COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Army didn’t put up much a fight against Ohio State last week, so it was hard to tell whether the No. 10 Buckeyes had solved the glaring problems that doomed them in the previous week’s loss to Oklahoma.
Saturday’s game against Nevada-Las Vegas won’t be much of a measuring stick, either.
The Mountain West school known more for basketball has had just three winning football seasons in the past 30. The Runnin’ Rebels were 4-8 last season, and opened the 2017 campaign with a mystifying loss to 45-point underdog Howard.
Ohio State will use this game to iron out some problems with the passing game that have lingered since last season and some soft spots in the defensive secondary. The Buckeyes next big test won’t be until No. 5 Penn State comes to town Oct. 28.
“A big part of getting ready for this game is the continued growth of pass defense, execution of our pass game, playing with rhythm and tempo on offense,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said this week.
Some other things to look for on Saturday:
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL
Quarterback Armani Rogers is just a redshirt freshman but is being hyped as the guy who will help lead a resurgence of UNLV football.
After throwing for 220 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Howard, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Los Angeles product was 10 for 16 for 193 yards and a touchdown and threw an interception in the following game against Idaho. He was the 11th different quarterback to start for the Rebels in the past 14 seasons. A finally healthy Devonte Boyd leads a veteran group of receivers.
Running back Lexington Thomas also is a bright spot for UNLV, rushing for 190 yards and three touchdowns against Idaho and 151 yards and a pair of scores the previous week. With Charles Williams out for the season, Thomas will get most of the carries.
“We’re going to have to be aggressive,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “We’re going to have to take some shots down the field, think outside the box a little bit to give ourselves an opportunity.”
A STAR IN THE MAKING
Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins continue to turn heads with his elusiveness and breakaway speed.
The true freshman rushed for 172 yards and pair of touchdowns against Army, none of the carries more electrifying than a 52-yard romp to the house in the third quarter. He shared Big Ten freshman of the week honors.
With last year’s 1,000-yard back, Mike Weber, still hampered by a hamstring pull, Dobbins again will get most of the work. But Meyer said there will be role for Weber when he’s healthy.
“It’s not that Mike is a lost soul around here,” Meyer said. “He’s very critical for us as we continue to move forward in conference play coming up in a few weeks. He’s still not at full strength. We have to make sure we get him full strength.”
Meyer said he can envision using both in the backfield at the same time.
BURROW GOOD TO GO
Ohio State backup quarterback Joe Burrow has been cleared to play after breaking his throwing hand in practice last month.
That reopens the competition for No. 2 QB behind J.T. Barrett. Dwayne Haskins was impressive in mop-up duty against Army. Meyer wouldn’t say this week who will be the first one in behind Barrett this week.
Both players are trying to get the edge in the race to start next year after Barrett’s departure.
Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley, who suffered a foot injury against Army, is questionable. Tuf Borland will play in his place….Backup H-back Demario McCall has been hampered by groin and abdomen injuries….WR Johnnie Dixon has been slowed by a hamstring pull.