Maynard's moment will come

California quarterback Zach Maynard's solid play at Ohio State should inspire confidence headed into the start of conference play.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The last snap of a game is too often the lasting image of a game, so most will remember Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller after his 72-yard game-winning touchdown pass or taking a knee in the victory formation, while California quarterback Zach Maynard's was his lone interception of the afternoon.

Taking that as the lasting image of Maynard's performance in the 35-28 loss at Ohio Stadium, however, would be a mistake.

Yes, Maynard threw the pick that cost Cal its last chance to tie the game and send it to overtime with a touchdown, or perhaps win in regulation with a two-point conversion. But he did so because that's what most quarterbacks from high school to the NFL would do in that situation, trying to do too much to get the ball to his top playmaker, wide receiver Keenan Allen.

For the 58 minutes and 51 seconds that preceded that one mistake, Maynard played an outstanding game, perhaps his best as a college player, and certainly his best against a quality opponent away from home. He completed 26-of-37 passes for 280 yards and one touchdown, rushing for another.

"Zach played very well," Cal head coach Jeff Tedford said. "I thought he managed the game really well, didn't force things. Took a lot of hits and stayed in there and kept battling. He was under duress a lot of the day, but I thought he hung in there and played really well."

"Under duress" is a polite euphemism for siege warfare. Behind an inexperienced offensive line dealing with the noise a beyond-capacity crowd of 105,232 can generate, Maynard was sacked six times. There were numerous other hits he took, including being sandwiched by two Ohio State defenders that forced him out of the game for one play at the end of the first quarter after being hit in the stomach.

Looking for the first time like a quarterback capable of going head-to-head with the best in the Pacific-12 Conference, Maynard stood in against that relentless abuse and made some exceptional throws.

The transfer from Buffalo did all he could for Cal to pull the upset. Numerous forces beyond his control contributed to the loss. There were ill-timed penalties again from the offense. There was a defense that had no answers for Miller's elusiveness and ability to extend plays. There were the three missed Vincenzo D'Amato field goals, including one on fourth-and-one with 4:20 remaining in the fourth quarter.

When asked about the decision not to go for it, Maynard played the dutiful soldier and stood behind Tedford's questionable decision, given D'Amato's earlier misses wide to the left.

"I believe in Vince and that it was the right decision," Maynard said.

That was the kind of leadership that has been lacking from Maynard, demonstrated most-notably by the missed tutoring session in the summer that led to his one-quarter suspension against Nevada. That wasted 15 minutes certainly did Cal no favors in the eventual 31-24 season-opening loss.

Perhaps Maynard has turned the corner, a little older, a little wiser, and a little more comfortable with this offense. He certainly showed the most complete record of why Tedford has stood by his potential time and again in spite of the immense criticism directed at his quarterback, much of it resulting because Maynard like his predecessors is not Aaron Rodgers.

Maynard showed he could play the position in a way most believed he never could. With some help, at some point this season Maynard can get his signature win.

He can get his lasting image.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan. Top Stories