Saturday, Sept. 14
7:30 p.m. ET, FOX
California Memorial Stadium; Berkeley, Calif.
The Golden Bears
Head coach: Sonny Dykes, fourth year (first at Cal, 1-1)
2012 record: (3-9, 2-7 Pac-12 North, fifth place)
Series mark: OSU leads, 6-1
School location: Berkeley, Calif.
Colors: Blue and gold
Stadium: Memorial Stadium (62,467 capacity)
The California football program by the admission of head coach Sonny Dykes was outplayed and outcoached by a Football Championship Subdivision team in its most recent game. So, a game against the Golden Bears probably won't change the widespread opinion that Ohio State has a weak schedule.
The fact remains, however, that there are few if any substitutes to playing an opponent from an actual BCS power conference with a bit of history, even if it's a 1-1 Cal team still getting settled under a new head coach.
Dykes, Cal's first-year mentor, brought his up-tempo brand of spread offense with him to California Memorial Stadium, and his team has certainly been efficient on offense, posting 549 and 616 total offensive yards in its first two games, respectively. The positive results on offense haven't quite mirrored the results in terms of wins and losses.
Then, on Sept. 7 against Portland State, the lower-division FCS visitors pushed Cal to the brink of embarrassment and had the host Golden Bears trailing for portions of the first half. A Portland State touchdown at the 11:01 mark of the third quarter edged the Vikings in front again at 30-27. Cal scored 10 unanswered points down the stretch to win, 37-30, but Dykes took full responsibility for the close call against an FCS team.
"I was a little bit shocked," Dykes said. "They came out with something completely different than last week. We thought we would see that; they basically played one defense last week and were very vanilla on offense. They came out with a new scheme, got into some bunched sets and leveraged us. They did a good job getting the ball on the perimeter and we did not tackle well. They blocked us pretty well, and had some guys covering us up, but we didn't tackle. That is just good fundamental stuff.
"Once we made some adjustments, our guys started to tackle better. I challenged our guys at half time. I got after our team and challenged them to play better and to compete better. I was not happy with our demeanor in the first half. That falls directly on me, I did a poor job preparing our team."
Cal is No. 1 in FBS in passing yards, averaging more than 470 per game, so Ohio State defensive backs will surely have their work cut out for them. Of course, there's a reason such a high-powered offense has only seen Cal climb to 1-1 on the season, and that's because the Golden Bears' opponents are getting their respective licks in on offense as well.
Dykes cited poor tackling and a lack of pressure from the Golden Bears' defensive front as reason for Portland State's leads.
"I thought we got some pressure today, especially in some critical positions," the Cal coach said. "Still, we have got to keep getting more and more. We just haven't been able to get the push up front that we need to get.
"We just have to do a better job (on defense), it is up to me to get our guys ready to play. I think we made huge progress to give up as many yards as we did in the first half and as few as we did in the second half. We definitely got better and I thought we made some adjustments that gave us a chance to win the ballgame. You have who you have — that is your football team."
1. By most accounts, Cal's 2013 schedule is one of the toughest in America. The Golden Bears have already faced Northwestern, winners of the 2013 Gator Bowl, losing that game, 44-30. In all, Cal will play eight teams that were bowl eligible during the 2012 season, including Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington. And, of course, there's Ohio State — the only undefeated team in the country from a year ago.
2. The California department of athletics has planned a blue and gold "stripe out" for Ohio State's visit to Memorial Stadium. Each section of the 62,467-seat venue has been designated as either blue or gold. The sections will alternate colors all the way around the seating bowl except for the student seating area that spans five sections behind the Cal bench (yellow seats) and premium seats behind Ohio State's bench (blue).
3. Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff is just the second player in program history to post back-to-back 400-yards passing performances.
4. Cal and Week 2 opponent Portland State combined for 1,169 total yards of offense in their game, second all-time in Cal's history for combined total yardage. Cal accumulated 616 of those yards.
5. Part of FOX's television coverage of the Ohio State-Cal game will include the College Saturday Tour pregame show's stop in Berkeley, Calif. The pregame show will take place from 2:30-4 p.m. EST.
Player To Watch
There is little doubt that the Ohio State defense will face a stiff test against Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff when the Golden Bears are on offense.
Goff has acclimated quickly to Dykes' spread offense, becoming the first Golden Bear to post back-to-back 400-yard passing games since the 1996 season. The freshman already has four touchdowns passes and should clear the 1,000-yard passing plateau against the Buckeyes as he has a national-best 930 yards through just two games.
The Cal receivers have proven themselves worthy targets for Goff, too. Sophomore Bryce Treggs has 21 catches and 266 yards in two games while sophomore Chris Harper has 212 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 catches.
Dykes praised Goff and his receivers after the Portland State game, even adding that he expects the high-powered passing game to improve in coming weeks.
"Jared did some good things," Dykes said. "He had 485 yards passing, completed 33 balls. He is going to continue to get better. Our timing wasn't quite as good as it was last week on our intermediate throws. We've got to get that cleaned up."
Cal is No. 1 in FBS in passing yards, averaging more than 470 per game, so Ohio State defensive backs will have their work cut out for them against Goff, Treggs and Harper.
RB: Brendan Bigelow, 33 rushes for 136 yards
WR: Bryce Treggs, 21 catches for 266 yards
QB: Jared Goff, 72 of 115 passing for 935 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions
LB: Jalen Jefferson, 14 tackles, 2.5 TFL, one sack
DT: Viliami Moala, seven tackles, .5 TFL, one forced fumble
CB: Stefan McClure, 14 tackles, 1.5 TFL, two pass breakups
Last Time Out
What had been a game featuring all the consistency of a sloppy joe turned into an old-fashioned barnburner in the fourth quarter before 12th-ranked Ohio State pulled out a 35-28 victory over upset-minded California last Sept. 15 in front of 105,232 sun-drenched fans at Ohio Stadium.
