Buckeye Watch – California
By Tony Gerdeman
There is no such thing as a regretful win, but Saturday's 35-28 victory over California sure comes close. Had the Buckeyes run into a more disciplined team, and one with a better kicker, they would be looking at life as a 2-1 team right now.
There is only so long a team can play this haphazardly and still remain undefeated. Really staying undefeated isn't the concern right now, avoiding a two or three-game losing streak should be the focus.
Yes, the Big Ten is bad, but the Buckeyes aren't exactly innocents when it comes to the conference's label.
Much of the concern comes from seeing the same defensive issues that plagued the Buckeyes all of last season, and for good reason. California put up more yards on the Buckeyes than anybody else did last year, and made them look foolish at times doing it.
The major difference, however, is that Ohio State currently has an offense that can overcome their defensive deficiencies, at least for now.
There is nobody remaining on the Buckeyes' schedule that they cannot beat. Likewise, there aren't many teams on the schedule who couldn't give the Buckeyes all they could handle if they ran into them on a day like Saturday.
Fortunately, the Buckeyes have one of the most explosive players in college football at quarterback. So, while you are fretting about a team that has no postseason hopes, don't forget to also enjoy what you are getting to see in Braxton Miller, because he is not at all normal.
9:56 The players have entered the stadium from their walk over from the Skull Session. I feel bad for those guys because they have to be in St. John Arena in their suits. The average temperature in that building is the Everglades in July.
10:28 The thing about sitting in the pressbox this early in the day is that the sun basically cooks you. That's why the eggs are left a little runny, because they'll firm up from the pressbox radiation.
10:55 Carlos Hyde is not dressed today, as we expected. Haven't seen Jordan Hall yet. The starting running back is not yet known. Wait, here comes Hall. He's dressed. That doesn't answer the starting running back question yet, of course.
11:06 The pressbox windows are open for the first time this year. We'll finally get to hear the crowd, as well as Braxton's claps which has 37% of the Ohio State fanbase furious because the sound alerts the defense that the play is about to start. (Because everybody getting set didn't already do that in the first place.)
11:59 I'm still not confident in Braxton Miller's ability to beat Cal's one-on-one coverage downfield. The Ohio State passing game has been mostly short-yardage to this point, but they'll have to extend it a bit this week.
12:06 Cal wins the toss and defers. Ohio State will get the ball and we'll see just how healthy Jordan Hall is right away because it looks like he's starting.
12:08 Yep, Jordan Hall gets the start. The Buckeyes start in the pistol, which is how Nevada gashed Cal to start the season. Hall gets the ball and picks up nothing. Well, he looks normal to me.
12:10 Philly Brown moves into the backfield. I know that he prefers to go by Corey, but if his teammates call him Philly, then I'm gonna call him Philly. [/Coming to America]
12:11 Third and nine. Empty set with two tight ends and a fullback split out. I wonder if this is how five wides will look in a couple of years when there are five trusted wide receivers on this roster. Anyway, Philly Brown dropped the slant pass. Ben Buchanan's punt goes out of bounds at the 20-yard line.
12:15 Isi Sofele picks up 14 yards running wide. There was nobody there to meet him until after he was already out of bounds. Time to go back to the 4-3 defense, because this 4-7 defense has holes.
12:16 Here comes Bradley Roby on the blitz and he drops Zach Maynard for a loss of eleven yards. It was a blindside blitz and Maynard had no chance. Of course, the bad news is that now you have 100,000 people yelling, “TOLD YA! We've been telling you to blitz forever now.” There is nothing more dangerous than proving fans right. Now they'll think that they're always right about everything football related, including the people who say Kenny Guiton should be playing over Miller. “I was right about blitzing and I know I'm right about putting Braxton Miller at running back and letting that Keith Guiton kid [because even though he loves the backup quarterback, he doesn't actually know his name] sling it around.”
12:17 Third and eleven. And here comes Etienne Sabino on the blitz, and he picks up the Buckeyes' second sack of the afternoon. I think they came into this game with three sacks on the season. They blitzed twice on that drive and both got home. Crazy. Now the fans are going to want to start telling Tom Herman what to do. Cal's punt rolls dead at the four-yard line.
