, go play. Not necessarily be a gun-slinger but trust yourself a little bit and have fun. He did that tonight and played really well."

"The kid's been the starting quarterback at The Ohio State University for a long time, and he's had a ridiculous amount of preseason hype. I think he'd be the first to admit at times he feels that pressure, so we worked hard on just having the mind-set of going out there and playing and having fun."

Miller deflected praise after the game, giving credit to his veteran offensive line. On Wednesday, Miller said at times his knee feels 100 percent recovered, while sometimes it's more like 95 percent.

After the Iowa game, Miller's teammates had no trouble talking up his performance.

"You saw some of those electric scrambles on some of those runs. He played awesome today," junior tight end Jeff Heuerman said. "He was 22 for 27. .... Those are some pretty good numbers. Those scrambles, that's what really allows our offense to do a lot of things that we want to do. They have to worry about Braxton and have a guy on Braxton because if there's not, he' going to take off and get us a first down and get us 30 yards."

Two days after the win, which moved the Buckeyes to 7-0 (3-0 Big Ten), Meyer described Miller's performance as "probably his best game overall."

Junior wide receiver Devin Smith noticed a big difference between Miller from the Northwestern game to the Iowa contest.

"I just felt like at Northwestern he felt like he had to do a little more than what he usually does," said Smith, who caught a game-high seven passes for 72 yards and a 14-yard touchdown in the third quarter. "This game, he just came out relaxed and knew exactly what he had to do – made his reads, made the throws and made plays. That's who Braxton is.

"You could tell with Braxton, he had a smile on his face every time he made a play. You could tell he enjoys playing the game of football."

Time will tell if Miller can somehow play his way back into the Heisman discussion, unlikely as that may be. Either way, it was a good sign for the Buckeyes to have Miller play his best as the conference season is hitting full stride. Both his rushing and passing totals against the Hawkeyes were season bests.

If Miller can build off his Iowa performance, it will only mean good things for Ohio State.

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