The Golden Bears turned a 20-7 halftime deficit into a 21-20 lead at the 12:26 mark of the fourth quarter, triggering a wild back-and-forth finish that wasn't cemented until OSU safety Christian Bryant grabbed his first career interception with 1:09 remaining.
The Buckeyes moved to 3-0 for the first time since the vacated season of 2010 and only the second time in the past five seasons. The record was of little consolation to OSU head coach Urban Meyer.
"The best thing about 3-0 is the chance to go 4-0 and that's about it," Meyer said. "We played a very quality opponent … and I thought our guys found a way. Defensively, it was bad tackling. I don't know. It's time to play Ohio State defense and that wasn't Ohio State defense. We've got to get that figured out."
Cal rolled up 512 total yards, the most by an OSU opponent since Minnesota had 578 during a 45-31 loss to Ohio State in October 2005. Tailback Branden Bigelow rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns on only four carries, while quarterback Zach Maynard completed 26 of 37 pass attempts for 280 yards and one score.
Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller was once again the main cog in the Ohio State offense, having a hand in all five of his team's touchdowns. Miller completed 16 of 30 passes for 249 yards and a career-best four touchdowns, and added 75 yards and one TD on 12 rushes.
Miller's classmate Devin Smith had a breakout game, grabbing five passes for a career-high 145 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Jake Stoneburner had three catches for 44 yards and two scores.
OSU was led in rushing by senior Jordan Hall, who was making his 2012 season debut. Hall, who missed the first two games after offseason foot surgery, picked up 87 yards on 17 carries.
Miller got the scoring started late in the first quarter when he turned a simple read-option play into a 55-yard touchdown burst. Miller faked a handoff to Corey "Philly" Brown, got a seal block on the outside from fullback Zach Boren and then did the rest himself. He faked Bears safety Alex Logan nearly out of his shoes near the line of scrimmage, broke toward the home sideline and outraced linebacker Nick Forbes and safety Josh Hill – who seemingly had the angle on Miller – to the end zone. The score stayed at 6-0 with 5:09 remaining in the first quarter when kicker Drew Basil left his PAT kick outside the right upright.
Maynard then completed a long drive by finding freshman wideout Chris Harper on a throwback bubble screen for a 19-yard touchdown pass to give Cal the lead. Kicker Vincenzo D'Amato came on to add the extra point, giving the Bears a 7-6 lead at the 2:38 mark of the opening period.
That advantage didn't last long as Miller brought the Buckeyes right back with a 75-yard scoring march that took only four plays. The sophomore QB dropped a beautiful pass into Stoneburner's hands for a 40-yard gain down the middle of the field. Then Miller rifled a spiral that Smith snatched out of the air and away from Cal cornerback Steve Williams for a 25-yard touchdown. This time, Basil converted the PAT to give Ohio State a 13-7 lead with 1:27 remaining in the first quarter.
Another Miller-to-Smith connection set up the Buckeyes' next touchdown. On a third-and-10 play at the Cal 45, Smith beat Williams' coverage again and Miller hit his receiver in stride for a 35-yard pickup. Two plays later, Miller flipped a 1-yard touchdown pass to Stoneburner, and after Basil added the extra point, Ohio State looked to be firmly in control at 20-7 with 13:30 to go in the second quarter.
The game remained at that score until Cal struck quickly early in the third quarter. Bigelow broke three tackles in the left flat, somehow managed to maintain his balance and then outran everyone to the end zone for an 81-yard touchdown burst. The play, which represented the longest TD run from scrimmage by an opponent in Ohio Stadium history, pulled the Bears within six at 20-14 with 9:34 left in the third quarter. Cal had a chance to draw three points closer late in the third quarter, but D'Amato pulled a second field-goal try to the left, this one from 42 yards out.
But the Bears came right back on their next possession, taking advantage of a personal foul penalty on an Ohio State punt and a short field to move 46 yards in 2:34 to take the lead. Maynard scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak and D'Amato followed with the PAT to give Cal a 21-20 lead with 12:26 remaining in the game.
Miller brought OSU right back, though, using Meyer's famous "pop pass" to give the Buckeyes the lead. Miller took a shotgun snap and one stutter-step forward before straightening up and flipped a 3-yard pass to a wide-open Stoneburner. The QB took care of the two-point conversion himself to give the Buckeyes a 28-21 lead at the 8:31 mark of the fourth quarter.
That lead was extremely short-lived as Bigelow broke off a 16-yard run and then broke several tackles for a 59-yard touchdown run. The two-play, 75-yard drive took exactly 21 seconds and left the score knotted at 28 with 8:10 remaining.
California had the next scoring opportunity after Miller pitched his first interception of the year, a deep ball picked off by Williams with 7:17 to go. But the Bears got only to the OSU 25 where Cal head coach Jeff Tedford decided to go for a 42-yard field goal on fourth-and-1. Unfortunately for Cal, D'Amato missed again wide to the left to leave the game tied at the 4:20 mark.
Two plays into Ohio State's next drive, a busted coverage by Logan allowed Smith to get loose behind the Cal secondary for a 72-yard touchdown reception from Miller to push the Buckeyes back into the driver's seat at 35-28 with 3:26 remaining.
The Bears went right back to work on the ensuing possession and moved out to their own 42 with a first down at the 1:37 mark. But then Maynard got a little greedy, overthrowing his intended target and allowing Bryant to make the game-clinching interception at the OSU 37.