The naming of Urban Meyer as the head coach at Ohio State was easily the marquee hiring of the 2011 coaching carousel. And, with two BcS titles stapled to his coaching resume’ and despite NCAA sanctions that make the Buckeyes ineligible for the postseason, the anticipation for the 2012 season was nearing a fever pitch prior to kickoff at the Shoe Saturday.
After a sluggish first quarter, the anticipation was validated.
Miami of Ohio actually held a 3-0 lead with the first 15 minutes in the books, but 35 consecutive points reeled off by the No. 18 Buckeyes over a span of about 15 minutes left no doubt that, as expected, the Urban Era at Ohio State would kick off with a nonconference win.
Perhaps the most positive development during the 56-10 win was the continuing, well, development of sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller. Upon Meyer’s hiring back in December, the former Florida coach seemed most excited over the prospect of coaching Miller in his version of the spread offense.
An athlete of exceptional talent, Miller was limited his true freshman season last year by both his inexperience at this level and the coaching staff — starting all but one of the Buckeyes’ 13 games last season, Miller attempted just 157 passes, with a game-high 25 in the regular-season finale. With Meyer in charge, and with the confidence the coach has in the player, Miller attempted 24 passes in his two-and-a-half quarters of play.
Even as Miller completed just over half of those passes (14), he totaled 205 yards passing — just the second time in 13 career games he’s gone over that modest mark — two touchdowns and, most importantly, no interceptions. Certainly Miller was helped by his receivers on a couple of occasions — Devin Smith, anyone? — but the sophomore seemed more at ease in the opener than he did at any point last season, a direct result of the confidence Meyer and his offensive coaching staff has in the player.
And, Meyer saw exactly what he wanted to see headed into the game.
“But I think one of the things about Braxton Miller that I really had to see, and I did see today, is that the objective with Braxton is to make him from an athlete playing quarterback to a quarterback that manages,” Meyer said in quotes distributed by the school following the win.
Of course, being the athlete that he is, Miller complemented the marked improvement in the passing game with his usual stellar effort on the ground, leading the Buckeyes in rushing with 161 yards and another score (65-yard run). Add it all up, and it means Miller accounted for 366 of OSU’s 538 yards of total offense and three of the seven offensive touchdowns — again, in less than three quarters — in his first game under Meyer.
Yes, the level of competition must be taken into consideration. Still, the excitement displayed by Meyer prior to the start of the season was very much justified based on the small taste Miller gave OSU fans in Columbus. And made it seem like the best may be yet to come.