Which Braxton Miller Will Show up at the Orange Bowl?

By Kyle Rowland on December 31, 2013 at 3:15p
Miller's passing game slumped down the stretch.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As Carlos Hyde continued an historic stretch of running the football, teammate Braxton Miller was beset by struggles while attempting passes. But Ohio State’s offense hummed non-stop for much of the season, even as Miller’s passing stats went by the wayside.

In the Buckeyes’ last four games, he completed 46 percent of his passes (38 for 82) for 544 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Miller’s two worst passing outputs of the season came in the two biggest games – Michigan and Michigan State. He completed just six passes against the Wolverines and a modest eight versus the Spartans.

Poor weather could garner some of the blame, but the Big Ten Championship Game was played indoors. A bigger factor was solid defensive play and his inability to crack the code. But Miller didn’t back down from the reality that his passing fell off at crucial times.

“It was down,” he said, describing his final-month performance. “We just have to get better. That’s what we're doing right now. That's why we work so hard in practice. We’ve got to watch the film. We’ll be all right.”

Despite the downward trend in November and December, Miller still improved dramatically compared to last season. His completion percentage stands at a career-high 63.2 percent, five points better than last season, and in three fewer games he’s only 179 yards passing from last year’s total, which topped 2,000.

“Braxton has grown as a passer,” senior wideout Philly Brown said. “Coach Herman has more trust in us and Coach Meyer has more trust in us. We really shouldn’t hold anything back now, so hopefully we come out and give everybody the show that they want.”

Offensive coordinator Tom Herman set the 70-percent mark as a goal for Miller’s completion percentage before the season. That number would sail by Troy Smith’s school-record Heisman-winning 65.3 percent, set in 2006. And Miller was on pace to establish a new record until his struggles came along. With four games remaining, he had completed over 72 percent of his passes.

Meyer and Herman each made reference to the less than ideal elements in relation to poor passing days against Illinois and Indiana, when wind and snow made uninvited appearances.

“I think he needs to continue improving,” Herman said. “I mean, he’s certainly not perfect and wasn’t perfect in the middle of the season, but I think maybe some of the flaws and mistakes were able to be masked by some of the simpler things that we did and that defenses allowed us to do.

“So as you move later in the season, obviously, defenses say, ‘Here’s what they’re doing. We’ve got to stop this.’ So when you stop that, what’s your counter? I don’t know that we ever made that push into the next phase of the adjustment in the passing game, but we will. Braxton’s gotten better these last three weeks, absolutely.”

“He has been a spark for us his whole career here.” -Tom Herman

Miller’s four best rushing outings did coincide with a dip in passing production. That may or may not be a coincidence. With Hyde all but guaranteed to tack on 100 yards rushing each game, teams dared Miller to throw the football. When he failed, defenses were able to creep even closer to the line of scrimmage.

Ironically, even with 623 rushing yards rushing and eight touchdowns in those same four games, it’s a play that came up short that gets remembered. If Ohio State beats Michigan State, Miller’s passing woes are forgiven and a minor story in the lead up to the national championship game. But the Buckeyes did lose, receivers did drop passes, Miller was inaccurate and he was stuffed on a 4th and 2 late in the fourth quarter against the Spartans.

“He has been a spark for us his whole career here,” Herman said. “He did a fantastic job, and he completed some really tough balls and obviously ran really well, too. He has made a lot of progress. I was proud of him. I was really proud of how hard he played.”

Clemson already carries the tag of being the top stopper behind the line of scrimmage. It leads the nation in tackles for loss with 113 and ranks in the top 25 in sacks (33) as well. Miller’s skill set could be a detriment for the Tigers, though.

“He’s got a great blend of size and uncanny speed,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “We’ve seen some athletic quarterbacks this year, but none with the speed that he has. With his size and strength, he can run through trash. Because of his strength, like a running back, he's got eyes in the back of his head. He sees guys from all angles. He’s just got an uncanny ability in the pocket to feel pressure.”

Said linebacker Spencer Shuey: “Some of the plays we see him make on film is just unbelievable to sit there and watch. You rewind it over and over and you still can’t believe it every single time you watch it.”

The Orange Bowl won’t be for the national title, but its importance is not diminished. For Ohio State, it would act as a statement win, and for Miller, who didn’t fare well in his last trip to Sun Life Stadium, it could be confirmation that he can perform under duress. Mr. October is a coveted title in baseball, not football.

As South Carolina’s Connor Shaw proved, Clemson is ripe for the picking by dual-threat quarterbacks. He completed 54 percent of his passes for 154 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 94 yards and a score. He eluded several sacks and extended four drives by gaining first-down yardage on third downs.

