A 4.5 hour flight to the West Coast and gunshots ringing out just a block from their team hotel mere minutes before they arrived yesterday failed to rattle the Ohio State Buckeyes. After jumping out to an electric 21-0 start, the Buckeyes crashed back to earth in a hurry, but unlike Week 1 against Buffalo, Ohio State regained their control en route to a strong 52-34 victory.
Senior captain Kenny Guiton made his first career start in place of Heisman-hopeful Braxton Miller, who is still nursing his left knee injury sustained last week against San Diego State. Guiton put on a near-Heisman worthy performance himself, completing 21-of-32 passes for 276 yards while adding 92 yards on the ground. His counterpart, Jared Goff, had quite the day as well, completing 31-of-53 attempts for 371 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
The Golden Bears started with the first possession of the game, but were immediately shut down by the Buckeye defense in three plays. Following an illegal block in the back on the punt return, Guiton and the offense were forced to start at their own 6-yard line. This proved to be no problem for Guiton, who connected with Devin Smith on a 90-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game.
The play (a fake-screen-streak) was strategically engineered by the offense. Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman called the play immediately after a screen pass to Chris Fields on the opening play of the game. The Cal defense jumped the screen, leaving Smith with just one man to beat in the secondary, leading him to the longest play from scrimmage in Ohio State history.
Those watching the game thought they came down with déjà vu while watching the second series for both teams. After another Cal three-and-out, Guiton connected with Smith again on the second play of the drive for a 47-yard score. The throw was picturesque, putting the ball right on the money, and only where Smith could grab it. Smith would have one more catch in the game, ending with 149 yards receiving.
Ryan Shazier would force a fumble on Cal’s third drive, giving the ball back to the dangerous Ohio State offense. After a short drive, the Buckeyes would score once again, this time on fourth and goal on a 1-yard pass to Chris Fields. 3 touchdown passes in six minutes, 21 points on 10 plays, 190 yards in three drives; however you want to say it, the Ohio State offense was dominant out of the gates.
It looked to be another three-and-out for the Cal offense until Goff hit James Grisom on a 61 yard bomb. The Ohio State secondary was in disarray, and the "Bear Raid" offense took advantage, scoring on four plays covering 74 yards. The ball would then be placed in Guiton’s hands, and he would give it right back to Cal, fumbling while running a triple option. Cal tried to take advantage of the Ohio State turnover by running a flea-flicker, but Goff followed suit and threw an interception to Christian Bryant, quickly giving the ball back to Ohio State.
The offense’s struggle continued and the momentum began to change. Ohio State’s fifth drive would end in a 39-yard field goal by Drew Basil. Meanwhile, Cal’s Bear Raid offense started to take form at the end of the first quarter. Goff threw his second interception of the game on a throwaway-play, thanks to an Ohio State defender jumping into the neutral zone. The following play after Cal’s lucky break, tremendous downfield blocking set up an explosive touchdown on a 42-yard bubble screen from Goff to Chris Harper.
The opening quarter started high and ended low for the Buckeyes. After a three-and-out that consisted of a botched shotgun snap on first down, setting up Ohio State with an unreachable 2nd-and-25, the Buckeyes were forced to punt. After such an amazing start, it seemed as if the offense looked downright uncomfortable on the field.
Cal attempted a gutsy bubble screen hook and ladder on third down to start their second quarter campaign, but a big tackle from Doran Grant would render the play useless, forcing Cal to punt for the third time in seven drives.
Ohio State would push the tempo in an attempt to get the momentum back on their side, and that’s exactly what they did. The Buckeyes would go on a 12 play, 60 yard drive that culminated in a 1 yard touchdown run on fourth and goal by Jordan Hall. That touchdown would be Ohio State’s second of the day on fourth down, keeping the 2013 trend of aggressive play calling alive. Hall’s run would foreshadow the rest of his night, which ended with 30 carries for 168 yards and three touchdowns.
Cal tried to respond by taking multiple shots downfield, testing Ohio State secondary. Ryan Shazier would leave the game with a shoulder injury on the drive, and would be replaced by freshman Trey Johnson. Johnson would come up big on the drive, stopping Cal’s version of the wildcat offense in the red zone. Vincenzo D'Amato would save the drive, hitting a 27-yard field goal to end the 12 play drive.
This is when the second quarter finally got interesting.
