Ohio State Buckeyes: Knee injury makes Braxton Miller iffy for California Bears

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The status of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller for Saturday’s game at California was still up in the air early Thursday, but coach Urban Meyer said he was "fairly optimistic."

 Meyer said Miller got in a little work at Wednesday's practice but then had another session of rehab for his injured left knee.

"He's going on the trip and tomorrow's going to be the day we'll find out how much he'll play," Meyer said.

Miller, who sustained a sprained ligament in his left knee early in the Buckeyes' 42-7 win over San Diego State last weekend, has been receiving treatment and throwing the ball this week.

Miller wore  a big brace on the knee when he went through light, non-contact practices Tuesday and Wednesday.

"It's not as sore. It's an MCL, so it's a little unstable," Meyer said. "He's got to get used to that brace."

Meyer, who said it was a concern that he didn't know Miller's status this late in the week, didn't disregard the possibility of starting Kenny Guiton and  then inserting Miller if possible.

The Buckeyes (2-0) will be playing their first road game against the Bears (1-1).

Safety Christian Bryant said Miller looked OK in a limited appearance in practice.

"Braxton looks good," he said. "I saw him throw the ball a few times. But I think he's just focusing on getting back so he can be ready."

Miller has a history of injuries, leading some fans calling into talk shows or posting on message boards to question his durability. He missed portions of his high school career to injury and has had to leave six games with injuries at Ohio State.

He left with a sprained ankle in 2011 at Nebraska with the Buckeyes ahead 27-6 but they ended up losing 34-27. After taking hits, he missed portions of the Michigan State and Indiana games a year ago, but returned each time as the Buckeyes won.

In the season-opening 40-20 win over Buffalo, he left the game twice with leg cramps but returned each time, replaced by  Guiton.

Guiton threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in relief of Miller in last Saturday's win over San Diego State. Guiton endeared himself to Ohio State fans a year ago in the eighth game when he came in after Miller was hit hard on a third-quarter tackle against Purdue.

Guiton faltered until leading a dramatic 61-yard touchdown drive in the last minute, then completing a two-point conversion pass to force overtime. The Buckeyes ended up winning that game 29-22 and went on to a 12-0 season.

"He's a distributor," Meyer said of Guiton. "He's a manager and he's looked pretty good."

Meyer said earlier this week that he has no lingering doubts about whether Miller can play through minor pain

"No. (It's) obvious that quarterbacks at times get hit, especially Braxton, who is a fearless player," Meyer said. "I just think we always have to have Plan B (Guiton) ready."

Tight end Jeff Heuerman said fans have no reason to question Miller's toughness.

"Braxton plays a huge role in this offense, especially with his legs. He's moving around a lot, he's throwing the ball, he's got a bunch of reads. Sometimes things don't go as planned; he took a shot and his knee twisted up a little bit. But he'll be fine," Heuerman said.

"I don't think there's any major concern about the way he plays. He's a dynamic, incredible athlete."

INJURY UPDATE: In addition to the drama surrounding Miller, starting DE Adolphus Washington from Taft High School in Cincinnati is also battling a groin injury. His teammates have said he would most likely be ready to go on Saturday.

CAL QUICK-HITTERS: This marks Ohio State's first visit to Memorial Stadium since 1972 when the Buckeyes prevailed, 35-18. ... Cal picked up its win in the series, 28-0, in the Bears' first Rose Bowl appearance in 1921. Cal and Ohio State also met in the 1950 Rose Bowl, which resulted in a 17-14 Buckeye victory. ... Cal will be looking for its first win over a top-5 team since the Bears outlasted then-No. 3 USC, 34-31, in triple overtime on Sept. 27, 2003. ... The big matchup of the day should be a Cal offense that leads the nation in passing yards per game (472.5 ypg) behind the nation's leading passer true freshman Jared Goff against Ohio State, 18th in total defense. ... Ohio State won last year's meeting, 35-28, at Ohio Stadium, but Bears RB Brendan Bigelow ripped off touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards. The 81-yarder was the longest run ever by an opposing back at Ohio Stadium and the longest by a Cal player since Jahvid Best's 93-yard touchdown run at UCLA in 2009. Cal amassed 512 yards of offense and outgained the Buckeyes by 100 yards, including 331 yards to 178 for Ohio State in the second half alone. The Bears were victimized by three missed field goals and a touchdown that was called back by a penalty. ... The Bears' schedule is ranked among the toughest in the nation with eight opponents who played in bowl games last year -- obviously, not counting Ohio State which was banned from the postseason despite a 12-0 record.

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