|Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller runs in a touchdown Saturday during the Buckeyes 34-20 win over Indiana. (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)|
But it seemed whenever the Hoosiers would have the Buckeyes against the ropes ready to inflict punishment, Braxton Miller would deliver a bout-changing haymaker.
Trailing 10-0 with 5:58 to play in the first quarter, the true freshman Miller — on second-and-12 at the OSU 19 — took a shotgun draw up the middle, bounced it to the left and raced 81 yards to the house for a touchdown — the longest run by a quarterback in OSU history.
The Buckeyes — who looked to be suffering from a bit of a hangover following their upset win over Wisconsin a week ago — seemed to break out of their early slumber with Miller's record-setting rumble, sparking a 34-10 Ohio State run the rest of the way, en route to a 34-20 victory.
The Buckeyes improve to 6-3 overall with the win and 3-2 in the Big Ten. Indiana falls to 1-9 (0-6).
Miller's big-punch ability would present itself again late in the third quarter. With the score tied — and facing a third-and-goal at the Indiana 20 — Miller took a quarterback draw up the middle, kicked it to the right and cruised into the end zone for the 27-20 advantage with nine ticks remaining in the third.
The run by Miller would be the game's knockout blow.
The Buckeyes' signal caller — who moves to 4-2 as a starter — finished the win with 160 total yards, including 105 on the ground and two touchdowns. He was 5-of-11 passing for 55 yards and an interception.
OSU head coach Luke Fickell was pleased with Miller, as well as the blocking on those big, game-changing runs.
"Obviously he's a heck of a football player," Fickell said of Miller. "He can run the football very well, he's getting better at everything. (His runs were) blocked pretty well, too. I know he can make one guy miss or might outrun some of the other guys, but we did a heck of a job blocking down field, even the wide outs on the long 81 yard run ...
"Yes (Miller) did a heck of a job. The guys around him did a heck of a job and gave him an opportunity to show what he can do."
"I took advantage of the offensive line's blocking," Miller said. "It was real good. It's great to be in the Ohio State record book, but I keep striving toward the next game."
Miller wasn't the only Buckeye delivering the shots Saturday, though — the backfield duo of senior Dan "Boom" Herron and sophomore Carlos Hyde also left some welts on the Hoosiers' defense.
Herron, who has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the two games he has played this season, continued the streak, going for 141 and a touchdown on 14 carries. Hyde, the team's leading rusher, added 105 and a touchdown on 15 touches.
After his first carry of the second half last week against Wisconsin went for 57 yards, Herron exploded once again Saturday on his initial tote of the second half, going off the right end for 40 yards into Indiana territory. However, the long jaunt would be for naught, as three plays later Indiana's Alexander Webb would pick off a deep pass from Miller at the Hoosiers' 2.
Following a three-and-out by the Hoosiers on the ensuing series, the Buckeyes would remain in favorable field position starting at the Indiana 48.
This time the Buckeyes would take advantage.
Miller rushed for 13 yards on first down, then Herron would it the rest of the way running on the next three plays for 35 yards, including a touchdown from 15 out to put the Buckeyes ahead 20-13.
Of course, with upset still on their minds, Indiana answered in impressive fashion driving 64 yards on seven plays during the ensuing series, capped off by a 34-yard scoring toss from Indiana freshman quarterback Tre Roberson to wide receiver Kofi Hughes, tying the score back up at 20-20 with 6:56 to play in the third.
The dual-threat Roberson was up to the challenge for most of Saturday's showdown against the Buckeyes' defense, finishing with 244 total yards (174 passing, 70 rushing) and a touchdown pass.
Following Miller's 20-yard touchdown run that put the Buckeyes ahead 27-20 to end the third quarter, Roberson came back with a formidable answer of his own driving his team down the field for 28 yards on five plays, which included an 18-yard pass on third down to Hughes and a 10-yard run near midfield with less than five minutes to play.
However, the effort would end there, as Roberson fired a pass down field into the hands of Ohio State cornerback Travis Howard, who returned it the OSU 42.
On the ensuing drive, Hyde would begin things with a run of 47 yards to the Indiana 7. Two plays later, Hyde pounded the point home as he found pay dirt on a two-yard run for the final score of the contest.
Hyde, who hasn't seen much action in the past two weeks, certainly caught the attention of his head coach.
"You just never know when your opportunity is going to arise," Fickell said. "There's a guy that had a 100-yard rushing game against Nebraska and really hasn't seen the field a whole lot since then. He's kept his head up, he's continued to battle.
The Buckeyes compiled 401 yards of offense in the win — with 346 coming on the ground. The Buckeyes finished the day with three 100-yard rushers (Miller, Herron, Hyde) — the first time that has happened at OSU since 1989.
"Our confidence is really high," Hyde said. "To have three guys go over 100 yards in the same game is huge. We did a great job running the ball today."
Indiana racked up 333 yards and 19 first downs in the defeat.
Junior defensive lineman John Simon had another outstanding effort on Saturday totaling a team-high 10 tackles (three for losses) and a sack.
The Buckeyes also received sacks from Ryan Shazier, Jamie Wood and Michael Bennett in the win.
Linebacker Andrew Sweat recorded nine tackles for the Buckeyes, while Christian Bryant, C.J. Barnett, Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel each added seven stops.
The Buckeyes will travel to Purdue next Saturday in hopes of keeping their Big Ten title hopes alive.