But thee of the Gamecocks’ four touchdowns that afternoon – a 31-17 South Carolina victory – came off Tiger turnovers. Clemson limited South Carolina’s offense to 318 yards, its second-lowest total of the season.

“It’s not just about a guy that spies all day as the answer,” Venables said. “If that were the answer, all of those running quarterbacks wouldn’t be worth a dang if they would just do that, right?

“That’s why multidimensional quarterbacks are good. Not just a runner, that’s one thing. If they’re just a passer, that’s one thing. But if they can do both, that makes it a little bit more difficult and it becomes a chess match.”

So the question becomes who pawns whom?


Comments Show All Comments

Curt Heinrichs's picture

Hopefully it's not the "still has remnants of the flu Braxton." That would be a bad way to start the New Year. 

Hovenaut's picture


I'll go with the opposite end of the spectrum and hope "the number one pick in the 2015 NFL draft Braxton" makes an appearance.

bigbadbuck's picture

He better be on top of his game. The whole team better be because I for one am tired of listening to the naysayers, especially the southern naysayers telling the whole world the Bucks don't belong.

Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, its a war room

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

That isn't going to ever stop, regardless of what Ohio State does!  The victory over Miami, over Oregon, and over Arkansas, as well as a 6 - 3 best BCS bowl record does not matter to anybody outside of Ohio!!!  The only thing they remember is OSU vs. Fla and OSU vs. LSU in the NC game!  That will NEVER change even after we beat the living shit out of Clemson because when we do, the only thing you'll hear is that Clemson was overrated!!!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

buckeyepastor's picture

It might never stop, but I'm tired of them having legitimate ammunition to doubt us.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

FROMTHE18's picture

Smart Braxton would be nice. Make quick decisions and know when the right time to stay in the pocket and the right time to bail is. Im hoping its a lot of Handoff Braxton, give Hyde the damn ball.

Seattle Linga's picture

Love the Vid HW

Bamabucknut's picture

Run the ball.......eat the clock....hide the defense.......don't ask Miller to pass the way to victory.

D-Day0043's picture

Miller is clearly a different passer at home than he is on the road. He gets nervous in a hostile environment and his mechanics go to crap. His mechanics regressed throughout the year, and by the time the B1G championship game came around his throwing motion was all out of whack. He was pushing the ball in a half-cocked sidearm motion. 
He has absolutely no touch on his passes, every one is a bullet. His is very inconsistent with his accuracy.
In his defense, receivers have dropped balls that they should have caught. Lack of consistent accuracy, receivers not getting open, and dropped passes, make for a ineffective passing game, and it finally cost them.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

Chris Raiden's picture

You're right. This team didn't play a real road game in a truly hostile environment until Game 12, and it showed. Most of the road games they played were to a relatively scarlet heavy crowd

D-Day0043's picture

They have got to develop a intermediate passing game. They either throw the ball 10 yards or under, or 30 yards or more. The deep pass is great, but it is a low percentage pass and cannot be relied upon for consistent offensive success. I watch Miller make his reads and if there is a defender close on an intermediate route, he seems too scared to throw to his receiver, and I think Herman steers clear of those type of routes most of the time because he doesn't trust Miller to make a good throw. I have yet to see him throw a receiver open.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

teddyballgame's picture

Seems like everytime I hear about some athlete who was/is battling the flu they actually play pretty well. 

gonzogrover's picture

Hopefully Braxton pre-Illinois. Prior to the game in the wind tunnel in Champaign, Braxton was a decent passer. Since then, we've lost the run-pass balance and the passing game has had no intermediate success. It's been all deep balls and dump offs. If our Buckeyes can regain that balance and recall the play calling from the Penn State game and before, we can have some serious offensive success.

rdubs's picture

Looks like he is over the flu unless this was taped a while ago...

Knarcisi's picture

Actually a real stupid way to get hurt. 

Bucks777's picture

I mean come on, millions of people will be watching you play football in the Orange Bowl: Scouts, family members, people that paid big bucks to fly into Florida, and etc...
Had he re injured his knee or hurt his ankle on this wave board, we would all be posting comments on a completely different post:
How irresponsible for Braxton to do such a thing, a few days before the biggest game of his career.
I don't think I am overreacting ...just being honest.

Buckeyejason's picture

Do you actually expect these guys to make responsible decisions? LOL, good luck with that! 


Bucks777's picture

Ok, so I guess they should go trade in some OSU t-shirts and sign them and get some tattoos while there in florida...right?
So you are saying it's ok for them to do this , because you can't control them...REALLY??
Nice logic.

Bucks777's picture

Coaches can come down hard and lay down the law when it comes to these types of games, and what type of behavior is acceptable and is not...

45has2's picture

Is there a smart way to get hurt?

