Miller Peaks As Postseason Approaches

He made headlines with his two somersaulting touchdowns, but junior quarterback Braxton Miller's best play against Indiana -- and of his Ohio State career -- came on a 3rd-and-17 completion according to Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer. Is Miller peaking down the stretch? Although he doesn't typically like to use that term, Meyer certainly thinks so.

It's probably safe to assume offensive-minded Urban Meyer has spent some amount of time dissecting each of the 449 passes that Ohio State junior Braxton Miller has thrown during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. One pass stands apart from rest, though.

The memorable play came during the Buckeyes' 42-14 win against Indiana and, for Meyer, it underscores Miller's growth in their time together. It was also a reminder of what will be needed from Miller in order for the Buckeyes to achieve their postseason goals.

The standout pass from Miller arrived in the fourth-quarter against the Hoosiers and was set against a backdrop of swirling winds and short but intense snow squalls. On 3rd-and-17 with Ohio State holding a comfortable 35-0 advantage, Miller dropped back four yards and, with the pocket caving in around him, stood in and delivered a downfield strike to tight end Jeff Heuerman, who was able to catch the ball in stride before taking a spill on the snowy turf at Indiana's 39-yard line. For good measure, Miller then hit junior receiver Devin Smith in stride in the end zone on the very next play.

As far as the 25-yard completion to Heuerman goes, it was a play some fans might consider unspectacular, especially when you consider what Miller was doing with his feet in the first half.

The quarterback was his vintage, scrambling self at earlier moments in the game, but that isn't what impressed Meyer the most. In the first quarter, Miller made an acrobatic and ultimately unnecessary midair flip as he entered the end zone on a 37-yard run that put the Buckeyes up, 14-0. Later, her hurled himself into the north end zone on a 5-yard reverse run that ended with him crashing violently to Earth but breaking the plain to make the score 21-0.

Meyer, previously a coach of noted signal-calling scrambler and former Florida Gator Tim Tebow, doesn't necessarily consider midair flips and agile runs while gauging the progress of his quarterbacks, though. Plays such as Miller's two end zone dives, Meyer said, can be performed and toughed out by any gifted athlete or jumper.

Miller's performance against Indiana went down as one of the best of his college career, Meyer said, and it had more to do with his right throwing arm than his legs or flips.

"He threw a 3rd down and 17 (pass), and obviously (with) the weather conditions, with a guy bearing down on him, that is his best play at quarterback since we've been here," Meyer said. "That is his best, and he knows it. I know it. Tom Herman knows it."

Make no mistake – Miller's athleticism has played a significant role in the No. 3-ranked Buckeyes' (11-0, 7-0) current 23-game winning streak. Following the Indiana win, he made no apologies for his style of play. Miller, a draft-eligible player yet to announce whether he'll return to Ohio State for his senior season, said the acrobatic touchdowns were a show of commitment to his senior teammates celebrating Senior Day against the Hoosiers.

"Just having a little bit of fun," Miller said of his touchdown runs, "All year, actually with my knee brace and injury going on, but today, if you notice, I didn't have my knee brace on. I wanted to have a little bit of fun with it."

Up next for the Buckeyes is rival Michigan (7-4, 3-4), which has the No. 51 run defense in America. Miller could conceivably use a combination of runs and throws to lead the Buckeyes to a second consecutive win against the Wolverines. Michigan State (10-1, 7-0), the No. 8-ranked run defense, awaits Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, and then another talented team will come after that in the Buckeyes' bowl game.

For Miller's continued development and the team's continued success in upcoming postseason play, Miller will need to continue his reliance on passing rather than running, Meyer said.

A few more plays like the one that ended in a 25-yard reception to Heuerman could do the trick now that championship season has arrived.

"(Miller's) best play at college football quarterback was 3rd-and-17 on the right hash in snowy conditions where he completed a bender to Jeff Heuerman with pressure bearing down on him," Meyer said. "He didn't panic out of the pocket. He stepped, delivered the ball, and that might be worth going back and watching.

"I don't usually use that term (peaking), but I feel we're getting better and better each week. Braxton Miler is a different quarterback than he was."


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