COLUMBUS — Before Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman set off for last month’s Big Ten opener at Michigan State, his young daughter gave him a pebble for good luck.
“You bet your bottom dollar I hold that thing when I’m up in the press box,” he said.
In unrelated news, the unbeaten Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) have since won two road games by a combined four points, earned a 29-22 overtime victory over Purdue that left some fans invoking the divine, and learned their Heisman-candidate quarterback was not, in fact, seriously injured. Coach Urban Meyer on Monday said Braxton Miller has a sore neck but is otherwise fine and will practice today in preparation for Saturday’s game at Penn State.
Herman is thankful for everything, though he must admit: “I don’t believe there’s such a thing as fate or luck.”
After the glow faded from No. 9 OSU’s stunning comeback against the Boilermakers, it was back to business. Back to worrying about the status of Miller, who has missed parts of the last four games with various injuries, and back to wondering what went wrong in the 59 minutes preceding the euphoric final one.
Meyer, too, entertained the same questions. For all the world to see, he was overjoyed, stepping out of his front-and-center spot for the postgame rendition of the alma mater to animatedly ask the crowd for more noise. Privately, he also worried.
“I don't show it because I want our players to enjoy that win, our fans, the student body,” Meyer said. “It was an incredible day for the Horseshoe, the people in there, and from what I understand, the people that left and hustled back in there. I don't blame them.
“Coaches are cheering and having a great time, but then deep in your heart, you know that we have a lot of work to do. And, obviously, my heart and mind went right to our quarterback.”
Miller appeared down and out when he was slammed helmet-first to the turf late in the third quarter. The sophomore remained on the ground for a while, staggered to the bench, and left the stadium in an ambulance. But doctors ruled him free of concussion symptoms or further injury.
Miller remains listed as the starter for Saturday and is scheduled to meet with reporters Wednesday.
“He got whiplash,” said Meyer, who visited Miller at the campus hospital. “I had a long talk with him about it. He was just rattled. And once he settled down, he seemed to be fine. He made a comment to me that he's never really been hurt … never been like that, and it kind of rattled him a little bit, like it would rattle most athletes.”
Herman noted Miller’s reaction to the scare was natural.
“I think there’s guys like [senior defensive end] John Simon that have probably been hurt their whole career and just understand that that’s part of it,” he said, “and there’s guys like Braxton Miller who, for lack of a better term, he’s a very fine-tuned athlete, and those guys don’t like it when they get hurt. It takes a little adjusting. He’s 19 years old.”
Meyer said he will continue to set Miller free, though he wishes his offensive engine would exercise more caution. Miller is built to last at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds but takes a healthy number of leveling hits. With 959 rushing yards on 141 carries, he is on course to become the first 1,000-yard rusher in Meyer’s 11 seasons as a head coach.
“I think you let him be him and coach him, if you have the opportunity to step out of bounds after a big play, step out of bounds,” Meyer said. “To be a classic dropback passer in his career now, I'm not sure how efficient we would be.”
Of Miller’s ability to spring back from injury, he added, “I don't want to say amazed, but he's a tough guy.”
As for the Buckeyes’ other concerns, where to start? Their injury-depleted roster is down to 59 available scholarship players, and trailed 18-point underdog Purdue by eight points in the final minute. Before backup quarterback Kenny Guiton guided the improbable game-tying drive, OSU had four turnovers and less than 300 yards of offense.
Players know that must change Saturday at Penn State (5-2, 3-0) in a contest matching the top two teams in the Leaders Division.
“You walk in Sunday,” Herman said, “and you say, ‘Hey boys congratulations, heck of a job. You guys found a way to win and continue to do so.’ But you didn’t play good. You just didn’t. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.”
Still, as right tackle Reid Fragel said, “Any time you can play your worst game and come out with a win, that’s what matters most.”
Contact David Briggs at:
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