COLUMBUS — Ohio State’s first team did exactly what Urban Meyer wanted when it built an insurmountable lead in the first half of its 54-21 win over UNLV on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
And that allowed him to do what a significant part of Ohio State’s fan base has been calling for all season – give back-up quarterback Dwayne Haskins extensive playing time.
No. 10 Ohio State (3-1) sent a message to UNLV (1-2) right away with a jarring hit on the opening kickoff and kept the pressure on the Rebels throughout the first two quarters on its way to building a 44-7 halftime lead.
Starting quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 12 of 17 passes for 209 yards and threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers in the game’s first 21:02.
Then Haskins came on to complete 15 of 23 for 228 yards, for two touchdowns with an interception, and Joe Burrow, the No. 2 QB before a preseason injury, was 4 of 4 for 37 yards. The 474 yards they combined for set an Ohio State record.
While the Buckeyes’ defense didn’t get the shutout defensive lineman Nick Bosa suggested was within reach earlier in the week, it dominated while the first team was on the field.
“I was very pleased with the first team. There was just no nonsense. They went out and played as hard as they possibly could,” Meyer said.
What the fans saw in Haskins’ first time on the big stage was a redshirt freshman quarterback with a strong, accurate arm who showed he could also run if necessary. But they also saw a freshman mistake on an interception that he delivered on a platter to a UNLV defender.
“I think Dwayne played pretty good. But that (the interception) was inexcusable. He threw it right to the guy,” Meyer said. “Quarterback is a tough position and he is continuing to work on it.”
Haskins said, “It was just a good experience to get out there and play and get the most snaps I’d had since I was in high school. I’ve got some things to work on but I think I did some things well.”
Barrett’s touchdown passes came on a 69-yard connection with Parris Campbell on a short throw that Campbell turned into a big play, a 16-yard throw to Johnnie Dixon, a 3-yard pass to Binjimen Victor, a 4-yarder to Terry McLaurin and an 11-yard pass to K.J. Hill.
Haskins had a 28-yard touchdown throw to C.J. Saunders and a 38-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Berry.
J.K. Dobbins rushed for 95 yards on 14 carries and 13 Ohio State players caught passes.
It was clear from the beginning Ohio State had a decided advantage in talent, depth, speed and every other category that mattered.
That difference was obvious to both coaches.
Meyer said he had “probably the same thoughts as everybody else.”
“Let’s go do it against a team that’s equally matched. That’s my challenge every day for myself, for our coaches and, obviously, for our players,” he said.
UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said, “We won’t play a faster team. This is the fastest team you’ll see. Nobody we play is going to run in all three phases the way these guys run. And nobody is going to have the depth these guys have.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.