By MICHAEL MAROT
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Braxton Miller did everything No. 8 Ohio State needed to escape Indiana with a win.
He still needed help.
After rushing for 149 yards, scoring on a 67-yard run and throwing TD passes of 60 and 46 yards, Miller sat helplessly on the sideline waiting for Corey Brown — or anybody else — to pounce on a bouncing onside kick that finally sealed a wacky 52-49 victory Saturday night.
“I said, please man, let’s get this other onside kick so we just kneel the ball and the game would be over,” Miller said. “I was nervous a little bit.”
He should have been on this crazy night, where big plays were the norm and Miller stole the show — again.
Miller finished 13 of 24 for 211 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, averaged 6.6 yards on 23 carries and even recovered a teammate’s fumble in the third quarter that just may have saved the game. Miller finished with his third straight 100-yard rushing effort, topped his average of 303.8 yards in total offense and helped the Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) become the first ranked team with seven wins.
Not bad for a guy who was relegated to watching the most important play of the night.
“He’s a great quarterback, a great athlete, all week we talked about treating him like a running back,” Hoosiers cornerback Greg Heban said. “We didn’t do a good job of stopping him. There were a lot of missed tackles.”
By Miller’s standards, it was just another game.
And the Buckeyes needed every bit of Miller’s productivity to escape the gritty Hoosiers (2-4, 0-3), who rallied for 15 points in a 35-second span in the last 2 minutes. Indiana even had a chance to score again when their second onside kick started rolling around on the ground with 1:05 left.
Brown, who scored the game’s first touchdown on a 12-yard run, got twisted around before finally securing the ball at the Ohio State 31 and allowing Miller to kneel down twice to run out the clock.
Indiana finished with its highest-point total ever against the Buckeyes, breaking the previous mark of 41 in 1988 — their last win over the Ohio State. The Hoosiers have now lost 11 straight league games, 21 consecutive Big Ten games against foes from outside the state and 18 straight to the Buckeyes, including a loss from two years ago that Ohio State later vacated as the result of NCAA infractions.
“We’re going to keep playing, we’re going to keep coming, we’re going to stay on track with what we’re doing,” Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said.
The game was topsy-turvy fest of big plays.
Each team turned blocked punts into touchdowns in the first half.
Indiana scored on TD passes of 76 and 25 yards, a 59-yard TD run and made a field goal after a 60-yard kickoff return.
Ohio State relied primarily on Miller’s game-changing plays, though he did have some help.
Hyde ran 22 times for 156 yards and a touchdown and caught a 14-yard shovel pass for a TD from Kenny Guiton when Miller left briefly after he was hit out of bounds. Devin Smith caught two passes for 106 yards — both for touchdowns. Bradley Roby recovered the Hoosiers’ blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown.
And although the Buckeyes finished with 353 yards rushing and went home with a win, first-year coach Urban Meyer wasn’t satisfied.
“We are not good in certain areas and we were exposed,” Meyer said. “Spread offenses right now are really exposing us. We have got to get something fixed.”
The Hoosiers took a 14-10 lead in the second quarter when Stephen Houston scored on a 7-yard run following the blocked punt. Houston ran 11 times for 91 yards and two scores.
But the Buckeyes responded with two TDs before halftime to make it 24-14.
After the Hoosiers closed to 24-17, Miller took control.
He kept the ball on the Buckeyes’ next offensive play, found a seam, split the Hoosiers safeties and sprinted 67 yards to make it 31-17.
When Indiana cut the lead to 31-24, Miller led the Buckeyes on a 75-yard drive, giving way to Guiton and Hyde. Miller then drove the Buckeyes 78 yards, setting up Hyde for a 1-yard run to make it 45-27 early in the fourth quarter and appeared to put the game away with a 46-yard TD pass to Smith with 6:47 left.
The Hoosiers didn’t give up.
“We just kept fighting to the finish, we never give up,” Indiana receiver Shane Wynn said.
They stayed true to their word.
Indiana got a 12-yard pass from Nate Sudfeld to Duwyce Wilson with 1:40 left, a 25-yard TD pass from Sudfeld to Houston with 1:05 to go and a 2-point conversion run by Cody Latimer to make it 52-49.
Sudfeld was 6 of 10 for 77 yards and two TDs, but they couldn’t recover the onside kick.
“We have got to get back to work,” Meyer said. “We go back 7-0 and we have got to find a way to get better as Purdue rolls in next week.”