Did anyone see this type of game unfolding? The B1G TEN was subject of considerable national scrutiny last week for getting waxed in three road games against the Pac-12. Wisconsin’s loss in Corvallis may have been the biggest upset, but Illinois’ and Nebrasky’s respective performances in Tempe and Pasadena were awful in their own right. We kind of assumed Ohio State would use this week to at least declare “not us!”, comfortably dispatching the Golden Bears. However, Ohio State had to work at it. 512 yards of offense for California, but three missed field goals, later, Ohio State sneaks out of the Horseshoe 35-28 winners.
Remember Ohio State fans complaining about the lack of a pass rush? Forget that. Ohio State had six sacks this game. Coverage implosions were kept to a minimum, though the same cannot be said about Cal on the winning touchdown for the Buckeyes. It was troubling to see Ohio State concede so many big plays on poor angles and poor tackling in the run game. California had 224 yards rushing this game, and about 180 of them (or so) came on three big plays for Brendan Bigelow. The Buckeyes dominated Cal’s interior line. Sofele had very little going between tackles. It was sweep plays where Cal did considerable damage. It is, for all intents and purposes, inexcusable. This can’t happen again, not with the variety of rushing threats Ohio State will face in B1G TEN play.
I think Ohio State did well enough (I guess?) in defending the pass. There were no coverage implosions. Most of the frustrations were in Ohio State not covering key receivers on third and short. Part of the reason California so routinely got to third and short this game was because of bootleg passes and the jailbreak screens. Tedford dialed up a fair bit of play action passes in order to contain the pass rush. Maynard was a sitting duck in the pocket, but had considerable success using the defensive line’s aggressiveness against it. Likewise, Fickell was more aggressive with the blitz packages this game, which led Tedford to dial up some jailbreak screens in order to punish the Buckeyes.
On offense, Ohio State was certainly a mixed bag. The first quarter was great. The second quarter was unwatchable. The third quarter was unforgivable. Ohio State had 11 yards of offense in the third quarter when offensive penalties (a huge problem in the past few games) were considered. It put the defense in a position where it was going to fail eventually. That vaunted 46 bear front we heard so much about made an appearance in the third quarter. As such, the Bears walked down a safety, took away inside zone, outside zone, and dared Miller to throw. Miller did not have a great day throwing the ball, though was not helped by some bad drops by his receivers. He finished 16/30 for 249 yards, 3 TDs and an INT.
Ohio State (ideally) gets a break when it welcomes annual cellar-dweller Alabama-Birmingham to Ohio Stadium next week. This should provide an opportunity for the Buckeyes to iron out much of its issues before beginning conference play next week on the road at Michigan State. Should be fun, no?