BERKELEY Braxton Miller tossed a football casually during pregame warmups dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, an indication to the Cal defensive players across the way that they would not be contending with Ohio State's starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate in Saturday's nationally televised game.
It hardly mattered. Cal's defense hadn't been on the field a minute when Miller's backup, Kenny Guiton, found wide receiver Devin Smith for a 90-yard touchdown pass that was the longest play from scrimmage in Ohio State history. After two drives, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes had run four plays and gained 167 yards.
After three drives, the Bears trailed 21-0, en route to a 52-34 loss at Memorial Stadium in which they allowed 608 yards of offense to Ohio State while Miller watched with a knee injury. It continued a disconcerting trend three games into the Sonny Dykes era opponents are scoring on Cal often and, in particular, early.
Northwestern in Week 1 had a 33-yard touchdown run on its fifth play. In Week 2, Portland State had an 81-yard touchdown pass on its second play from scrimmage. Saturday, the Buckeyes jumped ahead 7-0 on their second play as Smith slipped past safety Damariay Drew on a fake screen and caught Guiton's pass streaking down the Cal sideline.
"We talked about it after doing it two weeks in a row we felt like we had a trend that was coming and I think it's more than a trend," Dykes said. "So we've got to address it, get it figured out and see what's going on.
"Getting run by, I don't know that that's a scheme issue as much as it is just those guys made a play on us. And that's kind of what happened."
Guiton, a fifth-year senior making his first career start, found Smith again for a 47-yard score on Ohio State's next drive, one of his four touchdown passes. Guiton had 228 of his 276 passing yards before halftime, as the Buckeyes leaned on their running game in the second half, finishing with 332 yards on the ground.
Thinned by injuries, especially in the secondary, Cal's defense has allowed 500 or more yards in all three games this season and an average of 7.2 yards per play. The Bears have also been susceptible to big plays, with Ohio State recording seven of 22 yards or more.
"It comes down to eyes and technique," said cornerback Stefan McClure. "Those big plays, we weren't settled down, we didn't trust our eyes, and we weren't reading the right things. If you try to read too much, you're either going to be slow or wrong."
With both offenses operating in hurry-up mode, the teams combined for 38 points and 445 yards in the first quarter alone. Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff hit James Grisom for a 61-yard touchdown to get the Bears on the board and found Chris Harper for 42 yards to make it 24-14 after a quarter.
Goff, the nation's leading passer the first two weeks, completed 31 of 53 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns to become the first Cal quarterback since Aaron Rodgers in 2003 with more than 300 passing yards in three consecutive games. He didn't get much help from his running game, as Brendan Bigelow who burst for touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards in these teams' meeting last year was held to 39 yards on 11 carries.
Goff was also in on a bit of trickery, as the Bears kept a second-quarter drive alive with a fake punt on fourth and 7 from the Buckeyes' 38. Goff, who wears the same No. 16 as punter Cole Leininger, took the snap and completed an 11-yard pass to McClure for a first down.
Four plays later, Vincenzo D'Amato made a 43-yard field goal to trim the Bears' deficit to 31-20 entering halftime. They would get no closer, as Ohio State put together touchdown drives of 75, 80 and 41 yards on its first three possessions of the second half.
"I felt like we did have some momentum coming off halftime," Goff said. "We just didn't start the way we should've in the first half or the second half. We kind of came out I wouldn't say not ready, but not competing as hard as we should, not doing everything we needed to from the get-go.
"From the first snap of the first half and the first snap of the second half, we just weren't totally into it."
Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015, and read his online reports at blogs.sacbee.com/ bay-area-baseball.