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

SilverState's picture

Can you say sprained ankle? Easy on the Skimboards fellas...

rdubs's picture

More likely to skin a knee on the sand or hurt a wrist landing funny.

Bucks777's picture

Better hope Urban doesn't see this...

45has2's picture

Urb was right there on the beach with his team; as were the other coaches. Hold on to your hat, they also played beach volleyball. Go to O zone dot net for full pics.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

Bucks777's picture

He lost his red shirt watch him grab for it on his right leg after he comes out of the water and then ...he realizes...it's not there  :-)

BoFuquel's picture

Braxton the runner would be fine with me. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Bloombergl's picture

With the D being suspect when healthy, and knowing that Spence, Roby and Grant are questionable, I'd bet we go with a whole lot of el Guapo.  I'll bet we eat lots of clock to try to keep the Clemson O on the sideline.  Best D is the proverbial good O.  Not counting on Brax lighting it up through the air (until next year - for tOSU).

Gametime's picture

I still don't like all the designed runs for Braxton. We've all critiqued (fairly) his reads when running the option, but I'd much rather see him get yards like Mariotta & Manziel where the field is spread out 5-Wide and he's able to step back survey the field and scramble for big gains. Allow him to actually be a dual-threat, not just a QB who can run & pass.
We have too many reliable RBs for Braxton to have to run as much as he does, especially between feeding Hyde, EzE, & Dontre who are all dangerous with the ball in their hands (and Hall too when he's 100%).
I appreciate the strides the offense have made, but the news that:

"I don’t know that we ever made that push into the next phase of the adjustment in the passing game, but we will." - Tom Herman

This to me is the same as Fickell saying "Did we win?"
WHY weren't we making this progression to the next phase against inferior teams where mistakes wouldn't be so magnified? And if not them, why not Wisconsin or Northwestern? This makes it easy to assume that the staff had a "stick with what works" mentality for most of the season rather than pushing forward the progression because of their own pace and devices rather than waiting until you have to make an adjustment to make one...(I hope I'm reading that wrong.)

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

nm_buck's picture

Braxton is going to pass and run... and he's going to do it well because El Guapo is going to have a big game, forcing the clemmy D to stack the box.  Also expect to see Heuermann have a big day.
Someone said it earlier... stay on the field and hide the defense on the sideline.  Keep them fresh and they'll have better odds.
Wonder if we'll see Sweet Jazz in the game along with Braxton?  
And don't forget about Wilson.  This could be a HUGE game for him... it could be his coming out party... he's been quietly working hard and getting better.
Gonna be fun.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed on the whole post NM except I think Wilson has been predicted to have a breakout game against every team on our schedule this year.

RufusVonDufus's picture

And Huerman has also been predicted to "light it up" too many times when he was never even thought of during the game.    We don't use half of what we actually have and that is coaching!


seahawk23701's picture

If you look at the last two games the reason Braxton Miller's numbers went down were because Meyer went run heavy instead of passing the ball. I felt like I was watching Trussle ball all over again. The Urban Meyer I want to see is the one that was at Florida when he would put the pedal to the metal. There were times this year where he became just as conservative as The Vest did once he got a lead. I have always had the attitude, when you are on offense it is your job to put the ball in the end zone and it is the defenses job to stop you. It's not the offenses fault if the defense can't stop them.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Braxton Miller will have one of the best games of his career on Friday!!!  Urban is whipping them up into an angry angry angry group and they will come out incredibly pissed off!  Braxton goes off big time because Clemson will try to stop El Guapo... it will be Go Braxton Go all night long!!!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

buckeyepastor's picture

I want the Braxton who knows when to throw and when to tuck it and go.  And I want to see a return of the Braxton who, when he decided to take off, found second gear FAST.   The last part of the season, when the pass wasn't there, he looked very tentative taking off and it cost us.  I also want the Braxton who knows when to keep on the zone read and when to hand it off.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Are the players really going to be up for this game after losing the B1G Championship and a chance to play in the NC?  That is the main question, but the query Kyle poses "Which Braxton Miller Will Show up at the Orange Bowl?" is great and a critical part that determination.  The Braxton Miller we saw against Indiana would be nice from the standpoint it appeared he wanted to show the country how hard he can play when he puts his mind to it. 

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Bamabucknut's picture

We have an athlete playing quarterback.just like our prior quarterback.

allinosu's picture

It's a matter of which Herman shows up. If it's the one that showed at California were good. If it's the one that shows against Michigan St. not so good.

Crimson's picture

From some of the pre-game press comments, I think your problem is actually with Meyer.  Meyer wants the offense to be 50/50, while Herman wanted whatever they do well.  If that means 100/0 runs or 0/100 runs that gets the job done, then so be it.  However, that's just comments they released to the press.