12:18 It's amazing what a little bit of defensive pressure does to an offense.
12:22 Third and two. Miller rolls right, finds Devin Smith and Smith drops it. That's two third-down drops for the Buckeyes in two drives. The punt is fair caught at the 50-yard line, and a five-yard penalty is tacked on for an illegal formation. This punt team has not had a spectacular last couple of weeks.
12:28 Fourth and four for Cal from the Ohio State 39-yard line, and they're going for it. Maynard throws it, it gets tipped and then in a brilliant move, Christian Bryant hits C.J. Barnett to keep him from intercepting the pass and losing the Buckeyes a good ten or fifteen yards. That is as heady a play as you will ever, ever, ever see. [Takes off scarlet-colored glasses, wipes dust from lenses.]
12:30 Third and four. Tom Herman dials up a Braxton Miller run, and the kid piles jukes on jukes, and then speed on speed for a 55-yard touchdown run. He left safety Alex Logan not only looking for his own jock strap, but in fact he left him looking for every piece of clothing ever invented. “But nobody even wears ascots anymore?” “KEEP LOOKING!” That's pretty impressive when you can go untouched on a read option like that. That was third down, Braxton wasn't bothering to look for anybody but himself. No drops on this one. Nice call by Herman. Drew Basil missed the extra point. Buckeyes lead it 6-0.
12:34 Sofele breaks out of a Curtis Grant tackle and picks up 26 yards on what should have been a three-yard run. How does that happen. Grant had his arms around him, and then he didn't.
12:35 There's a quick pass over to the middle to Keenan Allen. Grant took a bad angle and the play picks up 18 yards. Not a good series here by Grant.
12:37 Third and three from the 19-yard line. It's a screen pass to receiver Chris Harper and he walks into the endzone. There was absolutely nobody around. Great call by Jeff Tedford there. That was a 75-yard drive in the span of 6 plays, and it actually looked easier than that. California leads it 7-6.
12:38 I saw this defense last year. It's an okay defense, but it demands that its own offense scores more than 24 points.
12:42 Braxton Miller drops back, he's going deep to a wide open Jake Stoneburner, who picks up 40 yards and is down to the 25-yard line. Ohio State fans have only wanted to see that forever, and have only gotten to see it about three times in five years. Seems like it would be there more.
12:43 Wow. Back-shoulder touchdown pass from 25 yards out to Devin Smith, and Smith went and made a play. That was one of the best throws I've ever seen Miller make. He zipped it in there. That was pretty close to perfect. Buckeyes answer right back and now lead it 13-7. Didn't feel like screwing around on that drive, apparently. “Alright you knuckleheads, let's get serious out there on this one, and then we can go back to horseplay in a bit.”
12:45 And now Storm Klein is in for Curtis Grant. They obviously want Grant to watch for a series or two. I wonder if Crowell or one of the true freshmen would have come in had Klein not been reinstated.
12:46 Oh! Bradley Roby drops a pick six. Maynard drilled it right into his chest, but he didn't see it coming until it was already on him. Maynard is down. John Simon and Nathan Williams have knocked the wind out of him, perhaps. Actually, looking at the replay, the kid got his noggin bonked as well. He gets up now and walks off gingerly. (Yes, like how a redhead walks off.)
12:49 Third and seven and Allan Bridgford comes in for Maynard. He gives the ball to Sofele on the draw and Johnathan Hankins declined to allow the play to continue any further. Cal punts, and the ball bounces backwards and lands at the Bears' 45-yard line.
12:51 We have reached the end of the first quarter. The Buckeyes lead it 13-7, but California is getting good push against the Ohio State front seven.
12:55 Third and nine. Buckeyes in an empty set. Wow, there is a perfect throw to Devin Smith down to the 10-yard line. In stride. That one might have even been better than the touchdown pass to Smith. Tight window and Miller got it in there. I wasn't sure that that was something he would be able to do today.
12:58 First and goal at the one-yard line. Play-action to a wide open Stoneburner for the touchdown. So easy these plays are when the defense doesn't know what's coming. So very easy. Buckeyes lead it 20-7. Miller is now 8-11 for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and has 61 yards rushing. No biggie. About average.
