5 Answers: California at Ohio State

Ohio State found some help for its quarterback, hit what its coach called a home run, found a way to get into the Cal backfield and won the kicking game. We look at those issues and more in this week's 5 Answers.

1. Can Braxton Miller get some help?

Yes, but Ohio State's sophomore quarterback probably wouldn't mind a little more.

A week after carrying 27 times, Miller recorded only 12 rushes in the Buckeyes' 35-28 win over California on Saturday. For the first time this season, the title of leading rusher went to a running back as Jordan Hall returned from foot surgery to pick up 87 yards on 17 carries. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry.

"He just kept going," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. "I think he was rusty, I think there were more yards there. I think he could have come out of a few things that he normally would. But I love Jordan Hall. He's given a lot for us and our staff. So we've got to give back to him. He had a good day. That was the first time he went hard since he got hurt."

His workload meant much of the talk during the week leading up to the game about the variety of options the team could use in the backfield ended up being just that. Wide receiver Corey Brown made some appearances in the backfield but carried only once for five yards while reserve running backs Brionte Dunn and Rod Smith did not get the ball at all.

2. What about the OSU wide receivers?

This group had its ups and downs but one of its members got the last laugh. Devin Smith had a breakout day as he caught five passes for 145 yards. Nearly half of the latter total came on a 72-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter that proved to be the decisive score. Again exhibiting strong chemistry with Miller, Smith broke deep after the quarterback rolled to his right. They took advantage of a Cal safety creeping up toward the line of scrimmage and the rest was history as Smith sprinted unmolested down the home sideline for six points.

"We need a home run hitter," Meyer said. "When you take a really hard swing every once in a while you've got to hit it out of the park. And he did."

Brown added 31 yards on three grabs while converted tight end Jake Stoneburner had 44 yards and two touchdowns on his three receptions.

The strong finish to the day helped make up for some cases of the dropsies early in the contest, including passes that went through OSU receivers hands on the first two third downs of the day and led to punts.

3. Is this the week Ohio State generates some pass rush?

This was another resounding yes. The Buckeyes totaled six sacks, doubling their season total entering the game. They did it early with the addition of more blitzes to defensive coordinator Luke Fickell's play call sheet and later by winning individual battles.

Cornerback Bradley Roby and linebackers Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier had sacks on blitzes while defensive linemen John Simon, Garrett Goebel and Johnathan Hankins got to Cal quarterback Zach Maynard through their own efforts.

"We dialed up some more," Fickell said. "At times it was really good, and at times it really hurt us, too. We've got to get better at what it is we do in all aspects of the game."

4. Which team will win the kicking game?

This turned out to be a decisive category. Ohio State fell behind early in the kicking wars when Drew Basil missed his first point-after try of the afternoon, but the Buckeyes got that one back with a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.

Basil bounced back to hit his last four tries, but his Cal counterpart had a nightmare day. Vincenzo D'Amato was a perfect four for four on PATs but missed three field goals. He pulled all of them wide left from the left hash mark, including one with 4:20 left in the game that would have put the Bears ahead 31-28.

It was a good day to punt at Ohio Stadium as Ben Buchanan of the Buckeyes averaged 40.9 yards on his eight punts, only one of which was returned. He also had one downed inside the 20-yard line. A pair of Cal punters – Cole Leininger and Steffan Mos – combined to average 43.2 yards on five punts, including longs of 55 and 57 yards, respectively. They had one apiece downed inside the 20, although a Mos punt that went only 18 yards in the first quarter set up a 45-yard touchdown drive for Ohio State.

5. Can the Bears avoiding hibernating too long?

Cal fell behind 13-7 in the first quarter, and the visitors from the West Coast were outgained 157-105 in The Opening 15 minutes.

There was not much indication either team had a trouble getting up in time for the noon kickoff, though, and Ohio State center Corey Linsley seemed to suggest the Buckeyes' early success on offense was thanks to a surprising shift in strategy from Cal.

The Buckeyes prepared mostly to face a five-man "Bear" defensive front, but Cal used more of the more commonly seen four-man defensive line early in the game.

"They came out in a different defensive front than we expected," Linsley said. "That kind of opened up what we could do. That's why we had a hot start to the game."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories