Looking for consistency

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- One quarter and two throws to the same end zone summed up just about everything about the development of Braxton Miller's arm.

The first was a wild toss on third down that sailed over the head of the Ohio State quarterback's target and fell helplessly out of bounds to lead to a field goal. Those things happen, but inaccuracy had been the rule instead of the exception just one week earlier, and it looked as if Miller's legs might have to make up for it once again on Saturday against Illinois.

Then there was the other notable ball Miller cut loose, a gorgeous strike after rolling to his right that he uncorked all the way back to his left, deep down the sideline and perfectly in stride to Rod Smith for a 51-yard touchdown. The contrast couldn't have been more clear, and the latter offered another obvious reminder of why the Buckeyes are trying so hard to develop consistency in the sophomore's delivery.

When he's fundamentally sound with his feet settled underneath him and a compact stride, there's no doubt Miller has an arm capable of slicing up defenses the same way he does with his legs. And Ohio State isn't going to rest until he finds a way to tap into that ability more often.

"We work so hard to develop the passing game and I can't say that we did it successfully," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "The area where we're not efficient enough is the drop-back pass. [You could say], 'Well, he's not a drop-back passer.' You have to be, that's not acceptable."

If Miller still doesn't have the look of a traditional quarterback in the pocket, he's certainly continuing to make up for it in other areas. And he's not just doing it as a rusher.

The threat of Ohio State's ground game has made its play-action sets difficult to defend all season, and Miller again operated it to perfection on a second-quarter scoring drive with a deep cross to Corey "Philly" Brown.

On the rollout, Miller has shown an uncanny ability to fit the ball in tight windows and move the chains, either by design or when he's forced to scramble outside the pocket. And while his completion percentage in the win over the Fighting Illini might look somewhat pedestrian, the Buckeyes dropped at least two catchable balls that would have made a 12-for-20 outing for 226 yards and two touchdowns without an interception look much better. Either way, it was a far cry from competing just seven passes in 19 attempts the week before at Penn State.

"I would agree with [Meyer]," Miller said. "I've got to get better at that aspect of the game, and I'm working real hard. [Offensive coordinator Tom] Herman, he got me together this week with my footwork and things like that.

"Last week I was rushing things, my feet were jittery, I was elongating on my steps, but I was compact throughout the whole week. Coach got me together, and I could tell when the ball was coming out of my hand it was going to be good."

Miller was obviously feeling those good vibes on the pass to Smith.

He's had them plenty of times previously this season, and often they've come in big moments. There were a couple perfect strikes to Devin Smith when the Buckeyes had to have them to keep their unbeaten season alive. Even while struggling against the Nittany Lions, he unleashed a bullet that sprung Jake Stoneburner for a touchdown.

Those glimpses at what Miller can do have essentially served as appetizers for the coaching staff. The next step is opening up the buffet line.

"It's still a work in progress," Meyer said. "We're going to keep grinding and keep pushing at it because at some point we have to be a balanced team.

"We're not there yet."