COLUMBUS, Ohio – If it wasn’t obvious in the firsttwo offensive drives, it certainly was obvious by halftime.
Ohio State came to play, and UNLV might have been better staying in Las Vegas.
This one wasn’t even remotely close.
In a game where the Buckeyes could turn to backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins with 3:32 left in the first half after starter J.T. Barrett threw five touchdowns to five different receivers, the Buckeyes displayed a level of dominance fans have been itching to see. Ohio State finished the day with seven touchdown passes to seven different receivers, while quarterbacks Barrett, Haskins and eventually Joe Burrow threw for a combined 31-for-44 passing with 474 yards.
Haskins threw the lone interception of the day, which was returned for a touchdown.
In addition to the five scores, Barrett passed Buckeye legend Bobby Hoying to move into second place on the all-time passing yards in a career list at Ohio State. He said he was happy to see his team perform well, regardless of the level of the competition.
"I think it is always good to come out here and execute and do what you do. Doesn’t matter who the opponent is," Barrett said after the game. "I think you go away feeling good and I think it was very good for our young guys to get to work as well. Those guys, if they play well, get some confidence and also too, if they didn’t play so hot, to be able to watch on film and learn from it."
On the ground, the Buckeyes enjoyed an efficient day from freshman phenom J.K. Dobbins, who rattled off 95 yards on 14 carries. Mike Weber did not receive a single touch, and Antonio Williams picked up 11 carries for 58 yards.
Even walk-on running back Jordan Leasure got his hands on the ball in this one.
The list of receivers with a touchdown is a long one — Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill, Terry McLaurin, Binjimen Victor, Johnnie Dixon, Rashod Berry and walk-on receiver C.J. Saunders, who’s score marked the first career touchdowns for both he and Haskins.
Saunders played an extremely solid game, hauling in six passes for 102 yards and his aforementioned score. Urban Meyer said he likes what Saunders brings, but lacks the size to make an immediate impact.
"C.J. ... he can't be a hood ornament," Meyer said. "That means you've got to be able to block and be able to do all the things. We've had trouble before with the smaller guys."
While talking to the media, Saunders joked about his weight, saying he weighs 178 pounds exactly right not. He said strength coach Mickey Marotti is working with him to try and bulk up as his career at Ohio State continues.
Berry’s touchdown was one of the more impressive ones, as the tight end turned defensive end turned tight end did his best Marshawn Lynch run, shrugging off defender after defender before scoring his first career touchdown.
Campbell had the longest pair of plays for the Buckeyes, notching an 82-yard free-kick return and a 69-yard touchdown pass, which opened the scoring just two minutes into Ohio State’s first drive. His final state line was three receptions for 105 yards and the score.
On defense, Ohio State played fast and smothered Rebels’ quarterback Armani Rogers, who was sacked four times, and went just 11-for-19 passing for 88 yards and two picks, before Kurt Palandech replaced him. Although the secondary had been an area of concern, Ohio State limited UNLV receivers to an average of just eight yards per reception.
The secondary seemed improved, but cornerback Kendall Sheffield was picked on by the Rebels, and he picked up three penalties totaling 40 yards. The miscues did not hurt the Buckeyes in the pass game, who’s two touchdowns allowed came on the ground to speedy UNLV running back Lexington Thomas.
The Buckeyes got a pair of picks from Damon Arnette and Damon Webb, which were both technically tipped balls. The deflection for Arnette came thanks to Nick Bosa, while Webb’s pick was dropped into his lap by Denzel Ward.
Arnette’s interception was returned deep into Rebels’ territory, leading to an Ohio State score. Webb said the pass interference calls have been mostly warranted, and it's up to the Buckeyes to solve the problem.
"I don't feel like we doing nothing wrong, just a couple of technique things we need to work fix," Webb said. "I don't consider it that frustrating. We're going to definitely get better."
Safety Erick Smith led all Buckeyes with five total tackles. Bosa, safety Isaiah Pryor and Jerome Baker each picked up one sack a piece, while defensive end Tyquan Lewis and linebacker Malik Harrison each were credited with half sacks.
The Buckeyes limited most of UNLV’s big plays, but got burnt a few long runs. Even after racking up 13 tackles for loss, the Buckeyes allowed 176 yards on the ground.
Defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones said he feels his unit did their job, and this was a necessary game for the Buckeyes to have before conference play.
"Games like this are definitely confidence boosters," he said. "This team is a talented team, but they're not as good as the rest of the Big Ten that we play. So we need a team like this to raise our confidence, raise our level of play and raise our leadership."
Overall, the win will not hold a huge amount of weight down the road closer to the playoffs, but Ohio State showed an efficient passing attack that had yet to be seen all year. Paired with the running attack that always seems to wear down Ohio State’s opponents, it appears the offense is finding the rhythm it needed.
The Buckeyes will travel next week to New Jersey, to face Rutgers. Last time the two teams met in Piscataway, Ohio State dominated with a 58-0 win.