1:02 Kickoff. Whoa, there's the first big breakdown from the coverage unit as Drew Basil puts his head down and stops the big return at the 32-yard line. He better be careful or else he's going to get a look at middle linebacker.
1:07 The Buckeyes hold on third and 13 and force a punt. They can probably put California away with a scoring drive here.
1:08 Jordan Hall picks up two yards on first down, but there's an unsportsmanlike penalty on Corey Linsley. That's usually a drive killer. Looking at the television, Urban Meyer doesn't seem too unhappy with him, which seems odd.
1:10 Third and 20. This is normally a down where the quarterback draw gets dialed up. This time, however, Jordan Hall gets it and picks up two yards. Buckeyes punt. Obviously they are trying to conserve Miller and didn't figure he would be able to pick up 20 yards on a draw. He might get thirteen yards, but it would still get him hit.
1:12 Offsetting personal fouls on Nathan Williams and Isi Sofele. Wow, just saw the replay. Sofele gave a little bit of a shove and Williams retaliated six-fold. “That's not a shove, this is a shove!” [/Dundee'd]
1:14 Third and seven. There's a Cal touchdown, but it's coming back because of a holding call. C.J. Barnett couldn't turn and run because he was being held by Jacob Wark. It's still a first down near the redzone, however.
1:16 Allen picks up eleven yards on a reception, but there is a roughing penalty on John Simon and a facemask by Travis Howard. Make it first and goal at the ten-yard line. At least Cal is moving the ball on their own a bit on this drive, or else this would feel like excessive charity. (As an aside, if “excessive charity” was a penalty, I'm sure the Buckeyes would commit it pretty soon.
1:20 Third and goal from the 16-yard line. The pass is caught by the tight end and the ball gets down to the 12-yard line. All kinds of personal fouls again. Sabino lost his helmet. The penalty goes against Cal. Holy cow, just saw the play. If that was a defender hitting a quarterback like that, he'd be missing next week's game.
1:22 Cal will attempt a 44-yard field. And it is wide left. There's a flag on the play. Holding on Wark. Wow, imagine if Cal had made the field goal, Wark would have been responsible for them losing a touchdown and a field goal all on the same possession. Give that guy two Buckeye leaves. Amazing that nothing came out of the drive for as hard as Ohio State tried to give it away.
1:27 Third and eleven. Empty look. Miller finds Zach Boren for four yards. Why throw that? Just take off running in any of the three open lanes. Buckeyes punt. There is 3:10 left in the half. Looks like two straight possessions coming for Cal.
1:33 Third and ten. Ryan Shazier comes on the blitz and brings Maynard down. That was very quick and very quiet. Almost polite in a way. Like how a home invader wipes his feet before kicking in your door.
1:34 The Bears punt. Now they are talking some serious trash. They must think they're USC.
1:35 Ohio State is in no hurry. They are simply letting the clock run. Amazingly there are no boos. The clock hits zeroes and the teams leave for the locker rooms. Interesting, in the past, this place would have been booing. Buckeyes lead it 20-7 at the half.
1:41 Bobby Knight is getting a standing ovation at the half and showing the type of emotion that you don't normally see from him. I call it “lack of rage-iness”.
1:43 Summary of the first half: the aggressive defense ain't bad, and the conservative offense is still producing.
1:44 Jordan Hall looks as good to me as he ever has. Still have to wait and see what the coaches always saw in practice. Also waiting for the coaches to let him showcase what they always see, because it can't be the two-yards per carry between the tackles. Not sure if they're going to use him in the passing game at all today tho.
1:55 The “Two minutes to kickoff” announcement was just made in the pressbox. Or, as I call it, the “Two minutes to finish this plate of meat” announcement.
1:58 Game on. Brendan Bigelow returns the kickoff to the 22-yard line. Adam Griffin, nephew of Ray Griffin, on the tackle.
1:59 Wow. C.J. Barnett just got beaten by Darius Powe for 36-odd yards down to the Ohio State 42-yard line. Beaten the entire way. I guess that's what happens when the blitzes get picked up. Still, no reason to be beaten so emphatically.
