Sloppy Play Concerning for Meyer, Buckeyes
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer wasn’t expecting a loss during Saturday’s 35-28 win over Cal, but he certainly could not have been stunned if the Buckeyes had found a way to lose that game.
His team missed an extra point, committed 11 penalties, turned the ball over in the fourth quarter and allowed more yards in Ohio Stadium than any OSU defense since 1999.
“Terrible. I wish I had some magic answer for you,” Meyer said after the game, in which Ohio State blew a 20-7 lead before rallying to score the game-winning touchdown with 3:26 to play.
“(We) don't tackle very well right now. Stupid penalties. We had some personal fouls, 15‑yard penalties. Better get that cleaned up or we're going to lose a game.”
They could very well have lost this one. The Golden Bears did not play mistake free football either – far from it – but they played well enough not only to make the 17-point spread a laughing matter, but almost well enough to pull off the upset in Columbus despite traveling across the country to play a noon game in the Eastern Time Zone.
“They walked away with a win that we should have had,” Cal running back Isi Sofele said after the game.
“It was all there. We made too many penalties.”
The Bears actually only had four penalties for 40 yards on Saturday – a lot, but nothing compared to the sloppiness that was Ohio State in this game. The Buckeyes couldn’t seem to tackle Sofele, or backup Brendan Bigelow, who burned them for touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards.
The first one made it a ballgame against at 20-14 early in the third quarter, and the second put Ohio State on the ropes in a 28-28 ballgame with less than eight minutes to play in front of a stunned home crowd at the Horseshoe.
“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.”
Part of it could be attributed to the fact Luke Fickell and his defensive coaches brought more heat – at Meyer’s urging – on Cal quarterback Zach Maynard this week. After totaling three sacks and five tackles for loss in the first two games of the year, the Buckeyes dialed up two big blitzes on the Cal’s opening drive.
Both resulted in sacks, as Maynard took a pounding in the first half from Ohio State’s defensive front seven. He was sacked six times on the day for -50 yards, and Maynard was even knocked out of the game at one point after being sandwiched between John Simon and Nathan Williams, but he kept coming back.
Eventually Cal coach Jeff Tedford was able to make the Buckeyes pay for their aggression.
“They hadn't shown much on film. This game they tried to pressure us and that's huge,” Maynard said afterward.
“Their D-line is pretty effective and they knew how to get to the ball with strong guys. I guess they figured they could push us back and put pressure on me but I hit almost every hot route and they stopped pressuring me as much. That forced them to drop back.”
The aggressive style also took away from Ohio State’s ability to play the run, but it didn’t help that guys were missing tackle after tackle in the open field. Both Orhian Johnson and Ryan Shazier had a shot at Bigelow on his 81-yarder, but no one got more than finger on him during his 59-yarder.
Couple in the fact Ohio State committed 11 penalties for 101 yards, and this was not a banner day for Meyer’s new squad.
“Once again, I don't have a magic answer for you,” he said.
“Are we going to do 10 pushups after we commit a penalty, I don't know. We'll get better, though. I promise you we're going to get better. How long will it take, there's a lot of moving parts to get better.”
They had better. If not for three missed field goals by Vincenzo D’Amato – all from 40+ yards – the Buckeyes likely walk away as a 2-1 football team instead of 3-0 heading into next week’s game against UAB.
Many will question Tedford’s decision to let D’Amato try another long kick on 4th-and-1 instead of challenging the Buckeyes on the road in a tie ballgame against a heavily-favored opponent.
D’Amato missed the kick, a 42-yard, wide left and the Buckeyes were able to capitalize with a 72-yard touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to Devin Smith at the other end. It was a beautiful end to an ugly, messy, undisciplined win, but it was a win, and right now that’s all that matters.
“The best thing about 3‑0 is a chance to go 4‑0,” Meyer quickly stated after the game.
“And that's about it. We've enjoyed a win against a very quality opponent, Cal, very good athletes, well coached. And our guys found a way.”
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