On a scale of one to 10 on the entertainment factor, Ohio State’s win over visiting California was probably about a nine.
Urban Meyer's postgame press conference after the Cal game
And it was far from pretty, but the 12th-ranked Buckeyes will certainly take it.
Braxton Miller’s 72-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith with 3:26 left gave Ohio State a late lead against visiting California. Then, moments later, an interception by OSU’s Christian Bryant moments later sealed a dramatic 35-28 win for the Buckeyes before 105,232 on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.
“The best thing about being 3-0 is a chance to go to 4-0,” said OSU coach Urban Meyer. “And that's about it. We've enjoyed a win against a very quality opponent, Cal. Our guys found a way. I have been in games before where I thought we were going to lose, where I just kept waiting (for something to happen).
“Today, I thought someone would make a play. I really did.”
This was a wild affair that saw the teams combine 924 yards total offense and nine touchdowns. The Buckeyes, nearly a three-touchdown favorite to rout the Bears, were stymied by 11 penalties that cost them 101 yards.
One week after carrying 27 times (and for three touchdowns) in a win over Central Florida, Miller made plays with both his feet and his arm for the Buckeyes (3-0). Miller completed 16 of 30 passes for 249 yards and four touchdowns against one interception. He also carried 12 times for 75 yards with a touchdown.
“What is going to happen is we're going to have to be throw the ball, become efficient throwing,” Meyer said. “We've gotten better. You can take a look at the evolution in the past, what's it been 12 months, or 24 months, whatever it's been. But since Braxton became our quarterback, he's much better. But we've got a long way to go. It's kind of turning into that kind of a world for us right now that there's a lot of players, people, numbers, committed to stopping the run.”
Tailback Jordan Hall got his first action of the season and had 87 yards on 17 carries. Devin Smith added five catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
OSU's Etienne Sabino sacks Cal QB Zach Maynard (Photo by Gary Housteau)
Cal quarterback Zach Maynard kept the Bears (1-2) in it until the end. He completed 26 of 37 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown with an interception and also rushed for a score. Brendan Bigelow had three carries for 160 yards, including touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards. The Bears also got nine catches for 80 yards from stellar receiver Keenan Allen.
“Zach played really well today. He managed the field, took a lot of hits and kept going and kept control of his offense,” said Cal coach Jeff Tedford. “He really hung in there and played well against a great Ohio State defense.”
The Bears outgained the Buckeyes 512-412 in total offense, but they had to lament three missed field goals by kicker Vincenzo D’Amato.
“We can take a lot of good things from today,” Tedford said. “We made some successful plays, kept our composure and played with a lot of heart. However, we didn’t come here just to play well, we came here to win.
“It is very discouraging because we came here to win and we played well enough to win, but the scoreboard just doesn’t say that. No matter what the stats are, what the scoreboard says or what happened today, we proved we can play with the best of them.”
The 512 yards allowed were the most by an Ohio State team in nearly seven years. Meyer lamented his own team’s mental and physical errors.
“I wish I had some magic answer for you,” he said. “We don't tackle very well right now. We had some stupid penalties. We had some personal fouls, 15-yard penalties. We better get that cleaned up or we're going to lose a game.”
Cal trailed 20-7 at halftime, but moved ahead 21-20 on Maynard’s 1-yard touchdown run with 12:26 left in the game.
Ohio State rallied with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown march, capped by Miller’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Jake Stoneburner. Miller’s two-point conversion run made it 28-21 with 8:31 left.
But Bigelow’s 59-yard TD run two plays later tied it at 28-28 with 8:10 left. Miller threw an interception, but OSU dodged a bullet when D’Amato’s 42-yard field goal sailed wide left.
That set the stage for Miller’s bomb to Smith for the game-winning score.
“That was a scramble,” Meyer said. “That was a scramble drill where the short (receiver) got deep and the deep man goes short. That's what he did. That's one thing that you hear people in the NFL say. I heard it the other day on the TV, the quarterback that can extend the play. He extended the play and made one.”
Stoneburner said coming through a tight scrape like this can only help this team. This was the kind of game Ohio State would have likely lost a year ago, when six of the seven losses were by seven points or less.
“This should just build confidence,” Stoneburner said. “Some of the guys on the sideline were like, ‘Man, Cal might actually pull this out.’ But our offense was able to go out there and score two times at the end when we needed to.”
