Flair for the dramatic

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There's a more difficult catch already on his resume, a bio that also has had a game-winning reception on it for almost a full year.

Devin Smith's most impressive play Saturday wasn't even the one that ultimately broke a late tie to help Ohio State escape a scare.

But there the Buckeyes sophomore was late in the fourth quarter, all alone down the right sideline with his right arm waving in the air and a path that couldn't have been more clear on the way to the south end zone at Ohio Stadium. Maybe the 72-yard score wasn't the capper to a comeback like the touchdown at Wisconsin last season, and it definitely didn't turn as many heads as his one-handed snag in the opener this year against Miami (Ohio), but Smith's latest addition to the highlight reel on Saturday did clinch a 35-28 win over California and solidified his status as Ohio State's master of the big moment.

"It feels great to know that I made a play for my team, won the game for them; that feels good," Smith said. "When you know you can rely on somebody to make a play, it feels great.

"But hopefully the game doesn't get this close again where we have to rely on someone."

It didn't look like the Buckeyes were going to have to turn to anybody late in the game against the Golden Bears after jumping out to a first-quarter lead Smith helped provide with another sensational scoring catch.

He adjusted in midair to a back-shoulder throw from Braxton Miller for a 25-yard touchdown. Ohio State followed it up with a short strike to Jake Stoneburner in the second quarter.

But the offense disappeared for a long stretch in the middle of the game.

The throws that produced four receptions for Smith before halftime started drying up. The rushing attack that Miller has paced all season found little room to operate against a complex defense that presented a variety of looks to confuse the Buckeyes. But with the Golden Bears looking to get the football back in a tie game, Miller rolled to his right on third down with just more than three minutes left -- and found one of his favorite targets all by himself.

"Devin got wide open behind them," Miller said. "You've got to have chemistry, and you also practice things like that throughout the week. It happened.

"We seized the moment."

Smith has shown a knack for showing up in the most critical moments for the Buckeyes early in his career, though they still need him to be as reliable when the pressure isn't quite as high.

There were a couple notable drops that had the attention of the coaching staff and could have loomed large in the outcome, and Smith is certainly aware of how important consistency is to becoming a truly dangerous threat on the perimeter. But he at least had a chance to make up for those bobbles, and as he's done a few times before, he delivered.

"He's nowhere near a finished product," offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. "The kid has got a long way to go to be considered an elite receiver in this conference, but he continues to get better.

"I think it's becoming more and more important to him -- and I think Braxton recognizes that and knows he's capable of going and making plays for him."

Especially when the Buckeyes absolutely have to have them.