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Armani Rogers can let it rip against overmatched UTEP

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L.E. Baskow

UNLV QB Armani Rogers (1) warms up with a few passes before their home-opening football game of the season against Howard on Saturday, September 2, 2017.

UNLV probably won’t need a great passing performance from quarterback Armani Rogers in order to beat UTEP on Saturday, but it would be nice to see the Rebels’ captain come out firing.

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Rogers completed 12-of-27 passes for just 97 yards against a stingy USC defense in Week 1, and he was sacked five times. He should be able to better those numbers in a big way against UTEP, which is sporting one of the weakest defenses in the country while the program efforts through the early stages of a major rebuilding process.

UTEP has lost 13 consecutive games — the nation’s longest active losing streak — and though the Miners held Northern Arizona to 107 rushing yards in a Week 1 loss, UNLV’s high-powered ground game should have no problem racking up 250-plus yards and rolling to victory.

But in order for the Rebels’ offense to operate at peak efficiency this season, Rogers will have to continue improving as a passer, and UTEP presents a perfect opportunity to pad the quarterback’s stat sheet. UTEP allowed Northern Arizona to complete 19-of-26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1.

Though the Rebels didn’t light it up through the air at USC, Rogers said he liked what he saw from the offense in general and that it should carry over to the UTEP game.

“I feel like we can do some very good things,” Rogers said after practice on Tuesday. “We played against one of the top defenses in the nation and you saw the different things we did against them, so I feel like we’re going to super prepared.”

The Rebels’ passing game shorted out in the second half at USC. In the third quarter, UNLV had two offensive drives while trailing 19-14 and failed to put points on the board. Rogers went 2-of-2 for 13 yards on those two possessions, but his protection broke down and USC sacked him three times. The Rebels punted on both drives.

Rogers didn’t have much success after UNLV fell behind by two scores in the fourth quarter. Though he threw a short touchdown to tight end Giovanni Fauolo, USC limited Rogers to 5-of-11 passing over the final 15 minutes.

USC also shut down the Rebels’ deep passing game, which head coach Tony Sanchez cited as a major factor in the loss.

UTEP’s coverage down the field surely won’t be as tight as USC’s — the Miners’ secondary misplayed a deep ball in Week 1 and allowed an 84-yard touchdown pass down the seam — so Rogers should be able to produce some big plays with his arm.

Rogers said the Rebels were close to connecting deep against USC and expressed confidence that he’ll hit on those throws eventually.

“Sometimes it might have been just inches and a little bit of timing, and other times tight coverage might have affected things,” Rogers said. “Just little things that can affect they different type of [throw]. Everything has to be pinpoint.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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