Cal laments missed chances in 35-28 loss to OSU
California coach Jeff Tedford looked at the stat sheet but kept coming back to the same bottom line.
''We played well enough most of the day to (win) but the scoreboard doesn't reflect that.,'' he said after his Golden Bears surrendered a long pass late in the game and then threw an interception on their last possession in a 35-28 loss to No. 12 Ohio State on Saturday. ''And that's all that matters.''
His defense all but stifled the Buckeyes' high-powered attack in the second half while the Bears grabbed a fourth-quarter lead. Brendan Bigelow carried just four times but amassed 160 yards and touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards. Zach Maynard completed 26 of 37 passes for 280 yards and a score.
But arguing against all of that accomplishment were the burning bulbs at the South end of Ohio Stadium.
''Everybody's upset,'' said Isi Sofele, who added 86 yards rushing on 21 carries. ''They walked away with a win we should have had.''
The Bears (1-2) missed three field goals and had a touchdown called back by a penalty, while the Buckeyes (3-0) gave up 512 yards and were manhandled for much of the second half.
Down 20-7 at the half, the Bears took over.
Then Bigelow raced 81 yards on his first carry of the game - the longest run ever by an opposing back in 90-year-old Ohio Stadium. Bigelow twice put his hand on the turf so he wouldn't go down, each time spinning free to stay upright.
''All I was thinking was to get around the corner as fast as you can - don't slow down,'' Bigelow said. ''After I first initiated contact, I spun off of him. I was just thinking to myself, `Stay on your feet. Stay on your feet.'''
Maynard then scored on a 1-yard sneak to give Cal a 21-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But after the Buckeyes were held down for more than a quarter, they suddenly made all the right moves.
Braxton Miller lofted a 72-yard touchdown pass to an all-alone Devin Smith with 3:26 left and Christian Bryant snuffed out the Golden Bears' last chance with an interception with just 1:09 left.
Ohio State took over at its own 25 with the score knotted, and it took just three plays to forge the winning score. On third-and-7 defensive back Alex Logan bit when he saw Miller start to scramble - and the quarterback instead threw deep to a wide-open Smith.
Cal cornerback Marc Anthony had a succinct appraisal of the play: ''We got caught getting nosey.''
Now down by seven, the Bears still had a shot to tie. But Maynard overthrew a receiver with just over a minute left and Bryant picked it off and returned it 38 yards.
Miller ran a play designed for Tim Tebow that coach Urban Meyer brought with him from Florida to give Ohio State a 28-21 lead in the final period. Miller took a step toward the line and then a step back, feigning a run, before tossing a quick pass over the line to Jake Stoneburner for his second score of the day.
Just two plays later, Bigelow, who finished with 160 yards on only four carries, burst through the Ohio State defense for a 16-yard run and then topped that on the next play with a 59-yarder to tie the game at 28.
''My eyes get big,'' Bigelow said of what went through his mind when he turned the corner. ''I got excited - maybe a bit too excited.''
Miller promptly turned the ball over by throwing an interception directly to Cal defensive back Steve Williams.
The Bears then patiently drove to the Ohio State 25, where the drive stalled. On fourth-and-1, they called timeout. While almost all 105,232 in Ohio Stadium thought Tedford would elect to go for it, instead, he sent junior kicker Vincenzo D'Amato out for a 42-yard field goal.
He was wide left with 4:20 left, his third kick that sailed left of the mark on the day, missing twice from 42 and once from 40 yards.
Ohio State then made the two big plays to the finish.
''I had confidence,'' Tedford said. ''Vince missed a couple to the left. Typically he gets that squared away. It just didn't happen today.''
Rusty Miller can be reached at http://twitter.com/rustymillerap