Ohio State dodged a major bullet Saturday by sliding past California 35-28 at home after blowing a 13-point halftime lead.
The Buckeyes' record is still unblemished, but there are waves of improvement that need to be made before conference play begins.
Here is what Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes must improve immediately:
Eliminate big plays
Ohio State was on the verge of blowing out California in the second half just like everyone expected. But then, out of nowhere, running back Brendan Bigelow took off for an 81-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that changed the complexion of the game.
Suddenly, within the blink of an eye, the Golden Bears were down by six after trailing by 13 points for virtually the entire second quarter.
California would take the lead on a one-yard run later, but Ohio State responded quickly to take the lead 28-21. The feeling across the stadium was, "Ok, now we have this; we woke up."
Twenty-one seconds later, Bigelow went off once again, this time grabbing 59 yards and adding another Golden Bears touchdown to tie the game.
Braxton Miller would go on to save the game by throwing a touchdown pass, but the defense cannot allow such big plays to happen going forward.
When they play stiffer competition, the defense can't allow splash plays. The offense won't be able to bail out the defense every week.
Defense must improve drastically
California rushed for 224 yards on the ground, and that was despite Zach Maynard's negative 46 yards. Obviously Bigelow went off, averaging 40 yards per carry, but the run game for California dominated Ohio State throughout.
The pass defense gave up 288 yards through the air. Ohio State gave up 512 yards total at home to a team that already lost to Nevada.
Ohio State was six yards short of allowing the same amount that Southern Utah allowed in its opening game loss to California. They gave up 50 points that game.
Put that into perspective.
The bottom line: Ohio State better shore up its defense before heading into conference play.
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