COLUMBUS – Two of the things that made Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer happiest about the Buckeyes’ 17-16 win at Michigan State last Saturday were that the team came together and played selflessly and that it didn’t fall apart when quarterback Braxton Miller was briefly forced out of the game.
That team unity and more might be needed when No. 12 Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) takes on No. 21 Nebraska (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) on Saturday night in Ohio Stadium.
“It's been a team that's been pushed around for a while,” Meyer said about OSU. “A lot of things have happened, a lot of things I'm probably not even aware of. But I could tell that it wasn't a close team. It was a team with a lot of excuses. But (the togetherness) materialized over the weekend.
“If that team wasn't together, that team loses that game. No doubt,” he said.
Ohio State scored its first touchdown at Michigan State with quarterback Braxton Miller on the sideline for the final three plays of the drive after taking a big hit. Backup Kenny Guiton directed the offense for those three plays, including changing one play at the line of scrimmage.
It was one of two times he went down after hard hits. And that, along with the 23 times he carried the ball against Michigan State, re-energized the debate about how often Miller is carrying the ball.
He has rushed more than 20 times twice this season and has never had fewer than 11 carries in the first five games.
Don’t expect that to change going forward.
“We’re going to go try to win a game. Braxton’s our quarterback, our best player, the guy with the ball in his hands,” Meyer said. “Without Braxton Miller, I don’t think we’re 5-0. I know we’re not 5-0. Our job is to get to 6-0.”
Meyer described Miller as “sore” and “good” when asked about his physical condition. “He is one tough football player, he is a tough guy. And he is a competitor.”
Miller rushed for 91 yards on 10 carries and passed for 95 yards last season in a 34-27 loss at Nebraska.
Ohio State jumped out to a 27-6 lead and was up 27-14 when Miller was forced out of that game by a sprained ankle with 4:46 left in the third quarter.
* HALL ‘WEEK TO WEEK’:* Running back Jordan Hall has a partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee and is “week to week,” Meyer said.
“I would say he is doubtful (for Saturday’s game) unless something happens,” he said.
Hall suffered the injury late in the first half of OSU’s win over Michigan State. He missed the first two games of the season after having surgery in June to repair a torn tendon in his foot.
Meyer said starting running back Carlos Hyde will be backed up by Rod Smith and freshman Bri’onte Dunn.
“It’s time to roll. It’s time to go. At some point you can only watch so long. It’s time to go play the game,” he said about Smith and Dunn.
*WILLIAMS BOOTED:* Receiver Tyrone Williams has been dropped from OSU’s roster and has no chance of returning, Meyer said. Williams, a redshirt sophomore from East Cleveland Shaw, had not caught a pass this season and had five catches for 74 yards last season.
The only explanation Meyer offered was “a violation of team rules.”
*MEYER REMEMBERS PELINI:* Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was an Ohio State player in the 1980s when Meyer was a graduate assistant coach for the Buckeyes.
Asked what he remembered about Pelini back then, Meyer said, “He was just a real tough guy, like his personality is now.”
*EYE GOUGING:* Meyer says he thinks Ohio State has sent a tape to the Big Ten office which appears to show a Michigan State player gouging at the eyes of Buckeyes defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins.
The tape seems to show the Spartans' Jack Allen or a teammate trying to poke a gloved hand inside Hankins’ facemask.