Nits know stifling OSU's Miller will be a primary task

ASSOCIATED PRESS Braxton Miller is a big threat for Ohio State.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Braxton Miller is a big threat for Ohio State.
Posted: October 25, 2013

STATE COLLEGE - It went down in the box score as a 1-yard run, but it was arguably the best individual play made against Penn State's defense all of last season.

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller pulled back a handoff to fake out a defensive end and most of Beaver Stadium, side-stepped a few would-be tacklers and leaped into the end zone during his team's 12-point victory last Oct. 27.

A year later, Penn State will get another crack at stopping No. 5 in scarlet and gray, who orchestrates a Buckeye offense that averages 45.0 points and 493.1 yards per game.

"I definitely remember that play, because he made one of our linebackers miss with his little hesitation move," linebacker Stephen Obeng-Agyapong said. "I see pictures of that play all the time . . . We just have to do our job as a defense and as an offense by dominating our game."

Miller was held in check for the first half of Ohio State's 35-23 victory against the Nittany Lions last season, but a strong second half allowed the signal-caller to finish with a combined 277 yards (143 passing, 134 rushing) and three touchdowns.

The junior's Heisman Trophy aspirations likely went out the window in the second week of the season when he injured his left knee against San Diego State and was held out the following 2 weeks. Miller still has 831 yards and eight touchdowns passing this season, to accompany 335 rushing yards for the fourth-ranked Buckeyes. Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said he thinks Miller is one of the top five players in the country, and added the quarterback looks better in his second season in coach Urban Meyer's offense.

"Last year was his first year in the system," O'Brien said. "Now I think he's got great grasp of this system. He's throwing the ball well. I thought they played real well offensively against Iowa. And again, if he gets outside the pocket, he's a dangerous guy."

Miller needed to complete only seven of his 19 passes to beat the Lions last season, but more throws have been on the money this season, as he owns a 69.6 completion percentage in five games and has thrown only two interceptions. Miller has proved he can be a handfull, and Saturday will mark the second consecutive game Penn State faces a quarterback who also is a running threat.

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was rocky before halftime 2 weeks ago in Penn State's four-overtime victory, but ended with 361 total yards (121 on the ground, averaging 5 yards per carry).

"They're very similar," linebacker Glenn Carson said when he was asked to compare Gardner and Miller. "They're playmakers, and when the game is on the line, I think they want to give the ball to those guys. That's where I think they're very similar. They're very good, elusive runners. Just like I watched a lot of Michigan tape on Gardner to see his execution, it's the same with Miller."

At 279.6 yards per game, Ohio State has the third-best running attack in the Big Ten, which extends beyond Miller. The Buckeyes use the tandem of running backs Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde. Both tailbacks have surpassed 400 yards for the season, and, while Hall has been nursing a knee injury lately, Hyde broke out for 149 yards and two touchdowns in Ohio State's victory against Iowa last week.

Hyde's highlight rush of the game came when he somehow maintained his balance after being hit and went backward for a moment, before turning around and eventually diving into the end zone for a fourth-quarter score.

"It was just a great individual effort," O'Brien said of the play. "He's obviously one of the better backs in the country."

Bill O'Brien received an early birthday present Tuesday night when Flemington, N.J., linebacker Jason Cabinda switched his commitment from Syracuse to Penn State. Tabbed as a two-star recruit by Rivals.com, Cabinda became the 15th player of Penn State's 2014 class. He's also the third prospect to pledge to O'Brien - who turned 44 yesterday - in the last week.


On Twitter: @SPianovich

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