Ohio State ran into a formidable opponent in California, who for the most part outplayed the Buckeyes. However, Ohio State showed their resiliency late by coming up with big plays to earn the 35-28 win.
What the Buckeyes did well: After two weeks of a non-existent pass rush, the front seven came up big in this game. Part of this was due to the coaching staff bringing added pressure, but another part was the effort made by the front seven. Johnathan Hankins, John Simon and Nathan Williams did an excellent job providing the pressure. Meanwhile, the offense rebounded well with two drives in the fourth quarter. The biggest play of the game was Braxton Miller’s 72-yard touchdown heave to a wide-open Devin Smith that gave the Buckeyes the lead.
Where the Buckeyes need to improve: Pass rush aside, the defense made too many mistakes. They took poor angles when pursuing runners, they tried to arm tackle instead of form tackle and there were breakdowns in communication in the secondary. In turn, all of this lead to California’s 512 total yards output. Offensively, the Buckeyes were inconsistent. Braxton made some good plays, but zeroed in on receivers too often, which caused him to miss wide-open players. The wide receivers made excellent plays, but also had too many drops that killed drives. Ultimately, both units did a good job rebounding late in the game, but their inconsistency is cause for concern.
Breaking down the opponent: California showed they have the talent to hang with the Buckeyes. Zach Maynard was outstanding as he did a good job managing the game and making big plays. Of course, all attention will be on running back Brendan Bigelow’s performance and rightly so. Brendan showed tremendous speed and agility as he scored two touchdowns on four carries and finished the game with 160 rushing yards. What cost the Golden Bears the game were stupid mistakes. They committed costly penalties, missed three field goals, Maynard threw a late interception and they had several coaching blunders, including opting to kick a field goal on a fourth and one late in the game. Officiating was also unfavorable to them, as they had a touchdown called back on a questionable holding call. With all of that said this talented team has much potential and could make some noise in the Pac-12.
By the numbers: California finished the game with 512 total yards to Ohio State’s 412. The Golden Bears averaged six and a half yards a play, which is a stinging indictment on Ohio State’s poor defensive performance. Meanwhile, mental mistakes continue to hurt the Buckeyes as they committed 11 penalties for 101 yards. It’s one thing to play with much intensity, it’s another to play stupid and many times today, the Buckeyes fell into the latter category. On the other hand, Ohio State's offense scored 35 points and generated 412 total yards of offense against a good defense.
Here are three questions to take away from this game:
1. Why did it take the coaching staff so long to change the offensive game plan in the second half?
2. Why didn’t Zach Boren, Bri'onte Dunn or Rod Smith receive any carries?
3. Why is the defense not improving?
Final thoughts: While it’s clear, the Buckeyes have much work ahead of them, today showed they were able to fight back against a great opponent. They have one non-conference game remaining before their trip to East Lansing, so they need to improve quickly.