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Last updated: 09/17/2012 4:36 AM

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Best of the Day: Top Plays and Players from Saturday’s Win

By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was plenty to write about during and after Ohio State’s 35-28 win over Cal Saturday, but we decided to focus on the key players, best plays, storylines and even some newsworthy Tweets from the third weekend of college football.

Top Five Players

Braxton Miller
Photo by Dan Har
Braxton Miller

1. OSU QB Braxton Miller — Just because the OSU coaches didn’t want to run Braxton 25 times against Cal doesn’t mean he wasn’t the key to Ohio State’s victory in Columbus. His 55-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was straight out of NCAA 13, and his first-half passing was as good as we have seen him throw the ball for 30 minutes. It got away from him in the second half, and the offense really struggled, which shows just how much Miller really means to that group. Watching the two touchdown passes to Jake Stoneburner is a good way to see just how many of Cal’s defensive players were keying on Miller, and when the chips were down, he delivered a perfect pass to Devin Smith for the game-winning 72-yard touchdown.

2. Cal RB Brenden Bigelow — There are going to be some upset Cal fans this week, both because Bigelow didn’t get more carries against the Buckeyes and because he wasn’t No. 1 overall on this list. He made two of the biggest plays in the game Saturday, despite touching the ball a total of four times on offense. He also had a 32-yard kick return that might have gone the distance if not for Drew Basil, but Bigelow’s two long touchdown runs stunned the crowd at Ohio Stadium. His first one was Marshawn Lynch-esque that went 81 yards for the longest touchdown run allowed by an OSU defense in Oho Stadium. He finished with 160 yards and two touchdowns on four carries.

Devin Smith
Photo by Dan Harker
Devin Smith

3. OSU WR Devin Smith — If not for a couple of drops, Smith probably has to be the No. 1 guy on this list, or at least No. 2 behind his quarterback. Not only did the sophomore from Massillon haul in the game-winning touchdown grab, he also made two of the toughest catches anyone made in college football this week. The first was a laser off the finger tips of Miller that went for a 25-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and the second was a tremendous downfield grab with a defender hanging on his back. Smith finished with 5 catches for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

4. OSU DT Johnathan Hankins — Defensive tackles never get the credit they deserve, which says a lot about just how good Hankins has been this season. He’s starting to get some of that credit, especially after his performance against Cal on Saturday. He was Ohio State’s Defensive Player of the Week against UCF last week, but this week he finished with 10 tackles – an incredible number for a defensive tackle – and made one of the biggest plays of the game when he sacked QB Zach Maynard on Cal’s final drive of the game.

5. OSU TE/WR Jake Stoneburner — He’s not going to get as much fanfare as Smith because both of his touchdown catches came inside the five yard line, but Stoneburner is quickly becoming Braxton’s favorite red zone target. He also snagged a 40-yard catch down the middle of the football field that set up Miller’s first touchdown pass to Smith.

Five Biggest Plays

1. Braxton breaks things open. He may not with the Heisman Trophy this season, but Miller will sure have some nice highlights if he somehow does make it to New York. Every week it seems like he makes a play that’s impossible to top, and then just as quickly he does one better the following week. He made one of those type plays Saturday in the first quarter. After the OSU offense punted on its first two possessions, Miller took thinks into his own hands on 3rd-and4 near midfield. He got great blocks from Andrew Norwell, Marcus Hall and Zach Boren, and then toasted safety Alex Logan in a one-on-one situation in the backfield. It looked like safety Josh Hill had the angle, but Miller tricked him and blew right past him for the score.

2. Bigelow Beast Mode. The Buckeyes led 20-7 at the half and it looked like Meyer’s team was going to cruise to another easy victory in the Horseshoe. Their first drive of the second half was riddled with penalties, but Ben Buchanan dropped a punt at Cal’s 19-yard line. That’s when Brenden Bigelow ripped off when the best runs anyone has ever seen in that stadium. He outran Nathan Williams in the backfield and made both Orhian Johnson and Ryan Shazier miss before taking it 81 yards to the house to make it a 20-14 ballgame. 

3. Deuce Bigelow. He only carried the ball four times all game, but Bigelow would strike with his second long touchdown run of the game in the fourth quarter. Ohio State had just scored on a jump pass to Stoneburner to make it a 28-21 game, but Bigelow would get loose in the open field on the next possession. He ripped off a 16-yard run on the first play, and followed it with a 59-yard jaunt to the end zone to tie the game at 28 with just over 8 minutes to play.

4. What was Tedford thinking? It’s hard to criticize anyone for kicking a field goal in the fourth quarter of a tie ballgame, but what was Jeff Tedford thinking? His kicker had already missed two tries from 40+ yards in Ohio Stadium, and from almost exactly the same spot as the one he missed in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The game was tied at 28 when Steve Williams intercepted an errant pass from Miller at the OSU 44-yard line. Eric Stevens was stuffed for no-gain on 3rd-and-1 at the OSU 25-yard line, and Tedford decided to give Vincenzo D’Amato another shot from the left hash rather than go for the first down, and ideally the win, on the road against a heavily-favored opponent. Of course, D’Amato missed the kick from 42 yards, setting up the play of the game.

5. Smith saves the day, again. It’s easy to forget now, but Ohio State’s game-winning touchdown came on 3rd-and-7 at their own 28-yard line. That’s when Miller scrambled to his right and found Devin Smith wide open down the sideline for a 72-yard touchdown pass. The Cal defense was so focus on Miller and his primary receiver, Corey Brown, they completely lost track of Smith. He has a knack for that.

Top Five Tweets

@RappUp That move by Braxton to the outside was Tim-Hardaway-crossover, shake-and-bake, don't-forget-to-pick-up-your-shorts fantastic.

@LivyPD Devin Smith making terrific catches, then letting routines ones get away reminds me of Braylon Edwards. Not bad, but could be so much more

@GerdOzone It's not that OSU is missing tackles, it's that Cal keeps maintaining balance while being gently grabbed at.

@LivyPD Wherever Miller's passing touch had been, it migrated back to the Shoe in time on four-for-four accuracy to keep the drive alive.

@PDBuckeyes Me: "Wile E. Coyote has safes fall on his head and stuff." Braxton Miller: "He has what?" #insidethegame #howtobeasportswriter

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