BERKELEY, Calif. - In this city nicknamed Berzerkeley for its hippie heritage, Ohio State and California tried to transfer that description to the gridiron last night. The Buckeyes and Golden Bears played as if the goal was first team to 100 points and, for a time in Ohio State's 52-34 victory at Memorial Stadium, it seemed that might be realistic.
BERKELEY, Calif. - In this city nicknamed Berzerkeley for its hippie heritage, Ohio State and California tried to transfer that description to the gridiron last night.
The Buckeyes and Golden Bears played as if the goal was first team to 100 points and, for a time in Ohio State's 52-34 victory at Memorial Stadium, it seemed that might be realistic.
The teams combined for 1,111 yards, 608 by Ohio State.
And all of it happened with Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller out of uniform.
Miller was held out because of a sprained left knee sustained early in last week's game against San Diego State. Miller threw lightly an hour before the game but remained in shorts and a T-shirt when the Buckeyes returned in uniform. Ohio State officially ruled him out 20 minutes before kickoff.
"I knew about Wednesday or Thursday that it was looking that way," coach Urban Meyer said.
That left the ball in Kenny Guiton's hands. Guiton played superbly in relief last week, but this was his first start since he was a senior at Eisenhower High School near Houston in 2008. Despite the five years since taking a first snap, Guiton looked like the Heisman Trophy candidate that Miller was when the season began.
The senior captain threw for 276 yards and four touchdowns, completing 21 of 32 passes.
"I prepared hard," Guiton said. "I watched so much film. Man, I killed myself with that film. I wanted to know everything (Cal) could do, everything they could show me. If you're nervous about something, it helps you prepare harder."
He didn't have to do it alone. Jordan Hall ran for a career-high 168 yards and three touchdowns behind an offensive line that opened big holes all game and kept Guiton from being sacked.
Though this was the Buckeyes' first road game of the season, it was hardly hostile territory. At least 40 percent of the sellout crowd of 62,467 looked to be wearing scarlet, turning the stadium into Horseshoe West at times. The Buckeyes' faithful didn't have to wait long to erupt.
Guiton directed the Buckeyes (3-0) to three touchdowns in the game's first six minutes. On Ohio State's first possession, he connected with Devin Smith on a 90-yard touchdown pass, the longest play from scrimmage in Buckeyes history.
Guiton and Smith connected again on Ohio State's next possession, this time a 47-yarder for a score in tighter coverage. That the first two scores came on deep throws was significant. Success on such throws was the one element missing from Guiton's game in previous appearances.
When the Buckeyes made it 21-0 on a fourth-and-goal completion from the 1 to Chris Fields - set up by a turnover at the Cal 23 - Ohio State looked to be in complete command.
But while the Bears' young and injury-ravaged defense has been a sieve this season, its offense has been highly potent, and it got cranking after a shaky start.
Freshman Jared Goff entered the game leading the nation in passing, and he showed he is no fluke. He threw for 371 yards against the Buckeyes, including a 61-yarder to James Grisom for a touchdown to give Cal life after the early Ohio State onslaught.
After an Ohio State field goal, Goff threw to Chris Harper on a well-blocked 42-yard play to make it 24-14 at the end of the first quarter. The Buckeyes and Bears combined for 445 yards in the first quarter, 275 by Ohio State.
Though Meyer said this week that the Buckeyes might slow their offensive pace to give their defense some rest, Ohio State was content to play up-tempo.
The Buckeyes made it 31-14 with a 12-play, 60-yard drive capped by a 1-yard run by Hall before two Cal field goals made it 31-20 at halftime.
But Ohio State took a 45-20 lead early in the second half with scoring drives of 75 and 80 yards sandwiched around a three-and-out by the Buckeyes' defense. Hall dived in from the 1 on the first score, and Corey Brown made a sprawling 6-yard catch on the other.
Cal (1-2) closed to 45-27 with a touchdown on its next possession, but Ohio State countered with a 41-yard scoring drive after a failed onside kick by Cal. The Bears' realistic chances for a comeback ended with 12 minutes left when safety Christian Bryant, who had an earlier interception, tipped away a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 7.
"But not until the end did I feel comfortable," Meyer said.