The Buckeyes third drive of the second quarter started at their 25-yard line with 4:32 left in the half. The Buckeyes continued to consistently move the ball thanks to the work-horse Hall, who had 84 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries in the first half. Ohio State faced a fourth and short around midfield, where Meyer would select to punt, despite his prior attempts to convert on fourth down.
The punt would pin the Golden Bears, making Goff start from his own 15 with 2 minutes and change left. Shazier returned to the game for what would be an extremely wild, yet final drive of the half. Kenny Lawler Jr. set up the drive for Cal with a terrific diving catch that would move the Bears into Ohio State territory. The Ohio State pressure proved to be too much for Goff (at the time), and forced Cal to punt with 48 seconds left in half.
Goff would then line up as the punter, completing the fourth down conversion. You may be wondering how the Buckeyes didn’t notice the Cal quarterback standing in for the punter, and in all reality, they probably should have. But, thanks to the NCAA rule of allowing multiple players to wear the same number, the Bears were able to confuse the Buckeyes and capitalize, seeing as both Goff and the punter wear the number 16.
The trickery allowed Cal to move into field goal range with 3 seconds left in half. D’Amato was 4-13 from 40-49 yards lifetime before the kick, but was able to nail the 43 yard attempt, ending the first half with Ohio State up 31-20.
The Buckeyes started the second half just like the first: efficient and on fire. Ohio State would continue to push the ball downfield, and were once again met with a fourth and short. Meyer elected to go for it, and Guiton would convert, running for 33 yards to the Cal 5 yard line. As seen earlier in the game, the offense was in hurry-up mode, and two carries later, Hall would superman-jump over the line, punching in his second touchdown.
The last thing Cal wanted to do was lose ground to start the second half. Unfortunately for the Golden Bear faithful, that’s exactly what they did. After punting on their opening drive, Dontre Wilson came out for the Buckeyes at running back and did what he does best: beat the defense to the corner and hit the seams for big gains. Meyer would elect to once again go for it on fourth and short, and thanks to a Hall power run, the Buckeye offense improved to 4-for-4 on fourth down conversions for the day.
Wilson would catch the corner again, putting the Buckeyes in the red zone. Slowly but surely, Ohio State piled on more yardage and wore down the already-weary Cal defense, who gave up 608 total yards on the day. Guiton would then connect with Philly Brown on third and goal, giving the Buckeyes a commanding 45-20 lead with 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But, the Golden Bears weren’t done yet. Cal received good field position on the kick-return, and soon thereafter advanced to Ohio State 24 yard line on another tunnel screen to Chris Harper. Harper would be the receiving work horse for the Bear Raid offense, with six receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown, racking up most of his yardage on quick screens. The very next play, Goff would connect with Bryce Treggs for 14 a yard touchdown.
After an attempted onside kick, Ohio State would have great field position for their next drive. A play-action quick screen to Philly Brown would lead to an injury to Devin Smith, who was involved in the tail end of the tackle. Smith would leave under his own power, and the drive would continue. A couple runs and a shovel pass later, Ohio State would once again find themselves inside Cal’s 10 yard line, and you know who Meyer turned to. Hall got the ball again in Ohio State’s hurry-up offense, punching in his third and final touchdown of the game.
Cal’s offense moved quickly up field, while Sonny Dykes would take a play from Urban Meyer’s book, converting on fourth down in Ohio State’s territory. However, it was to no avail, as the Bears would fail to convert on a future fourth and goal inside the Buckeye 5 yard line, eventually sealing the game for Meyer and the Scarlet and Gray.
Cal would tack on one more touchdown on a 1 yard run by Daniel Lasco, who finished the contest with 10 rushes for 64 yards and his solo score.
Though there were times where you thought Dykes and the Bears might take aim at the upset that eluded them in 2012, the Scarlet and Gray proved to be too much, giving Urban Meyer his 15th win as coach of the Buckeyes.
Next up for the Buckeyes are FCS-side Florida A&M. 2012 running back starter Carlos Hyde returns to action after a three game suspension looming from an incident at a Columbus night club from this past offseason. The Buckeyes will then need to begin getting ready to open Big Ten play as former Urban Meyer assistant Gary Andersen and the Wisconsin Badgers head to Columbus in a game that may ultimately define Ohio State's 2013 national title hopes.