It was supposed to be the beginning of big things for California running back Brendan Bigelow, his explosive performance with 160 rushing yards and two touchdowns on only four carries at Ohio State last season, including the longest run by an opponent in Ohio Stadium history. Bigelow carried the ball just 38 times for 256 yards the rest of the season.
The arrival of new head coach Sonny Dykes and his spread offense was supposed to better harness Bigelow's electric skills by simplifying things. Bigelow rushed for 55 yards on the opening drive of the Golden Bears' 2013 season opener against Northwestern, but has totaled only 81 yards on 30 carries since.
With the Buckeyes coming to Berkeley this Saturday, Bigelow is hoping to recapture those flashes of brilliance and deliver them on a consistent basis.
"I think we've all been expecting him to make a couple of big plays, which haven't really materialized yet," Dykes said during the Pac-12 coaches teleconference Tuesday.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior has incredible open-field acceleration and game-breaking ability, offset by a history of injuries, including two torn anterior cruciate ligaments during high school. He also struggled to master former head coach Jeff Tedford's complex playbook, one of the reasons for Bigelow's minimal workload last season. Assuming Bigelow does get on track, he might represent one of the more difficult players for NFL scouts to evaluate.
But to even get to that point, Bigelow needs production, starting against an Ohio State defense focused on containing him.
"I certainly do remember Bigelow," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. "He had incredible speed when he got in the open field, made us look silly as far as missed tackles. We've tackled every day since then because of our (poor) tackling on him that day."
Bigelow said he is ready for the challenge, ready to recapture the form that electrfied everyone that saw his whirling dervish of a touchdown run.