2:02 Fourth and six from the 38-yard line. Cal will go for it again here. Maynard finds Allen, but he's a half a yard short. The Buckeyes dodge another fourth-down bullet.
2:03 There's an option pitch to the left side for Jordan Hall, who picks up eleven yards. I think that was the first real option pitch where Miller read a man this season. It was also probably the best executed pitch since the Kent Graham days. If the option pitch is a real part of this offense now, that would be pretty interesting.
2:06 There seems to be a concerted effort to not get Braxton hit today. The offense is slowing down because of it.
2:07 Third and 18. Miller overthrows Devin Smith downfield. Buckeyes punt. Cal fair catches at the 19-yard line. Reid Fragel killed this drive with a block in the back penalty.
2:09 With the amount of penalties in this game, a win is never a certainty. Obviously the Buckeyes want to look better, but playing this poorly, you have to be relieved just to get out with a victory. But just realize that it can't happen in conference play.
2:11 Whoa. Two missed tackles makes it a spinning, 81-yard touchdown run by Brendan Bigelow. Nathan Williams, Orhian Johnson and Ryan Shazier all whiffed on him. That was a tremendous run, but he got quite a bit of help. Buckeyes lead it 20-14, and it's a ball game again. Time to get back to running Braxton?
2:18 The Buckeyes go three and out. Ben Buchanan's 55-yard punt nets 64 yards as the return loses nine yards. Cal will start on their own 15-yard line.
2:20 Third and three. Maynard throws a dump off to CJ Anderson who rumbles to the OSU 48-yard line. That's a 30-yard gain. Amazing.
2:22 Third and ten. There's a sack by John Simon, finally. He blew by his man like the guy didn't even know the snap count. That is the play of the game for the Ohio State defense so far. Cal's punt goes into the endzone.
2:25 Time for Braxton to take over.?
2:28 Buckeyes go three and out. Time for Braxton to punt? The Bears fair catch Buchanan's punt at their own 43-yard line.
2:32 Bootleg play-action to Allen gets the ball to the 30-yard line. Roby threw a shoulder into Allen and is leaving the game. Doran Grant comes running in right before the next play is to start. That's not a good development.
2:33 Ow. A Cal receiver just got dropped by Christian Bryant. Hit low. Ugly leg injury. Can't watch. I'm gonna go do something else for a while.
2:35 Not watching it, but hearing the groans from the pressbox tells me I made the right decision to ignore it.
2:37 Third and five from the 25-yard line. C.J. Anderson drops the pass as Bryant blew it up. His second consecutive breakup, but this one will not require months of rehab. Cal will kick the field goal.
2:38 And they miss it again. This was a 42-yard attempt that went wide left. It was sort of close though, so that's something. I'm not sure Cal actually wants to win this game.
2:39 Well, if they're not going to run it with Miller, are there receivers downfield that he can throw it to?
2:40 The answer is yes, as everybody was just wide open on that pass attempt, but Miller underthrew Philly Brown. The replays look like a catch, until you watch it a bit closer. Urban Meyer talks to the ref about challenging it, but thinks better of it. The play goes on and Jordan Hall picks up four yards on the carry, the crowd boos the decision, but it was the right one to make.
2:41 Time to punt. Buchanan's punt travels 32 yards. We have reached the end of the third quarter, except that there is yet another personal foul on OSU. They will tack it on and have an untimed down. Meyer is the opposite of happy right now.
2:43 Sofele picks up six yards and now we take a long commercial break. Ohio State still leads 20-14, but Cal is traveling.
2:44 I wonder if Ohio State realizes how fortunate they are to be leading this game by any points whatsoever.
2:46 OSU is using Braxton against California like Al Borges did Denard Robinson against Alabama. Except they obviously thought they'd be able to handle California without using anybody but Jordan Hall carrying the ball. But Jordan Hall has never shown the ability to be “The Guy”.
2:59 Zach Maynard sneaks it in from the one-yard line, and the extra point gives the Bears the 21-20 lead. They only had to travel 46 yards on that possession. Failures all over the Ohio State special teams today.
