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Ohio State’s Braxton Miller wins battle of true-freshmen QBs

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

Ohio State football’s Saturday game against Indiana presented a matchup between two scrambling, true freshmen quarterbacks in the Hoosiers’ Tre Roberson and the Buckeyes’ Braxton Miller. This quarterback competition could be one to watch as the two players learn and grow at their respective programs, but Miller got the better of Roberson in their first collegiate meeting.

Roberson ran for 70 yards and was 11-of-21 passing for 174 yards and a touchdown for Indiana (1-9, 0-6), but Miller ran for 105 yards, two touchdowns and passed for 55 yards on 5-of-11 passing to help lead the Buckeyes (6-3, 3-2) to a 34-20 win at Ohio Stadium.

It was Roberson who had the early success Saturday, and quieted a ‘Shoe crowd of 105,195 as he helped the Hoosiers to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Indiana’s first-year quarterback ran for 30 yards on his first two drives of the game, which ended with a 35-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Mitch Ewald and 5-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Stephen Houston.

Then, with 1:22 remaining in the opening stanza, Miller sparked OSU to life.

Miller juked, ducked and dodged defenders on his way to the end zone on a historic, 81-yard run that sliced OSU’s deficit to 10-7. The run was the sixth-longest in program history, and the longest-ever run by an OSU quarterback.

“It was a QB draw,” Miller said after the game. “I took advantage of the offensive line’s blocking. It was real good. It’s great to be in the Ohio State record book.”

Ewald and Buckeyes’ sophomore kicker Drew Basil exchanged field goals and the two teams went into half tied at 13. The break in the action didn’t prevent Miller or Roberson from continuing their respective success, though.

After Daniel “Boom” Herron, who finished with a game-high 152 rushing yards, put OSU up 20-13, with a 15-yard run, Roberson responded less than four minutes later.

Sophomore receiver Kofi Hughes hauled in a 34-yard Roberson touchdown pass to put the teams back on level terms.

“That was a big positive for us. We don’t believe in moral victories but we’ve been getting up to our potential as a team,” said Hughes of his game-tying catch.

Roberson gave credit to his receiver after the game, saying Hughes really stepped up in the game.

“(Hughes) continues to work hard and get better every day,” Roberson said. “He’s a great target to have.”

Miller helped OSU begin to take control of the game on the Buckeyes’ next possession.

An 80-yard drive that lasted 6:50 ended with a 20-yard touchdown run by Miller that put OSU up, 27-20. The touchdown was his fourth rushing score in two games for Miller, who also had two rushing touchdowns in OSU’s 33-29 Oct. 29 victory against then-No. 12 Wisconsin.

“It was a good job by (Miller),” Herron said. “He’s definitely getting better every week. You can see in practice he’s a guy wanting to get better and willing to do anything to improve.”

Miller raised the stakes in the quarterback battle, and Roberson blinked with 4:18 remaining in the game.

Indiana’s offense drove out to near midfield when Roberson threw an interception to OSU junior defensive back Travis Howard.

The Buckeyes then put the game away on the ensuing drive when sophomore back Carlos Hyde scored on a 2-yard run to increase OSU’s advantage to 34-20.

Miller, Hyde and Herron each finished the game with more than 100 yards rushing, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished by three OSU rushers since 1989.

First-year OSU coach Luke Fickell lauded Miller’s performance after the game, saying, “Obviously, he’s a heck of a football player. He’s getting better at everything.”

Junior fullback Zach Boren agreed.

“With (Miller) being great with his feet we have a lot of opportunities,” he said.

In addition to having a winning record in Big Ten play for the first time this season, the win also makes OSU eligible for a postseason bowl game. The NCAA’s pending announcement regarding program violations could exclude the Buckeyes from postseason play, as well as a berth in the inaugural Big Ten championship game, however.

OSU continues Big Ten Leaders Division play Saturday at Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium. Kickoff against the Boilermakers (4-5, 2-3) is set for noon.

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