Cal vs. Ohio State Football: 6 Winners and Losers for the Golden Bears
In a battle ultimately decided by the failures of a certain Italian kicker, anyone associated internally or externally with the Cal Bears questioned the necessity of the field goal in the game of football.
Vincenzo D’Amato missed three crucial kicks on Saturday, two of which were so wide of the uprights that those watching the game doubted his legitimacy as a football player. The significance of those nine points left off the scoreboard was reflected in, well, the final scoreboard.
Cal lost 35-28.
This was a heartbreaking loss indeed to an Ohio State team that sported the No. 12 ranking in the nation. It was supposed to slaughter Cal somewhere in the realm of 42-10 or 56-3—or any other particular lopsided margin.
But things unfolded as they did for a reason. Let’s analyze that reason, or, the six winners and losers from the matchup pitting a bunch of Bears and Buckeyes against each other.
Winner: Running Backs
Ever since J.J. Arrington rushed for his fabled 2,018 yards in 2004, Cal has continually rotated in quality players at the running back position.
From Arrington, to Marshawn Lynch, to Justin Forsett, to Jahvid Best, to Shane Vereen, to Isi Sofele—1,000-yard backs are a commonality at this Northern California institution.
After a breakout performance against Ohio State, add Brendan Bigelow to that list.
Bigelow rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday—an accomplishment all the more notable based off the fact that he carried the ball just four times. His TD runs came off bursts of 81 and 59 yards.
His first score brought the Bears back within seven, while his second tied the game at 28. These were highly significant turning points in a hotly contested game.
Sofele also added to the production at the position with 86 yards on 21 carries. The running backs as a whole totaled 270 yards on the ground (when quarterback Zach Maynard’s negative 46 yards are taken off the books).
All in all, the Bears put forth a dominant effort in the run game against the No. 12 team in the country. One needs to glean some positives out of such a disheartening loss.
Loser: Jeff Tedford, Vincent D’Amato
Cal’s head coach and starting place kicker had a rough day at the office in the decision-making and execution department.
Fourth downs were especially troublesome.
On the second fourth down of the game, Tedford opted to go for it. Maynard failed on a short pass at the OSU 29. The short field position enabled quarterback Braxton Miller to score on a big touchdown run.
In the second quarter, he sent out D’Amato for a 40-yard attempt on fourth down. The kicker shanked the kick in rather epic fashion.
The vacillating on the part of the head coach continued into the third. This time, he called for a pass play to Keenan Allen that subsequently resulted in a turnover-on-downs.
Tedford then sent out D’Amato for another 40-plus yarder at the end of the quarter. The Italian kicker obliged with another questionable effort.
And just when fans thought D’Amato’s day was long over, he came out for 42-yard boot with less than five minutes remaining. After all that had occurred—especially following a pivotal interception by Cal’s Steve Williams—Tedford put the game in D’Amato’s hands for a potential game-winner.
Low and behold, he missed wide left yet again.
The trio of running backs—Bigelow, Sofele and C.J. Anderson—had been so successful up to that point.
Not going for the first down on 4th-and-1—especially with D’Amato missing so egregiously shortly before—was an unacceptable move by Tedford. He needs to improve his decision making at critical moments of the game.
Picking up a reliable kicker might be a smart move as well.
Winner: Zach Maynard, Cal’s Defense
Please allow this slide to develop before imploding with utter skepticism.
Remember back when there was about seven-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game. Ohio State had the ball and was driving for the winning score.
On 3rd-and-7, Steve Williams foiled the Buckeyes’ plans by picking off Braxton Miller in a pivotal moment. Cal then had the ball with great field position at the OSU 44.
Sofele, Anderson and Maynard teamed up to bring the road team to the OSU 25. On 3rd-and-1, RB Eric Stevens failed on the conversion.
Tedford called a timeout with 4:25 left.
At this point, Maynard had thrown for 267 yards, a touchdown and the ever crucial zero interceptions. He had helped put his team in position to win the game.
Also helping the Bears’ cause in this regard was the defense. It had held Miller to well under 200 yards passing and forced him into a turnover when it mattered most. A massive upset was in their grasp.
Tedford needed to trust his running backs on 4th-and-short and pull the plug on his kicker when he had already missed from that distance—twice. They would have converted by way of Bigelow, Sofele, Anderson or even Maynard on a draw. The QB already had run one in for a score earlier in the quarter.
At the very least, D’Amato could have attempted a much more manageable field goal with a few more yards gained.
Was Cal blowing its coverage assignments on the game-winning 72-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith acceptable? Absolutely not.
Was Maynard’s interception on the potential game-tying drive okay either? Not at all.
However, neither the defense nor Maynard should have been in their respective positions in the first place. Both did their job, while both Tedford and D’Amato failed to do theirs.
That said, the "winner" in the headline of this slide may need an asterisk based off the final score of the game.
Loser: Cal’s Season
This was an absolutely gut wrenching loss in the early part of the 2012 campaign.
Cal had just recovered from an opening game loss with a romp over Southern Utah in Week 2.
Now in the third week, it had one of its toughest, if not most challenging matchup of the season. It had to travel to the Ohio State and square off against the 12th-ranked team with an explosive offense.
All signs pointed to a total blowout, but Cal utterly scoffed at the notion. They were primed to attain glory in an upset fashion and would have done so if a kicker had simply done his job.
Three missed field goals transformed into successful conversions would have made the score 37-35 in favor of the road team.
But revisionist history cannot help the Golden Bears at this time.
They must now travel to USC, their archrival and former No. 2 team in the nation (now No. 12). The Trojans are seething from their unexpected defeat at Stanford and will be firing on all cylinders.
Cal will lose their first Pac-12 matchup of the season. It then goes through a relative murderer’s row of underrated squads in Arizona State and Washington State, mixed in with games against top-20 teams in UCLA and Stanford.
It would be lucky to emerge 1-3 in those games. At the very best, Cal will be 2-6 on the season with a 1-4 record against its division opponents.
Unfortunately, there is a little chance that the Cal Bears will reverse their fate.
The 2012 season will be a lost cause.
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