Both Brendan Bigelow and Vincenzo D’Amato played a big role in Cal’s 35-28 loss to Ohio State, for better and for worse.
For Bigelow, Cal’s true sophomore tailback, it was a monster performance that kept the Bears within striking distance of the Buckeyes. His two long touchdown runs not only changed momentum but helped to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
The first touchdown run will likely end up on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays: he broke a tackle in the backfield before scampering five yards and getting wrapped up. He seemed done, but suddenly spun out of that tackle as well, planting a hand on the ground and springing to his feet. He evaded one more tackle before breaking free for an 81-yard score.
The second touchdown was equally spectacular, less for the showmanship and more because of the significance. Finding themselves down by seven with a little over eight minutes left in the game, Bigelow took the ball around left tackle and broke into open space for a 59-yard touchdown to tie the game at 28-all.
D’Amato’s fate was much different: He missed all three field goals he attempted, including a 42-yarder that would’ve given Cal the lead with 4:20 left in the game.
“I had confidence,” head coach Jeff Tedford said of the decision to kick a field goal instead of going for it on 4th-and-1. “Vince missed a couple to the left. Typically he gets that squared away. It just didn’t happen today.”
Bottling up the Buckeyes
The Bears’ overall performance was leaps and bounds better than what they showed in their first two games. They allowed 412 total yards to the explosive Buckeye offense, thanks in large part to a third quarter in which Ohio State only netted 10 yards of total offense.
Braxton Miller’s 55-yard touchdown run aside, the Buckeye’s quarterback only managed 20 yards on 11 carries (1.8 avg). Running back Jordan Hall was OSU’s most effective rusher, racking up 87 yards on 17 carries.
Cal did, however, have a lot of trouble solving the Buckeyes’ passing attack. Miller was most effective through the air, especially hitting wideouts Devin Smith and Jake Stoneburner. OSU exploited the size mismatch between Smith and Cal cornerback Steve Williams: Smith caught five passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Stoneburner only totaled 44 yards, but caught two touchdowns as well. Miller finished his day 16-for-30 for 249 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Cal’s offense had a 512-412 yard edge on the Buckeyes, and the Bears’ stable of running backs played a big role again this week. Bigelow’s 160 rushing yards were a large portion of the 224 that Cal amassed, but Isi Sofele did his best to not be overshadowed, carrying the ball 21 times for 86 yards (4.1 avg). It’s may not be the 40 yards/carry average that Bigelow enjoyed, but it was enough to keep the chains moving.
Zach Maynard was effective through the air despite handling probably a dozen low shotgun snaps and being sacked six times (eat your heart out, Jay Cutler). Maynard finished his day 26-for-37 for 280 yards with two touchdowns – one passing and one on the ground. The quarterback was victimized by a ferocious pass rush, especially from the Buckeyes’ predefensive ends.
Although Cal’s chances of winning were hurt both by D’Amato’s three missed field goals and a questionable holding call that negated a touchdown, it was Maynard’s interception in the Bears’ last minute drive to tie that would define the quarterback’s day. It was a valiant effort from the Bears, but ultimately the only victory that Cal can walk away with is a moral one.