With each long, smooth-flowing stride, Armani Rogers pulled further away from Buffalo defenders and closer to a spot in the NCAA record book.
Rogers, a 6-5, 225-pound graduate transfer quarterback, had his best game as a Bobcat quarterback and had Ohio’s biggest highlight of the season in Saturday’s 27-26 loss at Buffalo. Rogers raced untouched for a 99-yard touchdown run in the first quarter on his way to an Ohio career-high 183 rushing yards and two scores.
The 99-yard run was the longest play from scrimmage in Ohio program history. The run also set a NCAA record as the longest ever for a quarterback at the FBS level. The previous record was held by Arizona State’s Mark Malone, who ran for 98 yards in a game against Utah State back in 1979.
Rogers’ father, Sam, was an NFL player and spent seven of his 10 years as a pro linebacker with the Buffalo Bills (1994-2000). Armani Rogers, though he’s from Los Angeles, was born in Buffalo.
Rogers’ big day included that fun fact and further demonstrated he’s the quarterback of the immediate future for Ohio (1-6, 1-2 MAC). The Bobcats haven’t found much that’s worked this season, but the offense has seen a decided uptick with Rogers as the full-time QB after he and Kurtis Rourke split reps through the first four and a half games.
“The first quarter, there were a lot of good things there,” Ohio head coach Tim Albin. “Armani got us off to a good start.”
At this point, if Ohio is to build any momentum this season offensively it will come with Rogers at QB. Ohio had totaled just 65 points through the non-conference scheduled and the first half of the league opener at Akron.
Rogers took over the offense at halftime of that game. Since then, the Bobcats’ offense has accounted for 75 points in 2.5 games.
The approach has changed with Rogers at the helm as well. Ohio has had called run plays 79.2 percent of the time since the halftime of the Akron game. Since Rogers has taken over, Ohio has piled up 685 rushing yards, and has amassed 950 yards of offense on 149 total plays (6.4 per play). All are up from the numbers posted during the first 4.5 games.
Rogers has rushed for 448 yards (6.7 average) this season. He’s second on the roster in yardage, trailing RB De’Montre Tuggle’s 494 yards, and leads Ohio with six touchdowns.
Schematically, Ohio is embracing the run-first philosophy. The number of snaps with multiple tight ends or multiple running backs exceeded the number of reps with three wide receivers on the field for the first time this season at Buffalo.
The Bobcats will continue to tinker and add wrinkles to accentuate their newly revamped running game. The Bobcats are trying to win, and believe going all in with the run game — and Rogers — is the way to get there.
It hasn’t shown up in wins, but the Bobcats have made some strides defensively. Through four games, Ohio had one of the worst rush defenses in the country, but set a season low in rushing yards allowed in two of the last three weeks by giving up 112 yards on the ground at Akron and then again at Buffalo.
With injuries ravaging the secondary, Ohio has nonetheless found ways to offer more resistance in the front seven. Leading the way there is weakside linebacker Bryce Houston, who was everywhere at Buffalo on Saturday as he collected a career-high 15 tackles.
DE Will Evans has been the defensive MVP for Ohio through the first half of the season. Safeties Tariq Drake and Michael Ballentine (injured) have also also helped after being inserted as starters after the first couple of games.
OU still isn’t making plays when it matters most — both the offense and defense were silent in the fourth quarter at Buffalo for example — but changes in personnel and approach are leading to some improvement. Will it lead to enough so that wins will follow? That remains to be seen.
Around the MAC
Despite Ohio’s overall record, and two lost fourth-quarter leads the last two week, the Bobcats still control their own destiny in the MAC East title race. Kent State (2-1 MAC) and Miami (2-1) sit one game up on Ohio, Buffalo, and Akron (all 1-2) in the division standings.
With games the next two weeks against the Golden Flashes and the RedHawks — both at home no less — there’s a chance the Bobcats could still play themselves to a division title. A great chance? Probably not, but the division race is far from decided.
- Buffalo 27, Ohio 26
- Northern Illinois 34, Bowling Green 26
- Western Michigan 64, Kent State 31
- Ball State 38, Eastern Michigan 31
- Miami 34, Akron 21
- Central Michigan 26, Toledo 23 (OT)
Oct. 23 games
- Northern Illinois at Central Michigan, 12 p.m.
- Eastern Michigan at Bowling Green, 12 p.m.
- Kent State at Ohio, 1 p.m.
- Buffalo at Akron, 3:30 p.m.
- Miami at Ball State, 3:30 p.m.
- Western Michigan at Toledo, 3:30 p.m.
MAC Standings (thru 10/16) East Division MAC PF PA Overall Kent State 2-1 106 122 3-4 Miami 2-1 74 51 3-4 Buffalo 1-2 82 98 3-4 Ohio 1-2 87 74 1-6 Akron 1-2 73 88 2-5 Bowling Green 0-3 40 62 2-4 West Division MAC PF PA Overall Northern Illinois 3-0 83 66 5-2 Western Michigan 2-1 108 93 5-2 Central Michigan 2-1 73 78 4-3 Ball State 2-1 95 73 4-3 Eastern Michigan 1-2 64 77 4-3 Toledo 1-2 65 60 3-4