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UNLV hasn’t turned Armani Rogers loose yet

With an 18-point lead and a running game gashing Idaho, UNLV gave Armani Rogers a shot to tear open the defense with his arm.

They called a play action pass while backed up on their own six-yard line. With Lexington Thomas picking up a blitzing cornerback, Rogers had time to step into his throw and find an open Devonte Boyd sprinting 40 yards down field.

But that was essentially the only shot Rogers took down field on his 16 throws on Saturday. The ball traveled less than 10 yards in the air on 11 of his 16 attempts.

While Rogers is a freshman quarterback still adjusting to college football, these short throws were simply what the defense allowing.

With the exception of some third and shorts, Idaho’s cornerbacks were almost always 10 yards off the line of scrimmage.

So all game UNLV ran five yard curls and out routes with no pressure. Before that 94-yard touchdown, Rogers was averaging 6.6 yards per attempt, the same amount UNLV quarterbacks posted last season.

Everything was safe. Everything was quick. Rogers rarely made it past his first read because the defensive backs were rarely within five yards of his receivers when they completed their routes.

But it worked. UNLV got the ball out of Rogers’ hands quickly and asked the receivers to try and turn five yard passes into 10 yard gains.

His other passes down the field did show some promise of what Rogers could become. On the first drive of the game, he hit Brandon Presley streaking down the sideline for a 25-yard gain. Rogers fit the ball into the window between the corner playing the flats and the safety coming over the top.

His best pass came on a Devonte Boyd drop in the endzone. On third and goal, UNLV looked to its best receiver. Rogers started his throw before even Boyd knew he would be open. The ball was right into the hands of Boyd, but fell to the ground as an incompletion.

This is the only time in two games UNLV has asked Rogers to throw into the tight windows when inside the 10 yard line. But he delivered a strike.

UNLV also got Rogers moving out of the pocket with some designed rollouts. Throw in a couple of scramble plays and Rogers wound up 4 of 6 for 49 yards when throwing outside of the pocket.

Compare that to 6 of 10 for 149 yards when in the pocket. However 94 of those yards came on one pass. Before the long touchdown to Boyd, Rogers was 5 of 9 for 55 yards when passing from inside the pocket.

His one interception came from inside the pocket as well. But the blame can hardly be placed on Rogers.

UNLV goes play action with a pulling guard. While Justin Polu is able to get in front of Idaho’s free pass rusher, he doesn’t hold his ground and allows Rogers to get hit as he is throwing the ball. The result is the interception.

If he had a clean pocket, this could have been Rogers riskiest pass of the day, as he was targeting Presley over the middle between the two safeties. An accurate, on-time throw would result in a big gain. But missing in either direction or being too late could have been an interception.

Armani Rogers Passing

  • Play Action: 3 of 7 | 1 TD | 1 INT
  • No Play Action: 7 of 9

UNLV did loosen the strings on Rogers in the run game. Through a combination of zone reads and quarterback draws, Rogers ran the ball for 65 yards on nine designed runs.

Five times Rogers kept the ball and powered up the middle on draws; he gained 27 yards on 5.4 yards per carry. He was more explosive in the zone read, where he had 38 yards (9.5 yards per carry) on four zone read keepers.

In an extremely small sample size, every time Rogers kept the ball in the zone read was when he was running to the left. His only rushes to the right came in scramble situations.

This is where the rest of Armani’s rushes generated. Not designed runs, but making plays on his own. Ultimately he scrambled five times for 32 yards (6.4 yards per carry), including when he dropped a snap on the one yard line, picked it up and walked in for a touchdown.

Throw in two sacks and Armani Rogers finished with 16 carries for 86 yards. The freshman has topped 80 yards on the ground in his first two games putting him on track for a 1,000 yard season.

His feet will be a big reason for UNLV’s offensive success. But at some point, UNLV will need him to make more than three throws down the field to win a game. So far he’s shown he can put the ball on target.

Tyler Bischoff hosts Coaches Corner on AM 720 KDWN Monday through Friday at 6:00 pm.