October 27, 2013

Prime time statement

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COLUMBUS, Ohio-Braxton Miller jogged off the field, but before he could reach the sideline, his head coach stopped him. Urban Meyer, smiling, got in the face of his quarterback. He gave him a chest bump, screamed, "Yeah!", and patted him on the back.

Miller had just thrown a touchdown pass, his second of three, this one to Corey "Philly" Brown, near the end of the second quarter. The game was already a blowout, Ohio State merely piling on to its lead. The game was never close. The No. 4 ranked Buckeyes, yet to play to their full potential, did Saturday night, throttling Penn State, 63-14.

Meyer, as he appeared most of the night, was happy.

"I'm very pleased," Meyer said, "with arguably our best team win, offense and defense."

Ohio State came into the contest ranked fourth in the BCS standings, severely trailing the top three teams (Alabama, Florida State, Oregon), and ahead of teams (Missouri, Miami (Fla.)) with arguably stronger schedules and better wins. Meyer said his teams focus was not to make a statement to the pollsters and computers in front of a national audience. His players said otherwise.

"This was definitely a statement win. That's the attitude we carried to this game," said Bradley Roby. "We were going to make a statement on primetime, when everyone was watching. And we did, and I'm glad we did."

Regardless of how this win affects Ohio State in the BCS standings, it did prove what this team is capable of. Penn State was fresh off a win against Michigan, carrying momentum and a golden-armed quarterback into Columbus. The Buckeyes did whatever they wanted against the Nittany Lions; nearly everyone that took the field in Scarlet and Gray made an impact.

There was Braxton Miller slicing up Penn State's defense through the air, Carlos Hyde mashing any Nittany Lion defender that got in his way, and Noah Spence wreaking havoc on freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

There was Brown catching long passes from Miller, freshman speedster Dontre Wilson returning kicks deep into Penn State territory, Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown and C.J. Barnett picking off errant attempts.

"That was the most impressive part of the game to me," Meyer said, "causing turnovers, and when you hit the quarterback a little bit."

Kenny Guiton got in the act, too, replacing Miller in the fourth quarter, rushing for a touchdown, prompting the crowd to chant, "Kenny G! Kenny G!"

Even Cameron Johnston made an appearance, punting the ball for the first time in almost two games.

In all, there was 686 yards of offense, 278 of them through the air and 408 on the ground, the most since 1989. The 63 points scored is the highest total against Penn State since 1899. There were two interceptions and one forced fumble.

"I like where we're at right now. I like where we're at as a team," Meyer said.

But did the win make the statement Ohio State potentially needed to make?

"I think it helps," Meyer said.

This team, as Meyer will admit, will go as far as its quarterback can take it. There are lots of other factors in play, sure, but if Miller can play to his potential, Ohio State's as dangerous a squad as there is. If he doesn't, they'll struggle (see: at Northwestern).Against the Nittany Lions, Miller played about as well as he could, completing 75 percent of his passes and scrambling for two scores, the first touchdowns he's had on the ground all season.

For much of his time as a Buckeye, Miller has been an athlete playing quarterback, relying on his legs and physical attributes over his fundamentals and mind. That's changed.

"I love where Braxton's at right now," Meyer said. "He's a quarterback that's an athlete."

Miller has never been more comfortable.

"Through the year with coach Meyer, and the offense, learning, every game, I just improve myself and show what I got," Miller said.

This team, eight games in to the season, riding a 20-game winning streak-the longest in the nation and the second-longest in program history-has never been more confident.

"If we play like this," Wilson said, "nobody can beat us."


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