The-Ozone Note and Quotebook - California Edition
By Tony Gerdeman
Dare to be Stupid: For the second-consecutive week, the Buckeyes committed ten or more penalties. Against UCF, they had 10 for 79 yards, but this week they bettered (worsed?) that number with 11 for 101 yards.
A slew of personal fouls and drive-killing offensive penalties sapped any momentum that the Buckeyes were hoping to keep for themselves, and it made the game a lot closer than it needed to be.
Photo by Dan Harker
"We got a really hot start to the beginning of the game, then I had that stupid penalty," center Corey Linsley said.
"I really feel like that was the momentum changer, and that was disappointing on my part. I feel terrible about that. But before that we had the momentum, we had everything going for us. Then after that, it was just a downhill slope of stupid stuff that kept happening. Over and over again, just stupid stuff."
No facet of the team escaped the mistakes. Offense, defense and special teams. There were personal fouls, illegal blocks, personal fouls, false starts, personal fouls, pass interference and personal fouls.
"I think the guys going after the ball, the one down the middle of the field, they were just going after the ball," Urban Meyer said of C.J. Barnett's pass interference penalty late in the game.
"That should not be a penalty, in my world. Now, I might be wrong when I watch the film, it might be a penalty. The late hits on quarterbacks, and I think Corey Linsley had one right in front of us, that's just stupid, ignorant penalties.
"Right tackle jerking on the one-yard line going in, that's a stupid penalty. Going after balls and your feet get tangled up, that's football."
Even Worse: For as bad as the penalties were, they might not have been the worst part of the game. After seeing running back Brendan Bigelow rush for 160 yards on just four carries, the tackling by the Ohio State defense earned the most disappointing aspect of the game award.
For the first time since 1999, an opponent came into Ohio Stadium and put up over 500 yards of total offense against a Silver Bullet defense.
The disturbing part is that the same issues that plagued last year's defense appear to have returned for an encore that nobody wanted.
Photo by Dan Harker
"On defense, bad tackling," Meyer said.
"That's all I know, is bad tackling. We've gotta get that figured out. It's time to play Ohio State defense and that wasn't Ohio State defense at all.
"We've got to get that thing worked out. I know it won't be from a shortage of effort. We are going to get it worked out and go."
"I would say we were losing leverage," explained Christian Bryant.
"But Cal also did a great job of cut blocking our guys. Their play calling and scheme caused a lot of problems."
The Buckeyes know that they have to get better at tackling, but they were also pretty effusive in their praise of the Cal offense.
"Cal is a good team," Etienne Sabino said.
"They came in here and really gave us their best shot. They know how to fight. We have to get better at tackling. At the same time you need to give Cal credit, they are a good football team."
With a defense that had been fairly passive when it comes to blitzing and attacking, while disappointed, the Buckeyes themselves weren't surprised that there were some missed tackles with a more aggressive defensive gameplan.
Photo by Dan Harker
"That's part of the game," explained Ryan Shazier.
"When you have an aggressive defense, that's part of the game. But you want to limit that as much as possible. If you don't miss tackles, that means you're not taking shots. We've just got to keep contain, that's the big thing. That's how you get big plays, when we don't keep contain."
"Its going to happen," agreed John Simon.
"If you want to get pressure you're going to have to take some chances every now and then. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't. Fortunately for us today it paid off more often than not. We did give up some big plays, especially on first and ten, which hurt us big time, but that's going to happen."
Perhaps as this defense becomes more accustomed to their new-found aggression, they'll also get better at tackling.
Determined to Succeed and Improve: You may have dozed off during Saturday's game and missed it, but there was quite an offensive lull in the second half against California.
Possessions seemed to fly by. Punts piled up like laundry on a treadmill, and the Ohio State playmakers fell silent.
Photo by Dan Harker
"Mentally, I think we knew what we had to do, it was just a matter of executing, and at times we didn't do a very good job of executing," said Jack Mewhort.
"So as an offensive line we had to get together and take a deep breath and say that we've got to go out there and start pushing the front four because if we can't run the ball, we can't set up our passing game."
It took a while for the offense to wake up, and they didn't fully do so until the Golden Bears had actually seized a 21-20 lead.
"We just got together and said that we've got to start doing this, and we did it," Mewhort said.
"Number five is a great player and he's very dynamic and he can make plays. So if you give him time and establish the run game, then great things are going to happen around here."
The Buckeye offense had fallen silent in the second half, but they answered the call when it was needed. However, there are much better teams than this one that have found themselves incapable of simply flipping a switch and finding that extra gear.
It begins in the film room on Sunday, and on the practice field on Tuesday, not in the fourth quarter on Saturday.
"I think it's very clear to all of us that we need to go back to work hard tomorrow and the rest of this week," Mewhort said.
