Sept. 15, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio - It's been 40 years since California and Ohio State met on a field. They had enough excitement in one game to make up for that long wait.
Braxton Miller lofted a 72-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith with 3:26 left and Christian Bryant snuffed out the Golden Bears' last chance with an interception as the 12th-ranked Buckeyes edged the Golden Bears, 35-28, on Saturday.
Cal (1-2) amassed 512 yards of offense (second-straight week the Bears went over 500 yards of total offense), including 331 yards to 173 for Ohio State in the second half alone. The Bears were victimized by three missed field goals and a touchdown that was called back by a penalty.
Taking over at Ohio State's 25 with the score knotted at 28 in the game's final minutes, Miller found a wide-open Smith on third-and-seven for the game-deciding score.
Bryant then picked off Zach Maynard's pass and returned it 38 yards to end the Bears' last threat with about a minute left.
Ohio State built a 20-7 lead at half, but the Cal defense held the Buckeyes to just 25 yards and no first downs on 14 plays in the third quarter.
Cal's brightest star was undoubtedly tailback Brendan Bigelow, who raced 81 yards on his first carry of the game -- the longest run ever by an opposing back in 90-year-old Ohio Stadium and the longest by a Cal player since Jahvid Best's 93-yard touchdown run at UCLA in 2009. Maynard then kept on a one-yard sneak to give Cal a 21-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Miller, who was 16-for-30 passing for 249 yards and four touchdowns with one interception, then guided the Buckeyes 75 yards in 11 plays, capping it by running a play that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer brought with him from his days at Florida with Tim Tebow.
Miller kept the ball, took a step forward, then stepped back and flipped a pass over the middle to Jake Stoneburner for the final 3 yards -- his second score of the game from Miller.
Miller then carried on a conversion run for a 28-21 lead.
Just two plays later, Bigelow, who finished with career-best 160 yards on only four carries, burst through the Ohio State defense for a 16-yard run and then topped that on the next play with a 59-yarder to tie the game at 28.
Miller promptly turned the ball over by throwing an interception directly to Cal defensive back Steve Williams.
The Bears patiently drove to the Ohio State 25, where the drive stalled. On fourth-and-1, junior kicker Vincenzo D'Amato came out for a 42-yard field goal. He was wide left with 4:20 left, his third kick that sailed left of the mark on the day, missing twice from 42 and once from 40 yards.
With an anxious crowd waiting to explode, Miller misfired on first down from his own 25, handed to Jordan Hall, making his first appearance of the year, on second down for 3 yards. Then he rolled right and appeared to be preparing to turn the corner on a run. That was enough to freeze defensive back Alex Logan.
Miller stopped, set his feet, and threw a long pass to the right sideline where Smith had enough time to turn around and wait on the fluttering pass. He caught it and raced in untouched.
Now down by seven, the Bears still had a shot to tie. But Maynard overthrew a receiver with 1:09 left and Bryant picked it off.
Isi Sofele added 86 yards on 21 carries for Cal, while Maynard completed a career-high 26 of 37 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown with the late interception.
Hall had 87 yards on 17 carries in his debut after missing all of fall camp due to surgery for a cut tendon in his foot.
Smith closed with 145 yards on five carries. Touted Cal receiver Keenan Allen had nine catches for 80 yards.
Cal continues its two-game road swing in Los Angeles, Calif. against No. 2 USC in the Bears' Pac-12 opener next Saturday, Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. (PT). The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.