Afterwards, Meyer said senior captain John Simon, who played the game with a minor shoulder injury, gave an emotional speech in the OSU locker room.
“John Simon played hurt today,” Meyer said. “He gave a little emotional speech in there. He had a sore shoulder. They kept telling me all week, it should be fine, it should be fine; it just didn't heal as fast as we hoped. Boy, he just lost it in the locker room as far as just sharing, opening up his soul for this team.
“And I've done this a long time, man, and he's as good you mark that down there, can you put a jersey up there or something that says John Simon, because that's a grown ass man.”
With the tension from the game dissipated, Meyer quipped, “If we have another child I want to name him, what is it, Urban John Simon Meyer or something like that. I can't wait for that headline. But that's how much I love that guy. I'm not ashamed to say I love him.”
As It Happened
The teams exchanged punts early in the game and Cal had a chance to draw first blood. The Bears took over on the OSU 45 after a punt. But they only made it as far as the 39 as, on fourth down there, Maynard was pressured into an incompletion by OSU’s Simon.
The Buckeyes took over and went 61 yards the other way in three plays for the game’s first touchdown. On third-and-4 from the OSU 45, Miller took the snap and made a jab step to his right. He reversed field on a designed run, made Cal’s Jalen Jefferson miss, juked by Cal’s Alex Logan and was gone sprinting down the left sideline. Cal’s Josh Hill closed in but Miller gave him one last move inside the 10 and finished it off for the breathtaking 55-yard touchdown run.
Drew Basil’s PAT kick was wide right, but OSU led 6-0 with 5:11 left in the first quarter.
Cal answered right back with a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to briefly take a 7-6 lead.Maynard hit Allen for an 18-yard gain down to the OSU 26. Finally on third-and-3 from the 19, Maynard took a snap and looked left. He then turned and threw a backside screen to Chris Harper. The Bears blocked it perfectly and Harper broke free for the 19-yard touchdown. Vincenzo D’Amato’s PAT kick put Cal up 7-6 with 2:38 left in the first quarter.
Ohio State fired right back with a four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Miller hit Smith for a 9-yard gain before rushing for 1 yard and the first down. Miller then threw down the seam to a streaking Jake Stoneburner, who had burned linebacker Nick Forbes by at least 10 yards. The play gained 40 yards down to the Cal 25. On first down there, Miller noted Smith with one-on-one coverage by Cal’s Steve Williams. Smith ran the go route and Miller rifled it to him at the goal line. Smith went up and snagged it away from the unaware Williams for the 25-yard touchdown and a 13-7 lead with 1:27 left in the first quarter.
“I tried to get him to fall inside so I could get on top,” Smith said. “He kind of bit inside. Braxton threw a perfect pass and I just made the play.”
The Buckeyes then forced a three-and-out and took over at the Cal 45 after the punt. On third-and-10 from the 45, Miller threw deep to Smith for a 35-yard gain down to the 10. Miller then scampered for 9 yards down to the 1. On second-and-goal there, he executed a play fake and rolled left. He hit a wide open Stoneburner in the left flat for the 1-yard touchdown and a 20-7 lead with 13:30 left in the first half.
Late in the second quarter, Cal – aided by an OSU face mask penalty – drove to a first down at the OSU 10-yard line. But a holding penalty knocked the Bears back and, on fourth-and-goal from the 23, D’Amato’s 40-yard field goal was wide left.
The 20-7 score stood at the half as the Buckeyes had outgained Cal 234-181. Miller was 10 of 14 passing for 129 yards and two touchdowns and also had six carries for 64 yards and a score in that first half.
Cal drew closer early in the second half. The Bears took over on their own 19 after an OSU punt. On first down there, backup running back Brendan Bigelow took a give and went left. It appeared that safety Orhian Johnson had him bottled up, but Bigelow somehow spun out of the tackle attempt and put a hand down to stay on his feet. OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier missed on a diving tackle attempt and Bigelow was gone down the sideline for the 81-yard touchdown run that cut the OSU lead to 20-14 with 9:34 left in the third quarter.
The OSU offense sputtered miserably in the third quarter as the Buckeyes netted just 25 yards on 14 offensive plays. Cal drove down to the OSU 25, but OSU safety Christian Bryant broke up a pair of passes. D’Amato’s 42-yard field goal was wide left with 58 seconds left in the third quarter.
