It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but Ohio State did enough to win, rallying for a 35-28 victory over California to improve to 3-0 on the season.
The Golden Bears nearly became the first non-conference un-ranked opponent to win in Ohio Stadium since Florida State back in 1982, a span of 59 games. Cal out-gained the Buckeyes 512 to 412, while dominating time of possession by over ten minutes (35:10 to 24:50).
California took a brief 21-20 lead in the fourth quarter, before the Buckeyes responded with an 11-play, 75 yard drive. Braxton Miller’s two-point conversion made the score 28-21, Ohio State, but the Berkeley Bears came right back, evening the game on a 59-yard touchdown run.
Following a Miller interception at the OSU 49-yard line, California elected for a 42-yard field goal try instead of going for it (fourth and one). Vincenzo D’Amato missed his three-point try of the game, and the score remained 28-28.
Three plays later, facing a third and seven from his own 28, Miller spotted a wide open Devin Smith, for the go-ahead 72-yard touchdown.
Miller put up pretty good numbers once again, accounting for 324 yards of offense and five touchdowns. He threw for a career best 249, and his four touchdown tosses also marked a personal milestone. For good measure, Miller ran for 75 more, and another score, a 55-yard beauty with several incredible moves.
Returning from injury, Jordan Hall carried 17 times for 87 yards, and a couple of his runs were critical in the fourth quarter resurgence for the OSU offense. All said, the Buckeyes gained 163 yards on the ground.
Devin Smith hauled in five passes for 145 yards, which happens to be the 37th highest single-game total in school history. Jake Stoneburner added two touchdown receptions, bringing his career total to 11.
Defensively, the Buckeyes were plagued once again by missed assignments and missed tackles. Cal running back Brenden Bigalow carried just four times, but totaled 160 yards and two touchdowns, on runs of 81 and 59 yards. In fact, the 81 yard run was the third longest ever given up by the Buckeyes, and the longest run by an opponent in Ohio Stadium.
Isi Sofele added 86 yards on 21 carries. The Bears 224 yards rushing have to be of concern for the Buckeyes.
The other area where Cal exploited OSU was with short slants and screens. Zach Maynard was 26 of 37 for 280 yards with a touchdown and an interception. All-American candidate Keenan Allen caught nine of those passes for 80 yards.
On the positive side, after registering just three sacks in the first two games of the year, the Buckeye defense responded with six today.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier led the way with 13 tackles, including a monstrous hit on Maynard. C.J. Barnett and Johnathan Hankins had 10 stops a piece, with Hankins getting one of the six sacks. Bradley Roby was all over the field, often covering Allen. The sophomore corner made nine tackles, two of which went for loss (including a sack on a blitz), and two passes broken up. Safety Christian Bryant was also active, making five stops, and an interception late in the game to seal the victory.
Another major concern for OSU was penalties. The Buckeyes were flagged 11 times (with several others declined), including several personal fouls. You can bet that will be addressed by the coaching staff this week.
The Buckeyes will be looking for improvement from all sides of the ball next week when UAB visits Ohio Stadium, the fourth straight noon start of the year.
We’ll have you covered all day on www.10tv.com/buckeyeblitz, and on 10TV HD News at 7pm and 11pm. We’ll wrap up our Buckeye Blitz GameDay coverage tonight on Wall to Wall Sports at 11:35pm. Former Buckeye Roy Hall will join Dom Tiberi and Beau Bishop in studio.