|Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, left, and head coach Urban Meyer celebrate after the Buckeyes 35-23 win at Penn State on Saturday evening. (AP)|
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — "Oh, my God!"
Those are the words Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer kept hearing in his headset after his sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller juked, dipped and dived his way in the end zone — in the third quarter — to give the Buckeyes a double-digit lead, as well as making the Penn State defense resemble the Keystone Cops.
"We work on that," Meyer joked after their 35-23 victory Saturday night, improving their season record to 9-0 (5-0 Big Ten). "We have a drill. Make seven people miss, dive across and hold the ball. I was on the field level so I couldn't see it.
"All I heard on my headset was, 'Oh, my God!'"
I'm sure the coaches upstairs who were in Meyer's ear weren't the only ones uttering those words. The scoring run — albeit from just one-yard out — exemplified perfectly who Miller is on the field ... a magician, a player who disappears in the grasp of oncoming defenders.
"I don't know who was around me," Miller said about the miraculous play. "My instincts just took over after that."
It is those "instincts" that have put Miller on the Heisman Trophy shortlist.
After having to be rushed to the hospital during the third quarter of last week's game against Purdue, Miller returned to the third quarter this week — after a pedestrian showing in the first half — and put the Buckeyes on his shoulders, racking up yardage with feet and arm ... and doing so with his superior football instincts.
Penn State senior cornerback Stephon Morris said you just can't prepare for what Miller will bring.
"He's a dual threat," Morris said of Miller. "You got to worry about the pass, you got to worry about the run obviously. It's definitely hard. You got to make sure you detain.
"It's hard to prepare for something like that. Malik (Golden) did a really good job on the scout team (this week). But we got the real thing today.
"Braxton Miller ... he's a good player."
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien felt the same way as his star cornerback.
"I think he's an excellent player," O'Brien said of Miller. "He's one of the top five players in the country."
Miller finished with 277 total yards and three touchdowns in the win, including 134 and two scores on the ground. The rushing total Saturday night put Miller over the 1,000-yard mark on the season. His 1,093 yards is currently tops in the Big Ten among all players. His 2,620 total yards and 24 touchdowns are also conference-bests.
Penn State and its 107,000-plus fans got to see Miller and those multi-talents first hand.
"It was just Braxton and how he was able to make all the right plays," Penn State senior defensive end Sean Stanley said about the outcome. "It was just his ability to scramble when he needed to make a big play."
Meyer said he knew Miller was going to be special in the hostile Beaver Stadium environment. He could just see it in his eyes.
"He had that look in his eye," Meyer said of Miller. "There's twice this year that I've seen that look — the Nebraska game and this one.
"He is such a competitive guy."
SHAZIER HONORED LATE FRIEND ... Buckeyes sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier wore the No. 48 jersey in Saturday's game against the Nittany Lions in memory of his childhood friend, Gary Curtis.
Curtis, who was the team manager for Shazier's high school football team in Florida, passed away prior to the season from muscular dystrophy. He always wore a No. 48 jersey while sitting in a wheelchair cheering on Shazier and his team from the sidelines.
Shazier not only honored Curtis by wearing his jersey, he also did it in dominating fashion, leading the team with seven tackles (two for losses), two sacks and a forced fumble.
“I was thinking about him the whole game, I knew I had his number on, and it just felt like he was playing through me … and he just had my back,” Shazier said.
To put icing on the cake, Shazier picked off a Matt McGloin pass in the third quarter and raced 17 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. The pick-six put the Buckeyes on top for good.
"It was amazing because it almost felt like a dream,” Shazier said. “I’d dropped so many picks this year, and when I caught the ball it felt amazing, just knowing I’m helping my team out, and it was a great momentum change.”
STONEBURNER GOES VERTICAL ... With a little more than six minutes to play in the game, and Penn State picking up momentum, Buckeyes senior receiver Jake Stoneburner dashed any hopes of a Nittany Lions rally.
Facing a third-and-4 at their own 28-yard line, Stoneburner ran a post route and got on top of the Penn State secondary. Miller spotted the speeding Stoneburner and fired a laser to the veteran pass catcher, who snagged the pass and raced all the way to the end zone for the 72-yard, nail-in-the-coffin score.
Stoneburner was hoping he had the wheels to take it the distance.
"At first I was only thinking that I cannot get caught," Stoneburner said. "It was surreal, I have never had that long of a touchdown in this big of a game."
Stoneburner, who hasn't had as stellar of a year as many hoped coming into this season, was happy Miller had the confidence to go to him in such a critical moment.
"My defender was playing a little behind me, and the field was open in front of me which gave me an advantage," Stoneburner said. "Of course, Braxton also laid it out perfectly, as well. He had the confidence in me to make the big play.
"I am just happy that he threw it."
BUCKEYES ONE GAME CLOSER TO CHAMPIONSHIP ... Although the Buckeyes are prohibited from post-season play, they can still be awarded the Big Ten Leaders Division trophy.
After their win against fellow conference unbeaten Penn State on Saturday evening, the Buckeyes are in the driver's seat for the crown. They have just three games remaining on the year, beginning next Saturday against Illinois at Ohio Stadium.
They will then go on a bye and then finish on the road at Wisconsin and home to Michigan.
Ohio State is the only unbeaten team remaining in the conference.