Braxton Miller didn't carry the ball quite as much Saturday as he had in Ohio State's first two games of the season, but the superb sophomore quarterback still did more than his share to help the Buckeyes survive a scare at home.
Miller connected with a wide-open Devin Smith for a 72-yard touchdown pass with 3:26 left and No. 12 Ohio State pulled out a closer-than-expected 35-28 victory over gritty Cal before 105,232 in Ohio Stadium.
Miller completed 16 of 30 passes for 249 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 75 yards on 12 attempts.
Cal's Brendan Bigelow broke away on two long scoring runs in the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten battle. The second one, a 59-yard scamper, tied the score 28-28 with 8:10 left.
The Golden Bears had a chance to pull in front late but missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt.
Cal quarterback Zach Maynard was 29-of-37 passing for 280 yards and one touchdown with one interception. The Golden Bears racked up 512 yards of offense.
Cal had stunned the crowd with a 1-yard run by Maynard with 12:25 left to go ahead 21-20 over heavily favored Ohio State, but the Buckeyes responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive to reclaim the lead.
Miller tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jake Stoneburner with 8:31 left and ran for a two-point conversion to make it 28-21.
Miller had carried 44 times in the first two games and Meyer had said that was too many. It was obvious Miller was looking to stay in the pocket against Cal. As a result, the Buckeyes (3-0) spread the ball around more.
Jordan Hall returned for the Buckeyes after missing two games because of a foot injury and rushed for 87 yards on 17 carries. Devin Smith led Buckeyes receivers with five catches for 145 yards.
Cal (1-2) closed to 20-14 early in the third quarter when Bigelow broke away for an 81-yard touchdown, the longest run for the Bears since Jahvid Best's 93-yarder against UCLA in 2009.
The Buckeyes scored on three consecutive possessions in the first half to take a 20-7 lead. And they bolted ahead with efficiency. The longest of the three scoring drives was 1:33.
Miller made a great move to elude Cal defenders and darted 55 yards for the opening touchdown in the first quarter.
Cal answered with a 19-yard pass from Maynard to Chris Harper to go in front 7-6, but the Bears' lead was short lived.
Miller answered with a 25-yard scoring strike to Smith. On the next possession, Miller connected with Stoneburner on a 1-yard strike. Stoneburner's two TD catches gave his 12 for his career.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer complained during the week about Ohio State's pass rush and the defense took Meyer's admonishment to heart, sacking Maynard twice on Cal's first possession, four times in the opening half and finished with six.
Notes: Longtime Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight, an Ohio State alum, and Mike Vrabel, current Buckeyes defensive line coach who also played on three Super Bowl-winning teams, were inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame during the weekend. Remaining members of Ohio State's 1942 national championship team also were recognized Saturday. ... Troy Smith, former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, will be returning to the university to work as an intern in the athletics department while pursuing a graduate degree. ... Cal coach Jeff Tedford and Meyer are good friends whose teams have met once previously. Tedford's Bears defeated Meyer's Utah team 31-24 in 2003. ... Carlos Hyde, the Buckeyes' starting running back in their first two games of the season, was sidelined with a sprained knee and may not be back for next week's game against Alabama-Birmingham. ... The road doesn't get any easier for Cal. The Bears follow their visit to Ohio State with a trip to No. 2 USC next Saturday. ... Cal fell to 2-11 in its past 13 road games against ranked opponents.