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Notebook: Trotter puts stranglehold on starting job

Junior running back’s big night comes on the heels of stellar offseason

Sacramento State vs UNLV

UNLV wins its season-opener 38-3 over Sacramento State Saturday night, thanks to Channing Trotter's three touchdowns.

UNLV vs. Sacramento State

UNLV cheerleaders and players sing the UNLV fight song after defeating Sacramento State 38-3 Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium. Launch slideshow »

UNLV fan photos

Rebels fans prepare for kickoff against Sacramento State. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

Sacramento State Postgame

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech break down UNLV's season-opening 38-3 victory over Sacramento State, paced by a solid defensive showing and three Channing Trotter rushing touchdowns. Plus, the guys take a look at what the win against the Hornets does for the Rebels as they prepare to welcome Oregon State to Sam Boyd Stadium next Saturday night.

Next game

  • Opponent: Oregon State
  • Date: Sept. 12, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
  • TV: CBS College Sports
  • Radio: ESPN Radio 1100 AM

UNLV coach Mike Sanford wouldn't commit to following junior running back Channing Trotter's lead in terms of hair style after Saturday's 38-3 victory over Sacramento State, but he would commit to something maybe more important.

Trotter is the Rebels' man in the backfield, though others such as C.J. Cox and Chris Brogdon will still get reps here and there.

Sanford glowed over his 102-yard, three-touchdown performance as his running back — donning a golden mohawk — sat to his left. He became the first Rebel to rush for three touchdowns in a game since Jason Thomas did so against Wyoming on Nov. 2, 2002.

"That's how he's been playing through spring, all through the summer and fall camp, and he's very deserving of being our starting tailback," Sanford said. "I would say that he won the job going into tonight. He continued to do what he did all along."

One instance Sanford referenced was a bruising run that Trotter had in Ely last month at training camp, where he carried defenders for almost seven yards during a 12-yard run, losing his helmet in the process, but coming up yelling at the end.

Trotter showed that same conviction on Saturday night, helping lead a second half blowout after going into the break with 46 yards and a score already to his credit on just seven totes.

"(Running backs coach DeAndre Smith) said he was gonna give me some carries in the second half, and I just felt like I wasn't in rhythm in the first half, so I had to take every carry like the best I could, run as hard as I could, like it was my first or last carry," Trotter said. "I felt like it's gonna help me later on in the season. I just needed to get all the carries I could under my belt, because this is my first time starting and being the guy, and I just wanted to solidify that, show I could do it inside and outside."

All three of Trotter's one-yard scoring runs came in bruising fashion inside, while he eclipsed the century mark with a blistering 25-yard run in the fourth quarter to set up a 55-yard scoring pass from Omar Clayton to Rodelin Anthony. He looked the part of a complete back, protecting the ball well, and showing good velocity and power on each run.

His career night, oddly enough, came on the same day that the man he replaced — the graduated Frank Summers — survived training camp and made the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2009 roster after being selected in the fifth round of April's NFL Draft.

So far, so good

Kyle Watson's role as UNLV's field goal kicker and punter appears to be safe for the time being.

The senior averaged 45 yards on three punt attempts, and hit his lone field goal try of the night, drilling one from 39 yards in the second quarter straight into a howling wind.

Junior Ben Jaekle, who recently came to a full recovery after June back surgery, handled kickoff duties, with two touchbacks and a 63.1 yard average on seven boots.

A few debuts

A couple of first-year Rebels came away with something to smile about in their UNLV debuts.

Freshman receiver Mark Barefield saw some extended time on the field, catching one pass for eight yards.

Freshman tight end Jordan Barrett, who didn't join the team until mid-way through fall camp, came in to block in goal line situations, while junior defensive end B.J. Bell made a monstrous special teams hit early in the game.

Living up to the billing

UNLV's linebacking corps, hailed as one of the top units in the Mountain West, didn't disappoint in its first showing of the 2009 season.

Juniors Starr Fuimaono and Ronnie Paulo had 11 tackles apiece, while Fuimaono recorded the Rebels' lone sack and Paulo added two tackles for loss.

Senior Jason Beauchamp, who is splitting time between outside linebacker and defensive end, had seven tackles before departing early with a sprained ankle.

Around the MWC

BYU made the biggest headline of the day in the college football world, upsetting No. 3 Oklahoma 14-13 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Senior quarterback Max Hall orchestrated an impressive fourth quarter drive which culminated with the game-winning score on a seven-yard pass to McKay Jacobson with just over three minutes to play. The Sooners, who played half the game without reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford (shoulder), missed a late field goal attempt.

Hall finished with 328 yards and two scores through the air.

Elsewhere, Air Force rolled over Nicholls State, 72-0, racking up 474 yards on the ground in the process. Wyoming won its first game under coach Dave Christensen, 29-22, over Weber State, while Mike Locksley's debut with New Mexico didn't go as well, with the Lobos falling 41-6 at Texas A&M. San Diego State's Brady Hoke also lost his first game at the helm, falling to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, 33-14.

Next week's foe

Oregon State, who comes to Sam Boyd Stadium next Saturday for an 8 p.m. showdown, knocked off an FCS foe of its own, downing Portland State 34-7 in Corvallis.

5-foot-7 sophomore tailback Jacquizz Rodgers, who racked up 1,253 yards as a freshman for the Beavers, finished with 103 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries.

Despite totaling 349 yards of offense, the Vikings came away with just a fourth quarter touchdown in the blowout, while OSU quarterback Sean Canfield was 8-of-11 for 158 yards and a score, playing just half of the contest.

Oregon State went 7-2 in the Pac-10 a year ago and 9-4 overall, defeating Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl, 3-0.

This and that ...

... UNLV has now won four consecutive season openers ... Omar Clayton's fourth quarter TD pass gave him 10 straight games with at least one scoring toss. That's tied for the fourth-longest streak in MWC history ... Kyle Watson's five-for-five showing on extra points gives him 42 conversions in a row, which is three away from tying both Dillon Pieffer and Jim Cook for second place all-time ... UNLV was five-for-five in the red zone. A year ago, the Rebels tied Ohio State for the nation's best red zone efficiency at 95 percent.

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