EAST LANSING, Mich. — OK, so he threw an interception into double coverage.
And he lost two fumbles, one when he failed to tuck the ball away on a keeper and another when he wrenched his knee. His zone-read recognition was spotty, too.
But for every bad play Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller makes, he pulls off five that are good to great, as he showed Saturday in the No. 14 Buckeyes' 17-16 win at No. 20 Michigan State.
Make no mistake about the following:
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore from Huber Heights, Ohio, will deprive Nebraska's Bo Pelini of mass quantities of sleep this week after film study.
Miller, who racked up 315 yards of total offense against the nation's sixth-ranked defense, also is the reason that OSU (5-0, 1-0) could stir the national championship pot by going undefeated.
He got help Saturday from a suddenly rejuvenated Ohio State defense.
That unit came into sold-out Spartan Stadium last in the Big Ten and 71st nationally in yards allowed. But it left its mark after holding Michigan State tailback Le'Veon Bell, the nation's No. 3 rusher, to 45 yards — 107 less than his average — on 17 carries, and the Spartans overall to 303 yards.
Yet time after time, it was Miller who made the play that allowed Ohio State to maintain control.
Like his runs of 20 and 13 yards, respectively, on the game's opening 75-yard touchdown drive.
Like his 63-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, four plays after Michigan State had taken its only lead at 13-10.
And like his escape from an all-out blitz early in the fourth quarter. In Tommie Frazier-like fashion, Miller stood strong enough to complete a 24-yard pass. That turned a potential second-and-20 inside the OSU 10 to a first down at the 40.
Four plays after that, Miller jammed his left knee on a scramble, fumbling the ball as he grabbed his injured leg. But he never missed a down, leading a drive that ran the final 4:10 off the clock for the win.
“I love Braxton,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said quietly. “Braxton's my guy.”
Coaches have a soft spot for guys who can make plays even when the opponents know what's coming.
“He is their offense,” MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. “He's a great quarterback. He had some loose plays. I could probably pick 15 plays where we didn't make a play.”
If Miller can make a defense as good as Michigan State's lunge and flail in desperation, what on earth will he do to Nebraska? The Huskers came into Saturday ranked 86th in rushing defense.
Michigan State found one novel way to slow Miller for a short time. He was pinned to the ground by an unconscious opponent.
MSU safety Isaiah Lewis, aiming to tackle Miller, inadvertently drilled teammate William Gholston helmet to helmet. The 278-pound Gholston landed limply on Miller, leading to a weird delay to untangle bodies and revive Gholston.
In many ways, what Miller does looks like what Kansas State used to do in 1998 with Michael Bishop. Using a knockoff of the old 1950s and 60s single-wing formation got K-State to No. 1 for a time that season, and Bishop to New York as the Heisman Trophy runner-up.
I drew a chuckle from OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman by facetiously suggesting the Buckeyes drop their charade and just line Miller up as a single-wing tailback, taking direct snaps from center as he often does now.
Hey, it would give him even more time to figure out which defender to embarrass.
“Braxton would be a pretty good whatever-you-do-with-him,” Herman said. “He'd be a pretty good DB. He'd be a pretty good wideout.
“But he's a damn good quarterback. I know that, and I wouldn't trade him for the world.”
A year ago, as a true freshman, Miller wasn't quite so revered.
In his second career start, Ohio State lost 10-7 to Michigan State, and Miller was sacked seven times. Herman, new to the staff this season, was shocked when he viewed that film.
“He was a total deer in headlights,” Herman said. “He was 195 pounds and didn't know much about what he was doing. But to learn the offense and perform it as well as he has now is really a testament to him.”
Miller isn't near the interview that he is a player. His best line Saturday: “It was a fun game. It was a good team game, and we fought through it.”
His short interview left the sportswriters more time to ponder who is left on Ohio State's schedule to stop a perfect season.
Nebraska this week? Not looking likely. At Wisconsin on Nov. 17? Maybe. Michigan at home Nov. 24? The rivalry games are always intriguing.
Ohio State can't play in a bowl game or the Big Ten championship game because of NCAA sanctions. But the Buckeyes at 12-0 would attract heavy attention in the Associated Press poll as a contender for that organization's mythical national title.
The other certainty from that scenario: Miller will have made it happen.
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