Published Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 | 12:59 p.m.
If there was a lesson learned on Saturday, it was that monumental upsets by 40-point underdogs are the rare exception. Howard is a nice story, but the reality is usually closer to UNLV’s blowout loss at Ohio State, as the favored home team used its superior size, speed and athleticism to rout the Rebels, 54-21.
Even with two weeks of prep time, UNLV was no match for the No. 10 team in the nation. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett threw five touchdown passes in the first half alone, and the Buckeyes scored TDs on six of their seven first-half drives to take a 44-7 lead into the break.
UNLV’s offense struggled to find success either through the air or on the ground. Freshman quarterback Armani Rogers was picked off twice before halftime, and Ohio State out-gained the Rebels by a margin of 664 yards to 264 yards for the game.
With the loss, UNLV falls to 1-2 on the season. Mountain West play begins next week, when the Rebels will host San Jose State.
A quick look at the key takeaways from the Ohio State loss:
Ohio State was simply too fast, too athletic and too skilled on offense, and the UNLV defense never stood a chance.
On the Buckeyes’ second play from scrimmage, junior receiver Parris Campbell took a simple swing pass from Barrett, accelerated through two defenders at the line of scrimmage and outran the rest of the UNLV defense for a 69-yard touchdown.
A few minutes later, Campbell returned a free kick 82 yards before being brought down inside the UNLV 10-yard line. Barrett threw another touchdown pass a few plays later.
OSU head coach Urban Meyer had so little respect for the UNLV defense, he went for it on fourth-and-goal on two separate occasions, without even pausing to consider the decisions. Both times, Barrett threw touchdown passes that further sucked the life out of the Rebels’ defense.
For the game, Ohio State averaged 7.9 yards per play. UNLV forced just two punts (none in the first half). Unfortunately for the Rebels, scheme and design had nothing to do with the defensive performance on Saturday — Ohio State was just better, and by a lot.
Rebels come out throwing
Tony Sanchez said during the week that it would be a fool’s errand to run straight ahead into the Ohio State defensive front, and the Rebels’ game plan reflected that. UNLV put the ball in Armani Rogers’ hands and let the young quarterback sling it early, but the results just weren’t there.
UNLV attempted passes on five of its first six plays, and at one point in the first quarter Rogers threw it on seven consecutive plays. But due to a combination of pass-rush pressure, tight coverage and errant throws, he went 8-of-15 for just 63 yards in the first half, and he was picked off twice by the OSU defense.
"We struggled to run the ball," Sanchez told the ESPN 1100 radio postgame show. "That was one of the biggest things. We tried to find a way early on to run the football, but (Ohio State is) so stingy up front, we had to put the ball in the air."
Rogers finished the game with just 88 passing yards and zero touchdowns. The good news is that with Ohio State in the rear view mirror, UNLV can return to its preferred run-heavy game plan next week against San Jose State.
Back to reality
After their thumping at the hands of Ohio State, the Rebels will head back to their own weight class next week when Mountain West play begins. As cynical as it may sound, the biggest key for UNLV against OSU may have been getting out of the game without any serious injuries, which it appears they accomplished.
Wide receiver Kendal Keys left the field limping in the first half, and kicker/punter Evan Pantels was forced out of the game in the fourth quarter. More should be known about their status early next week.
Ohio State is the best team UNLV will face all season. From this point on, the Rebels will have to go 5-4 against more comparable competition in order to finish 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game.