Cal’s defense gave up 145 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground to quarterback Cody Fajardo alone in their loss to Nevada. It was proof that the Bears can’t stop dual-threat quarterbacks.
Now they’ll make the trip to Ohio State to take on the No. 13 Buckeyes and dynamic quarterback Braxton Miller. There’s no way to spin this positively – it’s going to be a long day for the Bears defense on Saturday.
At 6-2, 220 lbs, Miller presents just the kind of challenge that Jeff Tedford’s defense won’t be able to overcome. OSU head coach Urban Meyer will be running the spread offense; that means more assignment responsibilities, something Cal defenders stressed but couldn’t uphold in their loss to UNR. Miller has been phenomenal when he takes off and runs — in two games, he already has 44 carries for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns.
It’s no surprise that Miller has been getting so many looks running the ball. The Buckeyes have been dealing with injuries at running back, so their quarterback is who they’ve leaned on.
“We’re putting a lot of pressure on this cat. He’s special,” Meyer said of his quarterback. Cal knows how much pressure Ohio State is putting on Miller as well. As safety Josh Hill said, Miller “is their offense.”
Keeping the Buckeyes’ ground game controlled and forcing them to throw the ball has been the best way to put a lid on OSU’s offense in the past, but that may not be true this season. Miller is 32-48 this season (66.7%) for 362 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception.
It won’t be any easier for the offense
Zach Maynard better get ready to throw the ball Saturday because it’s highly unlikely the Bears will get anything done on the ground. Ohio State boasts one of the top rush defenses in the Big Ten — through two games they’re giving up an average of 51 rush yards per game.
This could be an anomaly. After all, they gave up an average of 141.5 yards per game on the ground last year. Still, it’s nothing to be overlooked, especially since offensive tackle Matt Summers-Gavin and guard Dominic Galas are both out with injuries.
If the Bears can get it going through the air, they may be able to put some points on the board. The Buckeyes have given up 562 yards passing in two games.
— Ohio State owns their lifetime series with Cal 5-1 (that one Cal win came in 1921).
— Not to look too far ahead, but after Saturday the Bears come back home to face USC. Could be a rough couple weeks for Berkeley.