End-of-the-week leftovers from my notebook . . .
Redshirt freshman running back Darren Ervin played the role of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller on the Cal scout team this week.
“He’s done a great job,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “Ervin’s a little over 200 pounds and he’s fast. He played quarterback in high school, so he’s got a pretty good feel for it.
“Although he’s nowhere near the passer, he gave us a good look this week, running around and doing some things. It was pretty natural because he’d played quarterback before.”
Of course, if the Bears had anyone with the exact size, speed, skill set and athletic ability as Miller, he wouldn’t be working with the scout team.
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast echoed Tedford’s comments that Ervin did a nice job this week. But he also acknowledged the Bears’ success defensively on Saturday comes down to one thing: “We’ve just got to tackle well.”
There will be plenty of opportunity to try tackling Miller, if the past two weeks are any indication. The Buckeyes’ sophomore quarterback has carried the ball 44 times for an average of nearly 7 yards per try. He has touchdown runs of 65 and 37 yards.
Pendergast said defensive schemes can only dictate so much. Execution will decide things.
“He can get out on any play,” Pendergast said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re being aggressive or playing some kind of zone coverage. What your responsibility is within that defense, you just have to read your keys and understand you’re not sure where he might end up.
“He’s very athletic — he can cut back, he can stay front side, he can run up the middle, he can reverse field, he can reverse field and throw it. He can do a lot of things. So it’s very much a read-your-keys type game.”
Of course, Miller also is completing 2 of every 3 passes he attempts.
“I think he’s getting better every week,” Pendergast said. “They spread the field and run a lot of five-receiver sets. They give him a lot of opportunities to throw and he’s been successful.”
The Buckeyes haven’t often thrown downfield. Their two top receivers, Philly Brown and Devin Smith, are averaging just 10.4 and 11.0 yards per catch, respectively.
And the Buckeyes operate behind an offensive line that averages 6-5 1/2, 309 pounds.
‘It’s going to be a big challenge for us up front,” Pendergast said. “They’re a come-off-the-ball physical group.”
*** The weather forecast is calling for a chance of thunderstorms on Friday in Columbus. But Saturday is projected to have temperatures in the mid-70s with no rain. If that holds, expect the Bears to defer and play defense first if they win the coin toss.
If weather is an issue, Tedford said, the Bears could choose to take the ball first to beat the rain.
*** Offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik said OSU’s defensive line — and especially senior end John Simon — provides a serious challenge to Cal’s O-line. The Bears lost projected starter Dominic Galas (pectoral muscle tear) before fall camp opened and are playing for the second straight week without tackle Matt Summers-Gavin (knee).
Junior Bill Tyndall has replaced MSG in the starting lineup. “I thought Bill kind of grew up in the last game,” Michalczik said. “He started off a little slow and was thinking and not playing as fast as he needs to play. As the game went on, he played better.”
Simon, with 29 career tackles for loss, drew special praise last week from Central Florida coach George O’Leary.
“John Simon is as good as anyone in the country,” O’Leary said. “You don’t want to take your time passing against them. The quarterback can’t take more than a three- or four-step drop.”
Simon is just the seventh two-time team captain in Ohio State history.
“Simon’s a very good player,” Michalzcik agreed. “He’s a high-motor guy, a good athlete and he keeps making plays.”
*** The Bears have prepped all week for a loud atmosphere and Michalzcik said Ohio Stadium isn’t the only place that tries to make life uncomfortable for the visiting team.
“If it’s a close game at the end, it’s going to be loud. It doesn’t matter where you play,” he said. “You have to deal with the crowd noise.”
*** After much preseason talk from Tedford about Richard Rodgers, the sophomore tight end has been fairly quiet. He has one reception for 14 yards, although he is expected to play Saturday after injuring his foot last week against Southern Utah.
Michalczik said the Bears aren’t worried.
“He’s a young guy and he’s got a lot of games ahead of him. He’s going to have a very good future and make a lot of plays,” Michalczik said. “I wouldn’t say we’re impatient waiting for something to happen. It’s going to happen — he’s going to be a good player.”
*** Cal radio analyst for former QB great Mike Pawlawski went fishing in May with Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and his son Nate along the Florida Keys. The two-day experience will be aired sometime in December as an episode of “Gridiron Outdoors,” the program Pawlawski hosts on the Outdoor Network.
“He’s a great guy and a great fisherman,” Pawlawski said of the Buckeyes’ first-year coach. “I didn’t talk a lot of football with him.”
But Meyer did mention the noon EDT kickoff time (translation: 9 a.m. for the Bears) and gave Pawlawski a little smile.