Buckeyes, Miller eclipse Illini in most metrics
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Braxton Miller arrived to the postgame interview room in Ohio Stadium fashionably late. While his Ohio State teammates were all finished with the media, Miller had yet to arrive. When he finally did enter, wearing a gray sweatshirt with “Cassius Clay” written across the front, reporters swamped him.
“Do you know who Cassius Clay was?” someone asked him.
“Yeah,” he responded defensively. “Do you?”
Everyone in the room chuckled.
“Do you float like a butterfly, sting like a bee?” someone else asked.
“Nah,” Miller replied. “That’s the defense.”
While Miller may not be The Greatest of All Time, he certainly dominates a room like the famed boxer. And after Ohio State’s 52-22 thumping of Illinois, Miller’s undefeated Buckeyes have the resume to handle the hype.
Few could have seen this coming on Oct. 15, 2011, when unranked Ohio State played then-No. 16 — and undefeated — Illinois at Memorial Stadium, in Champaign, Ill., and squeaked out a 17-7 victory. Miller threw for 17 yards on one completion and rushed for only 34 yards as a freshman.
One year and two head coaching changes later, Ohio State bullied Illinois in Columbus, Ohio, with Miller throwing for 226 yards, rushing for 73 and compiling three touchdowns. The Illini (2-7, 0-5 Big Ten) have lost six straight for the second year in a row, while the Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0) remain unbeaten and ranked No. 5 in the AP poll.
“We have a lot of respect for the personnel of the team we just played, especially on defense,” Ohio State first-year head coach Urban Meyer said. “There’s a couple of guys that received recognition, well deserved. However, I thought after a slow start the offense and defensive lines took over the game.”
If Miller dominates a room, Meyer owns it. When he talks, people listen. He did not smile postgame. He spoke about the game like a lawyer speaks about a disposed case. He was not content with Miller’s play.
“The area we’re not efficient enough is the drop-back pass,” Meyer said. “While (Miller’s) not a drop-back passer, (he) has to be. It’s not acceptable.”
Miller didn’t do it alone against Illinois. Running back Carlos Hyde ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns and the Ohio State ground game ran for 330 yards as a whole. The Buckeyes outgained Illinois 567-170 overall.
“It’s really those five guys up front,” Hyde said. “When (the offensive line) is playing good, everything else is just easy for me, Braxton, the wide outs. It gives Braxton time to throw the ball.”
Miller has eclipsed his passing and rushing numbers from 2011 by a wide margin, and there are still two games remaining on the Buckeyes’ schedule. Miller’s 1,166 rushing yards rank him behind only Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch for FBS quarterbacks. Along with his 1,753 passing yards, Miller has singlehandedly outgained Illinois both rushing and passing on the season. With a passing and a rushing touchdown against the Illini, Miller has 27 total touchdowns compared with Illinois’ 21.
“Last year was a bad experience for the guys,” Miller said. “The coaches came out here and the goal for the season was to make sure the seniors go out with a good chip on their shoulders.”
Despite being ineligible for postseason play, there is no mistaking that these Buckeyes want to run the table, something Illinois once had aspirations of more than a year ago. But the confidence of the Ohio State players after a 10-0 start eclipses anything the Illini achieved last year.
As Miller’s postgame interview neared an end, one reporter asked him what body part hurts most on Sunday mornings. He said, “Nothing.”
The room laughed yet again.
“No, really,” he said. “I take care of my body throughout the whole week and the training staff got me together, so I’m good.”
His Buckeyes aren’t bad either.
Sean can be reached at email@example.com and @sean_hammond.