Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller was hurt during the first quarter Saturday but expects to play this weekend at California.
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COLUMBUS — Braxton Miller wanted back in after he was carted off the field Saturday, and he has no plans to sit out Ohio State’s game at California.
"He feels very strong that he wants to play this weekend," coach Urban Meyer said.
Miller’s sprained MCL, though, may present a dilemma.
The two big questions: Could the fourth-ranked Buckeyes (2-0) afford to rest Miller, turn the offense over to proven super-sub Kenny Guiton, and still, as expected, comfortably push aside the 17-point underdog Bears (1-1)? And would it make football sense to play the junior star at less than full strength?
Miller’s cartoonish speed and moves are as much a threat as his arm, which means he may not be positioned for success if a bum left knee left him moored in place.
"If he’s healthy to play and play like Braxton plays, which, you know, he’s not a pocket quarterback," Meyer said. "He does a lot of things for us, so those are decisions we have to make. But if he’s healthy to go, he’ll certainly go. We are not saving him or holding back. This will be everything we’ve got to win this game."
For now, Meyer and the Buckeyes are confident Miller will play.
Senior receiver Corey Brown said he would be "very surprised" if Miller is out.
"Braxton’s a real hard worker," Brown said. "I exepct him to do what a leader does. He’ll be in the training room every day, and I think he’ll be fine."
Meyer went down on the first drive in the Buckeyes’ 42-7 over San Diego State after he was sandwiched awkwardly between two Aztecs defenders. He was carted to the locker room, but soon jogged back to the sidelines in full pads and a knee brace.
"Oh, God, he wanted to come back in," Meyer said.
Meyer said Miller’s knee was stiff on Monday but felt "much better." The coach hedged when asked if he was worried about Miller’s durability — the latest injury marking another in a line of them. Though Miller has proven resilient, he has been knocked out of games each of his past six seasons dating to high school.
He is so important to OSU’s season that fans cringe every time he is walloped like he was on the fourth-and-2 keeper that sidelined him Saturday.
"Quarterbacks at times get hit, especially with Braxton being a fearless player," Meyer said. "That play [Saturday] was a pass all the way, and then he saw an open seam. I like quarterbacks who think that way. Get the first down. So I just think we always have to have ‘Plan B’ ready."
OSU is confident in that plan — even on the road in a Pac-12 stadium.
Cal lost its opener 44-30 to Northwestern and beat FCS Portland State 37-30, but new Bears coach Sonny Dykes’ bullet-paced offense has invigorated a team that went 3-9 last season. Cal is averaging 97 plays per game while freshman quarterback Jared Goff leads the nation with 935 passing yards.
Miller and/or Guiton and the Buckeyes will need to keep up, though coaches say they are confident in either captain. Guiton was named the Buckeyes’ offensive player of the week after tossing two touchdowns and running for another in relief of Miller against the Aztecs.
"There's a lot of confidence with [Guiton]," said offensive line coach Ed Warinner. "You don't feel like all of a sudden half of the game plan is eliminated because your second-team quarterback goes in. We feel like that he's still very capable of executing just about everything on there. Obviously nobody is the same. We are not trying to say they are the same guy. But 90 percent of that game plan is still in play when Kenny is in the game."
Maybe, it was suggested with a laugh, Guiton will see enough time this season that both he and Miller could go to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
"I think that would be very weird," he said.
PAVING THE WAY: Senior left tackle and St. John’s Jesuit graduate Jack Mewhort graded as the Buckeyes’ top offensive lineman against SDSU.
"He played very well, had some incredible efforts down the field," Meyer said, noting Mewhort was the lead blocker on Guiton’s 44-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. "He had a knock-down about 35 yards down the field, and on three explosive plays, he was the key guy that got us to the second level."
EXTRA POINTS: Sophomore starting defensive end Adolphus Washington is also day-to-day with a groin strain, Meyer said. ... The trip to Berkeley will mark the Buckeyes’ eighth non-conference road game against a BCS opponent since 2000. They won at Arizona (2000), North Carolina State (2004), Texas (2006), and Washington (2007) and fell to UCLA (2001), Southern California (2008), and Miami (2011).