Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/19/11

In many ways, it was a coming out party for Braxton Miller.  All it lacked was the storybook ending.

With senior receiver DeVier Posey back on the field, Miller had one of his most impressive performances of the season, throwing and scrambling like a seasoned veteran.  Poor first-half defense and two second-half fumbles by Boom Herron and Carlos Hyde put Ohio State behind the Nittany Lions, and though the team made a valiant effort late in the game, it came up just shy of victory.  Literally.

Miller was electric as a runner and added some key throws in the Week 12 loss (Irwin/ Getty)

On fourth and ten, after a boneheaded false start penalty made a difficult situation even worse, Braxton Miller did everything he could to find the line to gain.  He rolled right, looked for a target, and, finding none, used his legs as best he could.  But his stretch came up half a yard short of the first down.

His numbers weren’t pretty, and he’ll walk away with the defeat in his mind.  But yet again, Miller kept his team in position to win.

Recap

The game began with dreadful defense, moments reminiscent of the loss in Miami.  The Buckeyes kicked the ball away and Penn State immediately went to work, engineering an 80-yard touchdown march to go up 7-0 in short order.

Matt McGloin connected twice with Derek Moye, and Stephfon Green gashed the OSU defense for a 39-yard rush that finished in the endzone.

In the early hole, Miller responded.  After a failed Herron run and a sack by the PSU front, he found Posey along the sideline for a 39-yard gain on third down.  The Buckeyes reaped immediate dividends from Posey’s return but couldn’t sustain the drive when a bad snap from Michael Brewster forced Miller to recover his own fumble.

It would be Brewster’s first of three bad snaps on the day, and each played a role in the loss.

After the punt, Penn State drove again, rolling 54 yards and tacking on a field goal for the 10-0 lead.

On the next OSU possession Miller keyed a 77-yard touchdown march with his 24-yard scoring run, but the play of the drive by far was Posey’s one-handed grab for 18 yards.  It was a beautiful reception that converted a third and 11, ultimately helping to trim the lead to 10-7.

Unfortunately the defense remained unequal to the task of stopping Penn State.  Though the Lions had come in with a somewhat anemic offense, they had no problem torching OSU early.  Silas Redd broke a run for 42 yards, keying a five-play, 81-yard drive that had the visitors back in front by 10.

The Ohio State D was victimized early before toughening up after halftime (Irwin/ Getty)

Ohio State was forced into a three-and-out, but following the Buchanan kick, Matt McGloin was intercepted when Orhian Johnson snatched a tipped ball out of the air.  Gifted with the short field, Miller was magical yet again.  Elusive, quick, and accurate, the freshman scrambled for 24 yards and later found tight end Jake Stoneburner for the Buckeyes’ second score.

Still the defense couldn’t find itself, and Penn State marched down the field yet again.  A failed third down and the expiring second quarter cut the march short, and the Lions settled for another field goal.

At the half the score stood at 20-14 PSU.

And that would be the final.

After the break, the Buckeyes defense roared to life.  McGloin and the Lions’ rushing game faltered to the tune of four punts and a turnover on downs over their final possessions.

That turnover was a truly impressive moment; Herron’s fumble gave Penn State the ball at the Ohio State 11 yardline, and tow Buckeye penalties set up the offense with first-and-goal from inside the two.

Four times Penn State tried to drop the hammer.  Four times the Ohio State front seven stood strong.  And an incredible goalline stand was the result.

Herron then took over, making amends for his gaffe by getting the Buckeyes out of the danger zone deep in their own territory.  But he removed for a breather as Carlos Hyde was given back-to-back carries.  On the second, he fumbled, committing the second costly turnover of the quarter.

Again the OSU defense rose up, forcing the Lions to punt, but too much time had expired.

The giveaways ate up the rest of the third quarter, leaving Miller and company only 15 minutes to find a way to score.  In the end, they could not.

OSU’s most promising chance came with about seven minutes remaining.  Herron and Miller ran the offense from its own 13 yardline to the PSU 41, but there the drive stalled.  Faced with fourth down, J.B. Shugarts moved early, stretching the conversion distance to ten.  And Miller, despite his best effort, couldn’t get that done.

Buckeye Stickers

Back from suspension, Posey was a difference-maker in the passing game (Behrman/ AP)

DeVier Posey (WR)- In his first game back from suspension, Posey made it clear just how much he was missed.  He finished with four grabs for 66 yards including his spectacular one-handed snag.  The downside is that he’ll graduate this year.  The upside is that he has one more game–a very important game– to make his presence felt.

Dan Herron (RB)- It’s tempting to leave Herron off the list because of his fumble, but this game was a lesson in perseverance.  In the first half, the senior could find little running room.  The vaunted PSU defense did its job well.  But in crunch time, Herron came on like a house afire, finishing with 76 yards on 18 carries.  Had he held onto the ball on that one bad play…

The Defensive Line- John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, and company suffered some early woes.  The OSU defense was ripped by long runs and key passes early, but the front more than atoned for their lackluster start.  The third-quarter goalline stand was nothing short of miraculaous, and in all, the defense limited Penn State to zero points despite enduring two turnovers in Ohio State territory.

And the Game Ball Goes to…

Braxton Miller.  In the years to come, Miller is going to do some great things.  It’s hard to convey in words what he does for this offense; I hope that everyone reading this had the pleasure to watch him perform in his final home game of 2011.  Miller is a natural runner with an innate talent for escaping.  It may be too early to draw the comparison, but thus far he’s looked better as a scrambler than did Terrelle Pryor, and that is high praise.

Miller had several preposterous runs.  Impossible runs.  Spinning, juking, bouncing off of tacklers and finding running lanes that, quite frankly, did not exist.  He showed patience in following his line and fullback Zach Boren.  And when the time came to pass, his throws were crisp and accurate.  Posey clearly made him a better quarterback, and it will be very interesting to watch him develop as the receiving corps improves.

His stats through the air (7 of 17 for 83 yards and a score) don’t begin to tell the story of his game.  Yes, he still struggled at times, and consistency remains a problem.  Yes, he needs to get better at avoiding untimely sacks.  But this kid is going to be very, very good.

The best these Buckeyes can do is 7-5, and that will take an unlikely road win against Michigan in The Game next Saturday.  But when looking back on this season, it shouldn’t be lost on fans just how competitive Ohio State has been.  Despite a host of disadvantages, and with the exception of the Miami loss, OSU has had a chance to win each and every game.

Has the year been disappointing?  Of course, though a rivalry win in the finale could ease the pain.  But taken in context, there is a great deal from which the team and its fans can draw encouragement.

With a freshman QB, underclassmen receivers, missing starters for five games or more, the Buckeyes lost four conference tilts by a combined 19 points.  Not too bad.

Next week the team closes its season in Ann Arbor.  Already bowl eligible, Ohio State can finish with a flourish and make a statement by beating Michigan.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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