COLUMBUS — He is just two games into his sophomore season, but Braxton Miller is already doing things few quarterbacks before him have done at Ohio State.
ABOVE: Bellefontaine High School graduate Lukas Cane, right, cheers on Ohio State’s football team during Saturday’s game against Central Florida. Cane is a member of the varsity cheerleading squad this fall. An additional photo of Cane can been seen in today's Examiner. (EXAMINER PHOTO | RICK REED) FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller scores on a first-quarter touchdown run Saturday against Central Florida. Miller had three touchdown runs to tie a school mark for most TD runs by a quarterback. (EXAMINER PHOTO | RICK REED)
Miller became only the second Buckeye quarterback in school history to rush for three touchdowns in a game as Ohio State fought off a scrappy Central Florida team 31-16 here Saturday.
With running back Carlos Hyde going down with an injury in the first half, the Buckeyes leaned heavily on Miller’s legs as the dynamic sophomore rushed for 141 yards on a team-high 27 carries.
The other five players to carry the ball for OSU combined for 24 carries.
“The (27 carries) are just too much,” said Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. “He’s blown out right now. We have to be smart. Someone’s gotta run the ball, and right now he is our best answer.”
The running back position, which appeared to be an area of great depth in the offseason, has become a concern.
Starting tailback Jordan Hall was injured in the summer and has yet to play a snap. Freshman Warren Ball was lost for the season because of a practice injury, and Hyde, who had inherited the lead running back spot, left Saturday’s game with a knee sprain.
The Buckeyes are down to two scholarship tailbacks: true freshman Bri’onte Dunn and redshirt sophomore Rod Smith. Senior fullback Zach Boren, who had just one carry entering this season, may also get more action running the ball.
“We’ve got to develop a running back,” said Meyer. “We need a guy to turn around and hand the ball off to and have him pound it in there for six, seven or eight yards.”
The Buckeyes got past the Knights behind the explosiveness of Miller. He scored on runs of 37, 6 and 8 yards.
“Ohio State has athletes that can make you miss, especially Braxton Miller,” said UCF head coach George O’Leary. “He is a good player, who can make you look bad.”
The Buckeyes (2-0) led 7-3 after one quarter on the strength of Miller’s 37-yard touchdown dash.
A Drew Basil 24-yard field goal gave the Buckeyes a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter, but the Knights (1-1) tied the game on a 1-yard TD pass from Blake Bortles to Justin Tukes with 6:54 left in the first half.
The Knights’ score was set up by a 48-yard run by Storm Johnson, a transfer from the University of Miami.
Ohio State regained the lead with 15 seconds remaining until halftime on Miller’s 6-yard keeper.
The Buckeyes took a 31-14 lead in the third quarter on a 12-yard pass play between Miller and senior Jake Stoneburner and a 6-yard TD run by Miller.
The Knights hung around, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to two scores on a 2-yard pass from Bortles to Billy Giovanetti with 1:37 remaining in the third quarter.
“(UCF) was a great team,” said OSU senior cornerback Travis Howard, who recorded his third interception in two weeks. “We felt prepared, but they came out and gave us a battle.”
Miller added 155 passing yards, completing 18-of-24 attempts. He did throw his first interception of the season.
The Knights finished with 352 yards. That total included 249 passing yards. Ohio State’s defense managed just one sack of Bortles after registering two sacks in last week’s season opener against Miami.
“This was the second week in a row we held a team under 100 rushing yards, but our pass defense has a long way to go,” said Meyer. “We have to get more pressure on the quarterback.”