COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Braxton Miller found a way to top himself.
Miller became the first Ohio State quarterback to rush for three touchdowns in 34 years and he passed for another score to lead the 14th-ranked Buckeyes to a 31-16 victory over Central Florida on Saturday.
A week after setting a school record for quarterbacks with 161 rushing yards in a 56-10 win over Miami (Ohio), Miller finished with 141 yards on 27 carries. His number kept coming up after starting running back Carlos Hyde left with a first-half knee injury.
Miller’s scoring runs covered 37, 6 and 8 yards. He also found Jake Stoneburner on a 12-yard touchdown pass for the Buckeyes (2-0).
Blake Bortles threw two TD passes for UCF (1-1) but he was also intercepted three times.
Miller hit on 18 of 24 passes for 155 yards — no completion going for more than 15 yards — with one interception.
The 27 carries were a career high for the sophomore; no other Buckeye had more than seven attempts.
The last Ohio State quarterback to rush for three touchdowns in a game was Art Schlichter against Illinois in 1978.
Bortles completed 25 of 41 passes, including TDs of 1 yard to Justin Tukes and 2 to Billy Giovanetti. Storm Johnson, starting in place of Latavius Murray, out with a shoulder injury, rushed for 75 yards on 12 carries.
Ahead by a tenuous seven points at the start of the second half, the Buckeyes put the game out of reach with big contributions from Miller and the defense.
Miller was at the controls as the Buckeyes took the kickoff and rolled 76 yards in 12 plays. At the UCF 12, he looked right, then rolled left before lobbing a pass barely over the outstretched arm of cornerback Jordan Ozerities to Stoneburner in the end zone.
After the extra-point and kickoff, Bortles threw a ball up for grabs that was picked off by linebacker Etienne Sabino at the Knights’ 32.
Miller took over from there. He ran for nine yards, passed to Devin Smith for 15 and then covered the last eight yards behind fullback Zach Boren.
Ohio State showed some perseverance to forge a 17-10 lead at the half, despite losing Hyde to a knee injury and making a couple of blunders.
With the score tied and 3:18 left in the second quarter, the Buckeyes went 52 yards, with Miller completing two passes for 24 yards, to grab the advantage at the break. Miller kept on a designed run for 24 yards before covering the final 6 yards on a sprint around left end.
The teams traded turnovers when Boren lost a fumble to UCF’s Kemal Ishmael and the Knights gave it back two plays later. Travis Howard — who twice left the game with shoulder pain — intercepted a pass by Bortles that was behind the receiver and tipped to him.
Miller raced untouched 37 yards up the middle on a quarterback delay for a quick 7-0 lead on the Buckeyes’ opening possession.
The next time they got the ball, they drove to midfield where on fourth and 1 coach Urban Meyer elected to go for it. Linebacker Jonathan Davis knocked Miller’s feet out from underneath him before he could pick up the first down.
The Knights took advantage to move to a first down at the 10 before two runs and an incompletion resulted in Shawn Moffitt’s 38-yard field goal.
Ohio State then marched to the UCF 12 where it settled for Drew Basil’s 24-yard field goal and a 10-3 lead when the Knights’ defense stiffened and stopped Miller on two runs and a wobbly pass. On third down, Miller narrowly avoided a sack by Troy Davis before reversing field and flipping a short pass into the end zone for Hyde, who was hit hard on the play. He went to the sidelines and sat by himself for several moments before being taken off the field on a cart with an ice bag on his right knee.
It didn’t take long for UCF to get the equalizer. Bortles hit Johnson on a slant for 20 yards before Johnson carried on a sweep around right end that picked up 48 yards before he was pushed out of bounds by safety C.J. Barnett. From the 4, Bortles used a nifty play-action fake to draw the defense before tossing a pass to wide-open tight end Justin Tukes.
Miller had an even 100 yards on 14 carries at the half. Meyer had said last week that he wanted to limit Miller’s carries, not wanting him to get injured.
Instead, out of necessity, he ran it even more.
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.