Buckeyes take down Wisconsin, end quarterback controversy
COLUMBUS, Ohio — No decision. No contest.
Ohio State has a lot of proving to do, but it does not have a quarterback controversy.
Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller have made sure of it.
Miller missed almost three full games and two starts with an ankle injury — and watched backup Kenny Guiton throw 12 touchdown passes, set two school records and win two conference player of the week awards while he was out — but Miller returned to action for Saturday night's Big Ten opener and threw four touchdown passes as No. 3 Ohio State held off Wisconsin, 31-24.
It wasn't a 60-minute work of art, but it was another notch in the nation's longest win streak and a win that, even though it's still September, could put Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game in December now that the Buckeyes have defeated Wisconsin, which has won the Big Ten in each of the last three seasons.
The Buckeyes (5-0) still have yet to win a thing, and their first "big" win of 2013 simply sets up an even bigger game next week at 4-0 Northwestern, but goals and expectations are high for many reasons.
A unique athlete like Miller directing a loaded offense is one of those reasons.
Meyer said there was "no doubt" he'd go with Miller once he saw Miller in practice this week and was confident he was up to full speed -- and full confidence -- after suffering a sprained MCL seven plays into a Sept. 7 win over San Diego State, and Miller came back when his team needed him Saturday night looking like he hadn't gone anywhere.
"Not if he's healthy, no, there's (no question," Meyer said about his team's quarterback situation. "When I saw Braxton Thursday, there was no doubt he was going to be our starter.
"I think he played very well."
Miller threw the ball as accurately as he ever has in the first half, when he threw three touchdown passes and made what turned out to be the game's biggest play on a 40-yard pass to Corey Brown with one second left in the first half to give Ohio State a 24-14 lead.
Somehow, Wisconsin let Brown get behind its defense on what could have been the final play of the half. Ohio State has been lucky and good through this 17-game win streak, and it was certainly both there. On the previous play, Miller underthrew what could have been a touchdown and almost had his pass intercepted.
"(The previous throw) slipped out of my hands; no excuses," Miller said. "I made up for it the next throw."
By the time Ohio State wrapped it up, Miller had thrown for 198 yards and run for 98. Some may have been holding their breath as he ran as fearlessly as ever, but Miller said he had no reason to hold back.
"Absolutely...100 percent," Miller said of his health. "I felt good. My legs felt good. I wasn't out of shape."
Meyer said he's been pondering ways to use both Miller and Guiton, but "just in the moment, it didn't happen," on Saturday. Wisconsin stayed in it until the final minute and held Ohio State to one second-half touchdown, but Miller did just enough with his feet to successfully kill the fourth quarter clock, a little at a time. Ohio State finished with 209 rushing yards.
The Buckeyes and their streak ride on, and with Miller the formula remains the same. Miller said he and Guiton remain great friends, on and off the field, and Guiton previously said he knew it would be Miller's job as soon as he was healthy enough to reclaim it.
Ohio State handled its business against what Meyer called a "very good" Wisconsin team, and in the process Meyer and Miller handled what could have become a sticky situation with positive results.
"We have to keep moving forward," Meyer said. "We have to have everybody locked in on the target, and it's going to be a tough target again next week."