This was one was expected to be a blowout. A few friends from Cal came to this game and started drowning their sorrows on Friday night before the game started. However, Buckeye hospitality and a great effort by Cal were the highlights of this match up between Pac 12 and B1G (Big Ten) teams as Ohio State scored late to beat Cal 35-28 at The Horseshoe.
For me, this was game two of the College Football Travel Tour with Expedia. My dream series began in Ireland with the Emerald Isle Classic with Notre Dame and Navy. However, this week took me to another historic college football program – Ohio State.
Seeing a football game at The Horseshoe in Ohio Stadium is an experience. O-H-I-O met California on the field. However, would there be a clash of cultures in this Midwestern hotbed of college football passion?
Buckeye hospitality welcomes the Cal Bears
The game wasn’t expected to be close. I also didn’t expect Ohio State Buckeye fans to be so kind and welcoming. While I wasn’t a Cal or Ohio State fan, hanging out with Cal friends Kevin and Cassie (who write about travel on their Ever in Transit travel blog) and their Cal brethren allowed me to experience how the Buckeyes treated opposing fans.
While Cal shares the same colors as Michigan, this wasn’t a hated rival. On Friday night, Austin and his sister Bailey came up to our table at The Little Bar and welcomed us to Columbus. Brutus the Buckeye shook Kevin’s hand. Cal fans and Ohio State fans posed together for photos. We were treated with kindness rather than contempt.
I heard a lot about the passion of Ohio State fans. However, I never expected such a welcoming, warm attitude. At the game and in the stands, Buckeye fans were nothing but gracious and respectful. thought Buckeye Nation and passion would mean hostility and disharmony from the fans.
After a few days in Ireland, the Irish people were friendly. I wasn’t so sure that Ohio State fans would be as kind. I was wrong. Ohio State fans surprised me. They welcomed Cal fans and this college football fan with open arms.
On the field, Ohio State was almost too welcoming.
Ohio State rallies to beat Cal 35-28
Ohio State rolled to an early 20-7 lead over Cal before the offense sputtered in the second quarter. Cal’s running back Brandon Bigelow’s ran 81 yards for a touchdown – the longest run by an opponent in the history of The Horsehoe. And it put closed the gap to 20-14 early in the third quarter.
After halftime, Cal came from behind to take the lead early in the fourth quarter 21-20. Jake Stoneburner’s TD catch came courtesy of Braxton Miller – a la Tim Tebow. Miller’s two point conversion made the score 28-21.
Cal stormed right back with a 59 yard TD run by Bigelow tied the game at 28 with a little over 8 minutes left in the game. Busted coverage left Devin Smith open for a 72 yard touchdown with a little over 3 minutes left as Ohio State took the lead 35-28. Three missed field goals and a late stand by Ohio State’s defense helped them pull out the win.
Braxton Miller threw for 249 yards and 4 TDs and put his name in the Heisman race. However, an exposed Ohio State defense gave up 512 yards of offense to a Cal Bears team that had struggled in its first two games. A number of stupid penalties kept Cal on the field and in the game as well.
After the game Ohio State coach Urban Meyer wasn’t happy. He was disappointed and frustrated with the way his team played. He was relieved to get the win. However, the defense didn’t play like an Ohio State defense should.
A once in a lifetime experience
Thanks to Ohio State Sports Information Director Jerry Emig, I was given a press pass for Ohio State – Cal game. I spent Saturday roaming the field, taking photos on the sidelines, and getting up close and personal with college football in a way I will never forget.
I took photos from the camera deck. I hung out with ESPN sideline reporters, local news reporters and staff, and journalists from all over the country in the press box. I saw the sweat, the muscles, the speed, the pads, and the size of college football players just a few feet away. I participated in my first press conference with one of the best coaches in college football at one of the most storied college football programs.
I watched “The Best Damn Band In The Land” and saw the dotting of the “I” in Ohio. After this game, I never want to sit in a seat again. I love being on the field. I felt the ground shake and had ringing in my ears as the crowd roared. I experienced the passion of Ohio State tailgating and even met college basketball hall of fame coach Bobby Knight.
This may not be the greatest day I’ve ever had. However, this was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in sports. There’s a reason Columbus, Ohio was named one of the top college towns in the US.
To get a little perspective on my day, here are a few photos from my day at Ohio Stadium as Ohio State beat Cal 35-28.
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