An OSU personal foul penalty on a punt gave the Bears possession at the OSU 46 later in that third quarter. Maynard hit Bryce Treggs for a 15-yard gain on a screen and converted a third-and-3 with a 4-yard pass to Allen down to the 14.
On first down there, Maynard threw a lateral to Allen. Allen threw back across the field to Maynard for an 8-yard gain. C.J. Anderson charged straight ahead for 5 yards down to the 1, where Maynard capped the eight-play, 46-yard scoring march with a sneak for the touchdown and a 21-20 Cal lead with 12:26 left in the game.
The Buckeyes battled back with a sharp 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead. Hall started it with a 15-yard run on the option pitch. Miller then hit Brown for a 21-yard gain. Miller completed throws of 9 yards to tight end Jeff Heuerman and 10 yards to Evan Spencer for a first down at the Cal 5. On third-and-goal from the 3, Miller took the snap, faked a quarterback draw and threw the jump pass – a Meyer original with Tim Tebow at Florida – to a wide open Stoneburner in the back of the end zone for a 26-21 lead with 8:31 left.
“It was a jump pass,” Meyer said. “It was a pass that I saw with everyone else in the world saw when Braxton Miller, they had the world to stop Braxton. And they came up, really good execution by Jake Stoneburner, blocking and releasing in the back of the end zone. That's if you're pounding the quarterback that's a hard one to stop.”
Stoneburner added, “We’ve been working on that play since Coach Meyer got here and he said he was going to use it this week. It’s obviously a great play and it came at the perfect time.”
After a timeout, Meyer opted for a two-point conversion play. Miller took the snap and rolled to his right. It appeared to be a run/pass option. He took the run option, cut it back and dove easily for the two-point conversion that made it 28-21.
But on Cal’s ensuing possession, Bigelow took a give and went left through a huge hole. OSU’s Ryan Shazier missed a tackle attempt and the speedy Bigelow was gone on a 59-yard touchdown run that tied it at 28-28 with 8:10 left.
Miller was then victimized by throwing an interception to Cal’s Steve Williams at the OSU 44 with 7:17 left. But the OSU defense stiffened. Facing fourth-and-1 at the OSU 25-yard line, Tedford called timeout and eventually opted for D’Amato to attempt a go-ahead 42-yard field goal. But the errant kicker shoved this one wide left.
The Buckeyes took over on their own 25-yard line. On third-and-7 at the 28, Miller rolled to his right and kept the play alive long enough to hit a wide open Smith down the sideline. Smith hauled it in at the 40 and rolled the rest of the way for the 72-yard touchdown to make it 35-28 with 3:26 left. The play was designed to go underneath to Brown, but Miller found Smith all alone.
“I saw the corner and the safety go with (Brown) and nobody was on me, I put my hand up,” Smith said. “He saw it and threw it to me.”
Cal benefitted from a pass interference penalty on C.J. Barnett to get a first down at its own 30. Moments later on first down from the 42, Maynard tried to go deep left but he overthrew his receiver and Bryant made the easy pick with 1:09 left.
“[Bradley] Roby communicated to me before the play they were going to run the seam route and Ryan [Shazier] did a great job of re-routing their receiver and forcing the quarterback to overthrow it,” Bryant said.
Cal only had one timeout left, so the Buckeyes ran the remaining time out and celebrated a hard fought win.
* Amazingly, Ohio State did not allow any of its 2011 opponents to reach the 500-yard plateau in total offense. The most allowed last year was 444 in the 40-34 loss at Michigan.
The 512 yards allowed were the most by an OSU defense since the 2005 team allowed 578 yards in a 45-31 win at Minnesota. It is also the most yards allowed by OSU at Ohio Stadium since Cincinnati had 525 in a 34-20 OSU win in 1999.
* Bigelow’s touchdown run stands as the third-longest touchdown run by an OSU opponent in school history and the longest ever by an opponent at Ohio Stadium. Only Iowa’s Larry Ferguson (91-yard TD in 1960) and Michigan State’s Levi Jackson (88-yard TD in 1974) have had longer scoring runs against the Buckeyes.
Bigelow’s run was Cal’s longest since Jahvid Best went 93 yards for a touchdown against UCLA in 2009.
* Senior RB Jordan Hall made his 2012 debut for the Buckeyes. He missed the first two games as he recovered from an off-season foot injury. He started at tailback in place of Carlos Hyde, who missed the game due to a sprained knee suffered last week against Central Florida.
“I did not think that was going to happen,” Meyer said of Hall’s 17-carry day. “He just kept going. I think he was rusty, I think there were more yards there. I think he could have come out of a few things that he normally would. But I love Jordan Hall. He's given a lot for us and our staff. So we've got to give back to him. He had a good day. That was the first time he went hard since he got hurt.”
Also, senior LB Storm Klein saw his first action of the season after sitting out two games due to a suspension. Klein ended up rotating with starter Curtis Grant at middle linebacker. He finished with two tackles.
“I just prayed about it and hoped for the best,” Klein said. “Here I am today.”
Senior DE Nathan Williams returned to action after missing last week’s game due to soreness in his knee. Williams also had two tackles.
* LB Ryan Shazier led the Buckeyes with 13 tackles with Johnathan Hankins and C.J. Barnett each logging 10.
* Ohio State had managed just three sacks in its first two games. But the Buckeyes broke free for six of them in this game with Roby, Shazier, Etienne Sabino, Garrett Goebel, John Simon and Johnathan Hankins all corralling Maynard.
“In practice, we focused on getting off the ball,” Hankins said. “With (defensive line coach Mike Vrabel) staying on us, we were able to get off the ball better and that helped us with our pass rush. The coaches challenged us to hit the quarterback and I thought we did that pretty well.”
* Bryant’s clutch interception was the first of his career.
“It was good to get my first-time collegiate pick,” Bryant said. “Hopefully there will be many more to come.”
Bryant also had five tackles and those two critical pass break-ups in the third quarter.
“I feel like it was my best game so far,” Bryant said. “I still have a lot of progress to make.”
* Stoneburner’s 40-yard catch was a career long and his two touchdown grabs give him three for the year and 12 in his career.
* Miller ended the game with 249 yards passing, a career high. That topped the 235 he had at Michigan in 2011. His four touchdowns are also a career-high.
The 55-yard touchdown run by Miller in the first quarter marked his sixth run of 20 or more yards this season. The run was Miller’s fifth rushing touchdown of the season.
* Ohio State now leads the all-time series with California 6-1. The schools had not met for 40 years, dating to an OSU win at Cal (35-18). The teams met twice at the Rose Bowl with Cal winning in 1921 (28-0) and OSU winning in 1950 (17-14). OSU is now 3-0 vs. Cal at Ohio Stadium with previous wins in 1954 (21-13) and 1971 (35-3).
The schools will complete a two-year home-and-home contract with OSU visiting newly renovated Memorial Stadium in Berkeley on Sept. 14, 2013.
* Ohio State is now 57-26-3 all-time against teams currently in the Pac-12. OSU is 8-3 in its last 10 games against Pac-12 teams dating to the 1997 season. The losses were at UCLA in 2001 and a home-and-home with USC in 2008-09.
USC (9-13-1) and Stanford (2-3) are the only Pac-12 teams Ohio State doesn’t own at least a .500 record against.
* Meyer is now 2-0 all-time against California as a head coach. His 2003 Utah team defeated Cal 31-24 in Salt Lake City. Meyer’s teams are also now 37-4 all-time in the month of September.
* OSU has won 63 straight regular season nonconference home games against unranked teams. That string dates to a 1982 loss to Florida State.
* Ohio State recognized the 70th anniversary of its 1942 national championship team. Four members of that team, coached by Paul Brown, will be recognized. They are Paul Matus, Cameron Naples, Paul “Robin” Priday and Don Steinberg.
* Saturday was also OSU Athletic Hall of Fame Day. The 2012 class includes Louise Bond-Williams (fencing), Pete Cusick (football), Jessica Davenport (basketball), George Downes (wrestling), Joseph Gailus (football), Ray Griffi n (football), Rex Holman (wrestling), Bob Knight (basketball; lifetime achievement), Keturah Lofton (track and field), Dick Schafrath (football), Jim Stone (women’s
volleyball coach) and Mike Vrabel (football).
* During the Jeff Tedford era, Cal has played seven road games in other time zones that have started
before noon Pacific Time and the Golden Bears now have a 5-2 record in those contests.
* Cal has played 34 nationally ranked teams during the Tedford era and posted a 13-21 record in those contests.
* The Buckeyes host UAB next Saturday at noon to wrap nonconference play. That game will be televised by Big Ten Network.
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