If there were any doubts that Kenny Guiton could replace Braxton Miller in the Ohio State lineup, it didn’t take long for the Buckeyes’ backup quarterback to put them to rest.
Starting in place of an injured Miller, Guiton threw a 90-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Devin Smith -- the longest play in OSU history -- on the Buckeyes’ second offensive play, setting the tone for what would be a 52-34 Ohio State victory over California on Saturday. The Buckeyes didn’t appear to miss Miller much during their beat down of the Golden Bears, with Guiton throwing for 276 yards and four touchdowns in place of the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, who suffered a sprained MCL in OSU’s win over San Diego State on Sept. 7.
The offense came early and often for the Buckeyes, as Guiton soon after reconnected with Smith. The fifth-year senior hooked up with the junior wideout for a 47-yard touchdown throw on Ohio State’s second series of the night, pushing OSU's advantage to 14-0.
By the time the nine-minute mark of the first quarter rolled around, the Buckeyes had already jumped out to a 21-0 lead thanks to Guiton’s third touchdown pass of the quarter, a 1-yard toss on fourth down to fellow senior Chris Fields.
Guiton wasn’t without his faults, however, as the Buckeyes’ fourth drive of the game resulted in a fumble by the second-string signal-caller, which Cal recovered at its own 33-yard line. The turnover was quickly nullified just one play later, when OSU safety Christian Bryant intercepted a pass from Golden Bears freshman quarterback Jared Goff.
The Buckeyes only managed to turn Bryant’s first interception of the year into a 39-yard field goal for Drew Basil before Goff brought a high-powered first quarter to an end with a 42-yard touchdown throw to Chris Harper, inching the Bears within 10 points of OSU’s 24-14 lead.
Despite both team’s running uptempo offenses, the pace slowed down in the second quarter, with Jordan Hall putting Ohio State’s only points of the stanza on the board with a 1-yard touchdown, while Cal kicker Vincenzo D’Amato connected on field goals of 27 and 43 yards. By the time that the two teams headed into their respective locker rooms for halftime with OSU holding a 31-20 advantage, the Buckeyes had racked up 365 yards, compared to the Bears’ 291.
Ohio State came out of halftime with an apparent focus on feeding Hall, who eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark early in the third quarter and finished the day with 168 yards and three touchdowns to his credit. The senior running back capped off a 75-yard drive to open the second half with a 1-yard touchdown, extending the Buckeyes’ lead to 38-20, six minute before Guiton would pile on with a 6-yard throw to Corey Brown to give the Buckeyes a 45-20 advantage.
Hall added another score before the end of the third quarter, pushing the Buckeyes’ lead to 25 points. Cal answered back in the fourth with a 61-yard drive that was capped off by a 1-yard Daniel Lasco touchdown run that proved to be too little too late for the Bears, as Ohio State milked five minutes off the clock to help seal its third win of the season.
The Buckeyes will return home and to action next Saturday, when they'll host Florida A&M for their final tune-up before the start of Big Ten play.