Ohio State Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Cal Game
Ohio State had to show some resiliency for the first time all season as they came back in the fourth quarter to beat an upset-minded Cal team, 35-28, to improve to 3-0.
It was by no means a great day for Ohio State, being outgained and outplayed for most of the game. But a win is still a win at the end of the day.
The Buckeyes found a way to remain undefeated despite a disastrous third quarter and a defense that could stop neither the pass nor the run.
But thankfully for OSU, they had Braxton Miller, which was more than enough for the win.
Here are this week's grades for the Ohio State starters.
QB Braxton Miller: A-
Braxton Miller's day was not defined by his five touchdowns, but rather simply by the fifth and final score, when he found a wide-open Devin Smith for a 72-yard touchdown in the late stages of regulation to give his team the lead.
Urban Meyer limited Miller's carries, but it was more of a product of Cal's defense making Miller beat him with his arm. And he did so for a career-high 249 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
His third quarter was extremely dreadful as was his team's, but he stepped up tremendously in the fourth, with two touchdown throws and a two-point conversion.
A performance like that keeps Miller up there in the early Heisman discussion with De'Anthony Thomas and Geno Smith.
RB Jordan Hall: B-
Jordan Hall's return to the Ohio State lineup wasn't spectacular, but it was solid.
When he needed to get a carry in the fourth quarter, he got the yards the offense needed on the first of OSU's two TD drives. He finished his day with 87 yards rushing on 17 carries, and better yet did not lose a single yard all game.
It will still take him some time to get back into the flow, but his return was pretty solid.
WR Corey Brown: C-
For as good as Corey Brown was in the first two games of the season, he was largely a non-factor in the win over Cal.
He had just three catches for 31 yards and one run for five yards. Brown's drop issue also returned to bite the offense a couple of times.
The Bears defense was good at taking him away, but that's the type of thing he will have to overcome the rest of the way.
WR Devin Smith: A+
A star was born on Saturday in the form of Devin Smith.
The sophomore who made his presence felt a year ago with his memorable TD catch against Wisconsin had a breakout performance against the Cal defense, catching five passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Urban Meyer has been looking for a big-play wideout to take more pressure off of Braxton Miller.
Smith might just be that guy. He's shown early on that he has a knack for being in the right place when the game is on the line.
WR Jake Stoneburner: A
Jake Stoneburner came through as Miller's go-to pass catcher in the red zone, catching two touchdowns including a Tebow-esque jump pass that helped OSU gain momentum midway through the fourth quarter.
His big 40-yard reception in the second quarter helped set up Smith's first score of the game and got the Buckeyes off and running in a big way.
Stoneburner has three touchdowns in three games after having seven in 2011. And he has proved to be a solid target with seven catches so far this season.
TE Jeff Heuerman: C
With the receivers the Buckeyes have, Jeff Heuerman doesn't have to have a major role in the offense.
His only catch was a quick-hitter for nine yards to get OSU in the red zone on its first of two fourth-quarter TD drives.
He doesn't need to have the big role in the offense, but he does need to show up when called on like he was in the fourth quarter.
LT Jack Mewhort: B; LG Andrew Norwell: B-; C Corey Linsley D+
Once again, the left side of Braxton Miller's offensive line did its job in helping Miller not only stay upright, but it set up his highlight-reel touchdown run in the first quarter.
The penalty bug, however, bit center Corey Linsley. He committed several penalties on his own, including a false start and a personal foul.
If you want to win, your center cannot be committing personal fouls, as he did in the second quarter which kept the Buckeyes from pulling away.
RG Marcus Hall: B+; RT Reid Fragel: C
Three games into Reid Fragel's transition to right tackle and he has made a few mistakes.
He committed another false start and got beat quite a few times against the aggressive front of the Cal defense.
Hall continued to play pretty solid, though not quite spectacular. Fragel has to find a way to improve, especially with the talented MSU defense looming two weeks away.
DE John Simon: A-; DE J.T. Moore: Inc.