3:00 California must be one of the ten best teams in the nation.
3:01 Ohio State has 12:26 to get three points. And hold Cal from getting any. This is not a sure thing right now. The offense needs to wake up, but they've already been given their warm milk for the night.
3:03 Jordan Hall is still in. There's a speed option pitch to Hall, who picks up 16 yards. He's just not fast enough to break it. Ezekiel Elliott, where are you. Hall's two best runs have come on the same play today.
3:07 First and goal from the five-yard line. This has been a very determined drive by the Buckeyes. Braxton Miller powers on the scramble to the one-yard line. Lowered his shoulder, but couldn't get in. Moving a little slower after that hit.
3:08 False start on Reid Fragel. Really? That is his second big penalty today.
3:10 Third and goal from the three-yard line. It's a Tebow jump pass to Jake Stoneburner for the easy touchdown! Tremendous play fake by Miller, and it worked entirely. They're staying on the field for the two-point conversion. Just run that same play, they'll never expect it. 8:31 to play.
3:14 This is going to be a roll right to Philly in the flats. It will be the same play they scored a touchdown on against Miami in the season opener. Yep, here it comes, but Brown is covered and Miller cuts it up and dives into the endzone for two. Buckeyes lead it 28-21.
3:15 That was the answer you'd want to see from a Heisman candidate at quarterback.
3:18 Speaking of answers, Brendan Bigelow just went 59 yards for the touchdown. That was a 21-second drive. Christian Bryant had a bad miss on that one. Well, hope you weren't headed out to your car yet.
3:20 Will they try to make this the last drive of the day? Three yards and a cloud of used Michelins.
3:21 Third and seven. Miller drops back, bypasses an open Philly Brown and throws an interception that should have never been thrown. One of those inexplicable passes that pops up regardless of how well Miller had played up until that point. California takes over at the Ohio State 44-yard line.
3:24 Third and two from the 26-yard line. The give goes to the fullback, and he is two feet short. This is a huge decision coming here for Jeff Tedford. He calls a timeout to give himself more time to talk himself out of going for it. It's time to run for the elevators to get downstairs.
3:28 The elevator doors close as we hear the crowd begin to erupt. Something just happened. No idea what, though.
3:30 Walking down to the field, still don't know what happened. There are people leaving, however. That's never a good sign.
3:32 Walking down the tunnel to the field, turn the corner and see the score is still tied 28-28 and Ohio State has the ball. I ask a security guard what happened. “They missed the field goal!” I can't believe they attempted another field goal.
3:33 Normally, I stay in the endzone, but since the game is still on the line I move as close as I can get on the sidelines. The last time I was in this spot was Wisconsin last year.
3:34 Miller scrambles, the crowd starts yelling, he sees Devin Smith breaking free and he lofts it up for him. The ball is in the air forever, I can't tell if it's going to be in bounds. Smith comes down with it and he's burning down the sidelines for the 72-yard touchdown! Unbelievable. I'm going to have to watch every game from this spot. As Smith ran by me, I had a flashback to the picture of Ted Ginn running by the two backup quarterbacks for Michigan. Pretty amazing. The extra point is good. Ohio State leads it 35-28.
3:35 The funny thing about that play is that the crowd saw Smith before Miller did. Great day to be a knowledgeable fan, but it's going to be a terrible Monday to have to listen to him tell you how much he was right about.
3:40 Johnathan Hankins throws down Maynard for the sack. I think I actually heard the thud.
3:41 This place is seriously loud right now. And C.J. Barnett gets flagged for a pass interference. Of course, it should have also been a hold on John Simon, who got tackled like a streaker at the World Series.
3:44 Interception! Christian Bryant intercepts Maynard to seal the game and redeem the Ohio State safety play on the day. There's a penalty on the return, but that shouldn't really surprise you because the Buckeyes have turned into the Oakland Raiders this season.
3:46 A couple of knees taken by Braxton Miller and this game is over. Buckeyes win it 35-28. Time to go watch the players sing “Carmen Ohio” while trying to keep the look of sheer relief off of their faces.
3:47 UAB couldn't come at a better time.
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