In putting up 34 points on No. 4 Ohio State, Cal head coach Sonny Dykes’ offense continued to live up to its reputation.
Unfortunately for the Bears, so did Cal’s defense.
The Cal football team had no answer for the Buckeye offense Saturday at Memorial Stadium, surrendering 608 yards of offense en route to a 52-34 loss. The Bears secondary was regularly gashed by backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, while the front seven was unable to consistently provide pressure and clog running lanes.
“We didn’t make a couple plays that we needed to make,” cornerback Stefan McClure said. “We weren’t settled down, and we didn’t trust our eyes.”
On Ohio State’s second offensive snap of the game, wide receiver Devin Smith snuck past Cal’s safety Damariay Drew, took a pass from Guiton and jogged into the endzone, putting the Buckeyes up, 7-0.
Six plays later, Smith burned cornerback Isaac Lapite for a 47-yard touchdown. All of a sudden the Buckeyes were up, 14-0, less than four minutes into the game.
“We have just started so poorly now for three weeks,” Dykes said. “And it’s something we’ve talked a lot about. I don’t really have an answer at this point. It’s something we’re going to need to look at and get fixed.”
But Ohio State was just getting started, as a Jared Goff fumble would then set up another Guiton touchdown. This time, he found wide receiver Chris Fields on a fourth-and-goal play from the one-yard line.
Down 21-0 and desperately in need of some offensive productivity, the Bears finally woke up. On a 2nd and 10 from his 39, Goff dropped back and pinballed off a pair of defensive lineman before heaving up a blind prayer down the left sideline. Wide receiver James Grisom answered, coming off his route to snag the pass, slip past his defender and sprint into the endzone for a 69-yard score.
Suddenly, it was a game.
“I think (Goff) has definitely improved,” Dykes said. “I think this was a bigger challenge from a personnel standpoint. The guy gives us a chance to win every single week.”
On Cal’s next drive, after an offsides penalty negated a Goff interception, the freshman quarterback threw across his body to find Chris Harper on a screen, who would weave for 42 yards and a touchdown, bringing the Bears within 24-14.
But Cal simply did not have an answer for Kenny Guiton and the Buckeye offense, who had little trouble moving the ball and racking up 365 first-half yards in building a 31-20 halftime lead.
Ohio State picked up right where it left off to open the third quarter, as Guiton would methodically dissect the Cal defense while orchestrating an 11-play, 75-yard drive. Jordan Hall would then cap it off with a 1-yard touchdown run.
And while the Buckeyes continued to roll, the Bears could not keep pace offensively. Goff put up impressive numbers for the third week in a row, going 31 of 53 for 371 yards and three touchdowns, but he struggled with the deep ball throughout the game, missing a handful of open wide receivers.
“I felt like there were chances we had to score 2 or 3 more touchdowns that we kind of slipped on,” Goff said. “Just stupid plays. There were a few plays there that could have changed everything.”
Meanwhile, the running game continued to be a complete non-factor, as Brendan Bigelow and Khalfani Muhammad combined for just 60 yards before giving way to Daniel Lasco in the fourth quarter. Cal’s offensive line continued to struggle to create running lanes, and the Bear backs were unable to find any running room.
On the other hand, the Buckeyes had no trouble running straight through the Bears, racking up 332 yards on the ground on six yards per carry — controlling the clock, and the game.
“I don’t think we’re that far off,” Dykes said. “We’re a very young football team. We’ve just got to grow up.”