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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With all of the attention focused on the Ohio State defense after the Buckeyes surrendered 49 points to Indiana on Saturday, many seem to have overlooked that the OSU offense has been responsible for an average of 50.5 points over the course of its past two games. The marked improvement of almost every unit on the Buckeyes' offense has been one of the biggest reasons why the team currently ranks as the nation's No. 20 scoring offense and no. 8 rushing attack.
As we do each week here at Buckeye Grove, we examine and evaluate the OSU position groups, with insight from Buckeyes players and coaches.
Quarterback Braxton Miller was his usually spectacular self in the Buckeyes' 52-49 win over the Hoosiers, compiling 360 yards of total offense to go along with three touchdowns. The Heisman Trophy contender's most dynamic play of the night came on a 67-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter, in which he went untouched by the Indiana offense.
"Big plays like that loosen things up," Miller said. "When our opponents score points, we have to come back with an answer for our defense."
For his efforts, Miller was one of three Buckeyes named as the team's offensive player of the week. And while his numbers in the game were certainly eye-popping, it was what he did without the ball that helped elevate him in the eyes of OSU coach Urban Meyer.
"A lot of times he doesn't grade high because he gets tired and doesn't finish on fakes. His action without the ball was tremendous in this game," Meyer said. "That opened up a lot of because one thing about having a player like Braxton Miller, you've got to defend him whether he's got the ball or not."
OSU running back Carlos Hyde put together his second consecutive strong outing of the season, rushing for 156 yards and a touchdown against the Hoosiers. He also caught the first touchdown reception of his career, a 14-yard shovel pass from Kenny Guiton, which wasn't exactly how Hyde dreamed of his first touchdown catch going.
"It worked out perfect. Just how we did it in practice," Hyde said. "I envisioned my first touchdown catch to be on a fade."
Running backs coach Stan Drayton has been impressed by the recent emergence of Hyde as a runner, and said that the best of the junior running back may still be ahead of him.
"He's a load," Drayton said. "He uses all 235 pounds and I think people underestimate his speed at times. When he gets into the mindset and the rhythm of anticipating where the runs and seams are going to be, he can really become a very respected, productive back."
The Buckeyes' wideouts put together one of their best outings of the season, combining for 12 catches, 198 yards, and two touchdowns against the Hoosiers. Four of those receptions and 41 of the yards came from Jake Stoneburner, who went without a catch in OSU's previous three games.
"I wouldn't say they made an effort, it was just the way the defense was playing. We were able to hit a lot of hitches and quick slants to me," Stoneburner said. "We were just taking what they were giving us and it was able to work."
Although he had a big game with two catches, 106 yards, and two touchdowns, Devin Smith had a chance to have an even bigger night, but the sophomore dropped two would-be touchdowns. Nevertheless, Meyer was impressed by how Smith bounced back from his miscues and said that it spoke volumes about the growth of the second-year player.
"That's one of the most improved players on the team, he just needs to keep improving," Meyer said. "He bounced back and made the play of the day on that square in. That was the play of the day. That was excellent. That showed you his excellence has something good going with him."
For the fourth consecutive week, the Buckeyes' front five on offense received high praise from the OSU coaching staff, with two of its members grading out with champion-worthy performances. One of those players was left tackle Jack Mewhort, was one of the players to be named a player of the week by Meyer. The third-year junior is confident that this is just the beginning of good things to come for the Buckeyes' offensive line.
"Things are just starting to click. We're a hard working unit," Mewhort said. "As an offensive line, we're really coming together and really starting to understand this offense more and more each week."
The improvement of the OSU line hasn't just been noticed by its coaches, as players such as Hyde have credited the unit for the offense's success in these past two games.
"That's all those guys up front. You gotta thank those guys up front," Hyde said. "They did their jobs and when they go, we go."
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