Bigelow's Runs Still In Meyer's Mind

In many ways, it was a turning point for Ohio State's 2012 season -- and it was the kind of performance that still sticks out to head coach Urban Meyer. Brendan Bigelow's 160-yard showing for Cal last year in Ohio Stadium changed the tides for the Buckeye defense under Meyer.

Brendan Bigelow's two epic runs last season during California's near upset of Ohio State in Columbus got the attention of a lot people outside the Golden Bears' program, such as the OSU coaches and players and one Buckeye fan.

Bigelow had touchdown jaunts of 81 and 59 yards, the former the third longest run by an Ohio State opponent and the longest gain ever against the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium, in a 35-28 loss.

A little while later he received a handwritten note from a man who attended the game and was impressed by what he witnessed by the visiting team.

"He said good game and everything, ‘You almost beat us,' " Bigelow. "It was a pretty good letter. It's on my wall."

Bigelow will have an opportunity to increase his recognition in Columbus even more when California hosts the Buckeyes on Saturday.

But Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said his team will be better prepared to handle Bigelow than the 2012 game, the third in Meyer's first season. He pointed to Bigelow's runs as part of the turning point for the defense that would eventually lead to a 12-0 season.

Meyer recalled how disappointed he felt watching Bigelow shred the defense for 160 of Cal's 224 yards on the ground.

"I just saw very poor tackling and very poor leverage," he said. "Those are two fundamentals, like blocking and protecting the quarterback on offense. Those are two fundamentals and you get exposed.

"If you ask me, I can't tell you the defense, I can't tell you the play, but I'll just tell you it was very, very poor tackling and very poor leverage on the football."

Junior lineman Michael Bennett recalled how defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers got after the players for their underwhelming performance against the Bears.

"There were a couple of games last season that were pivotal for the defense but the Cal game made the coaches make more of an emphasis on tackling and leverage, so now in these last two games (this season) the biggest plays were 15 yards or something like that," Bennett said. "We haven't allowed big plays because that's just the biggest emphasis.

"In our first two or three games last year we were playing good defense then it would a 70-yard run or a 50-yard pass."

Added sophomore linebacker Joshua Perry, "We watched film from last year to correct stuff. I don't think we have as many issues with the loss of leverage. We practice tackling all the time so it's going to be a different game."

This year, the longest run the Buckeyes have allowed in two games is just 14 yards, and Meyer said the change from 12 months ago is massive.

"If you watch our team's play right now, I think Luke and Everett have done a really admirable job teaching (tackling and leverage) and you can see a big difference."

Sticking to the fundamentals may not be as important as staying hydrated because California (1-1) hopes to wear out the Buckeyes with a quick-tempo offense.

"I think they averaged 103 plays the past two games," Bennett said. "That's a lot of plays to run. I think we're in really good shape. We're starting to be able to rotate guys a lot better so I don't think the plays are going to bother us that much."

Bigelow (136 yards in two games) has not played a huge role for the Bears as he returns to form from offseason knee surgery but is still a home-run threat with breakaway speed and good balance.

And one thing is for sure: He's pretty confident the Buckeyes will keep him in their sights to prevent a reoccurrence of last season.

"I'm pretty sure they know who I am now," he said. "Everybody knows me now. I like a challenge so it's definitely going to be a lot more difficult."

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