Cal put together its best game of the season in Columbus, but could not seal the deal against a very strong Ohio State team, eventually falling 35-28. The Bears, who have struggled in the past with early start times on road trips, came out firing on both sides of the ball today and hung with the Buckeyes until the final whistle.
After being forced to punt twice, the Buckeyes got on the board first when quarterback Braxton Miller showcased his athleticism on a 55-yard rushing touchdown late in the first quarter, taking a 6-0 lead after missing the extra point.
Cal responded quickly, putting up first quarter points for the first time this year. Zach Maynard found freshman receiver Bryce Harper for a 19-yard touchdown, capping off a 75-yard drive.
The Buckeyes seemed to find their footing after that, as Miller found Devin Smith and Jake Stoneburner for touchdowns on consecutive possessions, jumping back ahead 20-7. Before things could get out of hand though, Cal's defense tightened up, holding the Bucks to two punts for the rest of the first half.
Cal's offense couldn't capitalize on their opportunities, however, as two costly penalties brought back a long run by C.J. Anderson and a nice scramble by Maynard. Another penalty may have cost the Bears three points, as Vincenzo D'Amato missed a 42-yard field goal after an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Chris Adcock.
Aside from that streak of flags, Cal did away with its penalty problems, finally netting a total of just four for 40 yards. Ohio State was tagged 11 times for 101 yards, including a number of personal fouls.
The Golden Bears turned up the heat in the second half. The defense put together a dominant third quarter, holding OSU to just 10 yards on four possessions. The offense put up over 180 yards in the same period, but got only seven points as D'Amato missed his second of three field goal attempts.
It was sophomore Brendan Bigelow who put the Bears on the board in the second half, showing great balance after taking a hit at the line of scrimmage and spinning away for an 81-yard score. That was only the beginning of Bigelow's breakout day, though, as he would reel in another 59-yard touchdown and a grand total of 160 yards on just four carries.
Isi Sofele had the next most rushing yardage, putting up 86 yards on 21 touches. Anderson and fullback Eric Stevens ran for 13 and 11 yards respectively.
Entering the fourth quarter down 20-14, coach Jeff Tedford opened up the offensive playbook, letting Keenan Allen throw back across the field to half brother Maynard. Maynard could not beat the last man to score, but Anderson punched the ball in two plays later.
Brendan Bigelow's second TD run came one possession later, but was sandwiched between two more scores from Miller, including the deciding 72-yard strike to Devin Smith. Miller looked a bit off his game, overall, going just 16-30, but a few long passes deep into the secondary helped him achieve 249 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air.
Maynard was more efficient overall, completing 27 of 38 for 288 yards, but a combination of missed passes and dropped balls kept him short of a much more dominant performance. His only major mistake came on his last pass, when he floated the ball over Allen's head, leading to an interception with just two minutes left in the game.
Maynard also had success on a few designed bootlegs, but was sacked six times as an otherwise quiet OSU pass rush found its way around the Cal O-line.
In the end, Braxton Miller's five-score day was too much for the Bears, but a few missed chances (including D'Amato's three missed field goals) finally sank any upset hopes. That said, the Cal team never seemed fazed by the 12th ranked Buckeyes. The team won the yardage battle 512-412 and was still in the game until their final drive came up short.
The Bears hope to avoid a 1-3 start with a tough matchup against USC next week. The game kicks off at 3 pm next Saturday.