John Simon played a solid game, but it became much more meaningful when word came out afterward that he had been playing with a bad shoulder.
The relentless man off the edge led a front line that sacked Cal QB Zach Maynard six times, one of those coming from Simon, his only tackle of the game.
His presence on the field was unmeasurable because of his leadership and his grittiness.
J.T. Moore started at DE but only played a few times because of how much Nathan Williams played on Saturday. Williams finished the game with a pair of tackles.
DT Johnathan Hankins: A; DT Garrett Goebel: B+
Johnathan Hankins played arguably his best game of the season, proving to be a disruptive force in the middle. He got a huge sack on Cal's final drive in the fourth quarter, which was wiped out a play later by a C.J. Barnett pass interference call.
Goebel also had a solid performance, recording six tackles and a sack of his own in the win.
The Buckeye defense was gashed heavily by the Cal running attack, but the two biggest plays from RB Brendan Bigelow were incredible plays where he was forced to the perimeter, rehashing bad memories fans had from a season ago.
OLB Ryan Shazier: B
Ryan Shazier was all over the place all night long and was a tackling machine for the Buckeye defense, recording 13 stops.
But the one stop he didn't make changed the complexion of the game as he had a chance to tackle Bigelow before he ripped his incredible 85-yard touchdown run. He didn't, and it gave the Bears momentum as a result.
One play can't ruin a game, but the elite players know how to make the simple plays instead of just making flashy plays.
That's a lesson Shazier will have to learn in film study and apply the rest of the way.
MLB Curtis Grant: D+
Curtis Grant only had one tackle from his middle linebacker spot all game long.
That type of effort needs to improve if he's going to take the next step. And it's that kind of performance that brought back awful memories of how bad the linebacking corps was all last season.
He needs to step up to stabilize a back seven that was gashed all afternoon long, and quickly.
OLB Etienne Sabino: B+
Etienne Sabino wasn't quite as good on Saturday as he was the first two weeks of the season, but he got the sack parade off and running with a big sack early in the first quarter.
He had seven tackles, but he has to step up more as a stabilizing force in the linebacker corps.
Sabino was a big problem a year ago. He seems to be better this year, but he needs to become the guy that directs traffic in that group.
CB Bradley Roby: A-
Given the fact that Bradley Roby had to go up against arguably the best draft-eligible receiver in the country in Keenan Allen, he held his own.
Allen did get 90 yards on eight catches, but Roby kept Allen off of the scoreboard. The third-year sophomore was also dynamic all over the field, making seven solo tackles, a big sack off a corner blitz and two pass breakups, including one on a critical fourth down late in the game.
Roby has continued to shine time and time again and is proving that he is one of the top up-and-coming defenders in the country.
CB Travis Howard: C+
Like Sabino, Travis Howard started strong in his first two games but did not have as good an outing in his third game.
Howard only had three tackles and did not register either a pass breakup or an interception.
The Buckeye secondary let Zach Maynard throw all over them for 280 passing yards on the afternoon, but most of the damage came from some fantastic halftime adjustments Cal made.
Howard was mainly a non-factor in the secondary all game.
S C.J. Barnett: F
It's official: The safety position has become a major liability.
And the big reason is the lack of cover ability that C.J. Barnett has shown. He may have had 10 tackles, but he has to do a way better job of keeping the top on the defense.
And whether that was watching Bigelow running past him twice or his boneheaded pass interference call on Cal's final drive, Barnett is just not cutting it lately.
S Christian Bryant: A
For as bad as Barnett was on Saturday, his safety teammate Christian Bryant was just as good.
Bryant played like a mercenary on Saturday, throwing massive, massive hits all afternoon with five tackles, a big pass breakup on a key third down and of course, the game-sealing interception.
He has been a big hitter throughout his short Buckeye career, but he had a tremendous influence and made a great play in picking off an errant throw from Maynard in the final seconds of the game.
Bryant might not be able to sustain this level of play, but he certainly kept his head at the end even if others in the back seven were losing theirs.
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