UNIVERSITY PARK — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had seen a similar, dialed-in, fierce glare in Braxton Miller’s eyes before.
He saw it in Columbus when the Buckeyes throttled Nebraska earlier this season.
But Meyer never saw Miller pull off a stutter-step, mid-air juke to score a 1-yard touchdown like he did to cap Ohio State’s 35-23 win over Penn State.
“Basically, the conversation on the headset was, ‘Oh my God!’” Meyer said of Miller’s short dive through Penn State players in the third quarter at Beaver Stadium.
The play — an option run Miller decided to keep just as Penn State defensive end Sean Stanley crushed running back Carlos Hyde — put an exclamation point on Ohio State’s win. As Stanley got up off Hyde, Miller two-stepped around Penn State defenders and quieted the majority of the 107,818, most clad in white with his diving score.
“I think the guy just came in and tried to tackle Carlos and I pulled (the ball out) and I don’t know who was around me, my instincts just take over,” Miller said.
Miller, who threw high and out of range to his wideouts for much of the early portions of the game, didn’t let a slow start phase him.
Coming back from a frightening whiplash injury that forced him to visit a Columbus hospital last week, Miller absorbed a big hit from Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti on the game’s third play. In the first quarter, Miller completed just four of 10 throws for 45 yards and was sacked once.
He wasn’t able to affect the game with his legs early, carrying the ball five times for just 18 yards in the first quarter.
“I was so excited, I missed a couple of throws,” Miller said. “The crowd was energetic, but we came down the second half, I slowed down and we got things going.”
Miller, who said after the game his neck felt fine, began to find his rhythm midway through the second quarter.
After Penn State took a 7-0 lead on Mike Hull’s punt block and Michael Yancich’s recovery in the end zone, Miller carried the ball four times for 44 yards on Ohio State’s first scoring drive of the game.
After gaining two, eight and one yard on option runs, Miller ripped off a 33-yard gain to set the Buckeyes up with first-and-goal from the Penn State six. Three plays later, Carlos Hyde bulled into the end zone to knot the score at 7-7.
After Ryan Shazier scored on a pick-six to give Ohio State a 14-7 lead and Sam Ficken kicked a 27-yard field goal, Miller helped set up Ohio State’s next score with more yards on the ground.
He racked up 23 yards on four carries and threw for a 13-yard gain on third down to set up his own 1-yard score that drew praise on the Ohio State headsets.
Miller led all rushers with 134 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns while completing just seven of 19 throws for 143 yards and a score.
“He had that look in his eyes,” Meyer said.