Before Saturday, Armani Rogers never started in a game for Ohio.
The redshirt fifth year has spent his two seasons for Ohio splitting time with fellow quarterback Kurtis Rourke, and much of this year as a situational quarterback. Rogers often came onto the field for a handful of snaps, then rotated out again. That dynamic shifted in Week 5 against Akron, when Rogers took command in the second half and led Ohio to its first win of the season.
Rogers had the hot hand, and he was given full control of the signal calling for Ohio’s Homecoming game against Central Michigan. But despite Rogers’ hot streak persisting for another game, Ohio (1-5, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) failed to capitalize on its quarterback’s best performance of the season in a 30-27 loss to Central Michigan on Saturday.
Against a middling Central Michigan (3-3, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) pass defense, Rogers went 13-of-18 with 190 passing yards, his career-high since transferring to Ohio in 2020. He also managed to score one of Ohio’s three rushing touchdowns while only recording 37 yards on the ground.
“I just thought I was able to, out there, find a rhythm,“ Rogers said. “And once you find the rhythm, just kept trying to keep things moving on.”
Rogers — and by extension Ohio’s offense — found a rhythm because he wasn’t being swapped after only a handful of snaps. With one quarterback under center, Ohio was consistent. Rogers’ knack for relying on his own rushing ability took a backseat. He took liberty in passing and relied on Ohio’s running corps to pick up yards on the ground.
It worked. Ohio, while still trailing for much of the game, kept pace. It never fell behind Central Michigan by more than a touchdown for the entire game. Seven of Ohio’s 11 drives ended in Central Michigan territory, and five of those drives resulted in scoring.
But while Rogers marched the offense downfield, the defense foundered. It allowed Central Michigan to score on three of its final four drives of the game, and the errors that seemed alleviated in the win over Akron sprung up once again.
The frequent talking point surrounding Ohio’s defense has been its failure to halt the rushing attack. That didn’t change Saturday after it allowed Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols to rush for 186 yards. But it also failed in preventing quarterback Daniel Richardson from passing for 257 yards and one touchdown.
“It's just, you know, the small little plays at the end of the game that count,“ linebacker Bryce Houston said. “It's definitely something that we can still go back on the drawing board and still be proud of ourselves, the way we fought, but we’ve still got to capitalize on it.”
Ohio’s been plagued with the same defensive issues since its season opener. It’s improving, but those improvements are slow-going. Coach Tim Albin often stresses that Ohio needs to build on the positives from every game and learn from its mistakes.
But the Bobcats have fallen into the same pit traps this season, and its costing them wins.
“I think with the things our defense is getting done, if we can kind of play it close to the vest a little bit,“ Albin said. “We got the talent to throw it more than we did today, but we're trying to find that formula to get the win.”
Ohio’s win over Akron showed it has the ability to run up the score over conference opponents. Its loss to Central Michigan showed it still needs to prevent other teams from doing the same.
Rogers is the first Ohio quarterback in two seasons to remain under center for an entire game. There was a glimpse of what an Ohio offense oriented around Rogers was capable of against Akron, and Saturday put it on full display. The redshirt fifth year kept Ohio marching into Central Michigan territory and even put it in the lead temporarily.
Now, Ohio needs to figure out a way to keep Rogers’ production from being squandered.