"If we want to keep winning, then we've got to get a lot better. We've got to execute better. As an offense, we can't put all of that pressure on the defense like we did. We have a lot to improve on, but tonight I'm excited because we beat a very good team. They played hard, we played hard, and we came out on top, so it was great."
Miller Loaded for Bear: Much of the talk last week leading up to this game was about the California defense. Aligned as a '46' or 'Bear' defense, the concern was whether or not Braxton Miller would be able to handle the defensive pressure that could be coming his way. And if he could, would he throw the ball accurately enough to capitalize on Cal's aggressive coverages.
California ended up showing multiple defensive attacks, including one that saw them leaving a spy on Miller, which limited his ability to take off on passing plays.
Photo by Dan Harker
What did Miller have to change to be able to combat this unique defensive alignment?
"Nothing," he deadpanned. "It opened things up."
"They had a lot of guys in the box, and plus they had the safety in to spy me. It opened a lot of seams for the guys."
Those seams saw Devin Smith and Jake Stoneburner become downfield targets, and Miller hit them perfectly in stride. The sophomore quarterback ended up throwing some of the best passes of his young career.
He will need to continue making those throws, because the Buckeyes are going to see more spies and they will continue to force Miller to throw the ball to beat them.
"Cal had people assigned to Braxton all day," Meyer said.
"I think it's going to be that kind of year now. You've gotta throw the ball, we've really got to throw it. The good thing is when we throw it, it's pretty clear what the coverage is. It's you against you and you gotta go win."
California did what they thought would win them the game, but ultimately they knew they were fighting an uphill battle when faced with everything that Miller is capable of.
"Anytime you have a quarterback like him there's a chance that that happens," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said of Miller's ability to make big plays.
"We had guys in positions to make plays. On his big run we had a guy right there to make a tackle in the open field and you have to give him credit for making him miss. Once you miss, that's what that style of offense does. You get in the open field you've got to tackle, and he's a very good athlete and tough to bring down."
Might As Well Jump: On Ohio State's first fourth-quarter touchdown, Urban Meyer got to showcase a play that his old quarterback Tim Tebow made famous at Florida– the jump pass.
Photo by Dan Harker
On third and goal from the three-yard line, and expecting another Braxton Miller rush attempt into the middle of the line, Miller took the snap, ducked his head and took a couple of false steps towards the line of scrimmage as Jake Stoneburner blocked for a second, and then released into the endzone. Once Stoneburner released, Miller brought his head up, left his feet slightly, and tossed a can of corn to Stoneburner for the touchdown.
"The QB runs a lot on the goal line, so they expected a QB run and we went to a little pop pass," Miller said.
"We’ve been working on that play since Coach Meyer got here and he said he was going to use it this week," Stoneburner said.
"It’s obviously a great play and it came at the perfect time, especially when you've got Braxton at quarterback.
"A lot of times when we're that close to the endzone, he's just running up the middle. I'm assuming he made a great fake because there was nobody there. He was supposed to jump, but he didn't have to because it was that open."
"They had the world to stop Braxton," Meyer said of Cal's defensive alignment.
"Really good execution by Jake Stoneburner, blocking and releasing in the back of the end zone. If you're pounding the quarterback, that's a hard one to stop."
Hall and Quotes: After suffering a foot injury a couple of months ago, tailback Jordan Hall finally made his season debut, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Photo by Dan Harker
With Carlos Hyde out for at least a couple of weeks, the Buckeyes needed a leader to run the ball, and they weren't sure whether Hall would be available to be that leader or not.
Not only was Hall available, but he ended up starting and carrying the ball 17 times for 87 yards. He was solid, but not outstanding. He didn't find every hole, nor did he hit them as quickly as he should have. But it wasn't just production that his coaches were looking for, they were also looking for the sense of calm that a senior captain provides in testy situations.
"I think when the game is on the line, you look to your senior leaders," said offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
"You look to the guys that have gotten you to the place that you're at right now. I wasn't concerned. I don't think we ever said, 'Hey, Jordan's not doing this, let's get this guy in,' and then say, 'Oh no, we don't trust that guy.' It never crosses that way, it's 'Hey, that's Jordan Hall, that's our senior leader. He's in the football game when the game's on the line.'"
"Awesome," Stoneburner said of Hall's return.
"We needed a senior running back that had been through the fire. He was out there making plays. He was someone that you know you can count on to be in the right spot, make the right plays and make the right read."
While the experience that Hall provided was expected and known, what wasn't known was how much action Hall would get. And nobody could have foreseen him finishing the game with 17 carries in a game that wasn't even a sure thing for him to play in.
"No, I did not think that was going to happen," Meyer said of the 17 carries.
"He just kept going. 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.
"I really didn't know," Hall said of how much he thought he would play on Saturday. "Coach Meyer asked me how I felt throughout the week and I felt good."
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