Sensational Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller's magical season took another step in the right direction on Saturday in the team's 35-28 victory over the California Golden Bears.
The dual-threat sophomore threw for 249 yards and four touchdowns, including a brilliant 72-yard pass to speedster Devin Smith that put the Buckeyes ahead for good. Miller also added 75 yards and a touchdown on the ground, to give him perhaps his best performance of the season.
This win will likely vault Ohio State into the Top 10 in next week's rankings, and will almost surely get the talks of a Heisman Trophy going in Columbus. Head coach Urban Meyer has worked wonders with the young star, who oftentimes struggled with his aerial consistency in 2011.
Through three games, Miller now has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 611 yards and seven touchdowns, while adding 377 yards and five scores on the ground. For all of the preseason hype about Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, it's become apparent that Miller is the dual-threat Big Ten schools need to worry about going forward.
Nonetheless, Miller's brilliance on Saturday will likely overshadow a disappointing performance from nearly every other facet of the Ohio State team.
Especially putrid was the Buckeyes' run defense, which gave up an astounding 160 yards on just four carries to Cal running back Brendan Bigelow. The 5'10" speedster broke off two second-half runs of 50-plus yards, including a 59-yarder that tied the score up at 28 with less than nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Miller drove right back and scored, but that will provide little long-term solace for Ohio State.
It's possible that this close call is an isolated incident. The Buckeyes have not shown a penchant for giving up long plays in their first two games, and actually held Miami (OH) to negative one yard rushing in Week 1.
That still doesn't excuse the lack of execution defensively. In the team's first true test of the season, the Buckeyes gave up 512 total yards as the front seven got dominated at the point of attack on almost every snap.
In fact, the Buckeyes should send a gift basket to Cal kicker Vincenzo D'Amato, whose three missed field goals wound up being the difference in the game.
Going forward, this should be a learning experience for the young Ohio State squad. Without defensive discipline, the Buckeyes will fall against the Big Ten's cavalcade of explosive running backs.
And it won't be long before the team gets tested again. After what should be a breeze of a victory over UAB next week, the Buckeyes will have a two-week stretch facing off against Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah.
These weaknesses are critical and if they go unfixed, Ohio State will have a difficult time winning any of its games against big-time opponents.
It would up being negligible on Saturday as Cal's critical mistakes and Miller's brilliance saved the day.
Regardless, it remains to be seen whether the breakout star will able to do the same when the schedule stiffens.
If he's unable to do so, it could be an even longer season for the bowl-ineligible Buckeyes.
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