Sunday, Sept. 6, 2009 | 2:30 a.m.
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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.
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- Notebook: Trotter puts stranglehold on starting job
- Instant analysis: Rebels sorta impressive, sorta not
- Live Game Blog: UNLV opens 2009 campaign with a bang in 38-3 blowout
- UNLV fan photos
- Complete UNLV Rebels coverage
- Opponent: Oregon State
- Date: Sept. 12, 8 p.m.
- Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
- TV: CBS College Sports
- Radio: ESPN Radio 1100 AM
Everything looked friendly as UNLV and Sacramento State met at midfield for a massive group handshake session before Saturday night's contest at Sam Boyd Stadium.
But despite the gesture, the Rebels had one goal in mind, and they needed to be reminded of that at halftime while leading Sacramento State just 10-3 following a sluggish second quarter.
"It really took some digging deep down inside, going back to the times in Ely and the hard times in the summer," junior linebacker Ronnie Paulo said. "That we came here to serve a purpose, and that purpose was to ram it down their throat."
Stuff it way down is what UNLV did during a rampage of a second half, starting the 2009 season with a 38-3 victory.
"I think one of the things we want to develop is a killer instinct," UNLV coach Mike Sanford said. "When we have somebody down, we've got to put the throttle on them and put them away, which I felt like we didn't do in the second quarter, but in the second half, we did. That's a real positive thing."
The second half performance against an overmatched FCS foe may have been enough to convert at least a few halftime skeptics into postgame believers.
The snowball effect began after junior Starr Fuimaono — in his first game back since suffering a torn ACL in last season's second week at Utah — sacked Hornets quarterback Jason Smith to stymie Sacramento State's second possession of the third quarter.
UNLV responded with a nine-play, 59-yard drive. It was capped with the second of three one-yard Channing Trotter touchdown runs.
The Hornets then went three-and-out, and Trotter's third score came just minutes later on the Rebels' next turn with the ball.
Sprinkle in a Malo Taumua interception and a 55-yard touchdown strike from Omar Clayton to Rodelin Anthony, and the blowout was in full effect with plenty of game clock to spare.
"It was definitely a big emphasis," Clayton said of the need to pull away convincingly after halftime. "Because 10-3 is still a one-possession game. All it takes is one big play and something as simple as a corner slipping, then it's a touchdown and a tie game.
"It's always great to win games, of course, but anytime you can score a lot of points and get the (backups) in, it's always great. Those guys put in just as much work as we do."
Clayton was one of many who deserved to watch the closing minutes from the sidelines. He was 13-of-17 on the night, throwing for 213 yards and one score with no turnovers.
On top of his three scores, Trotter made his first career start at tailback count, racking up 102 yards on 16 carries, while Ryan Wolfe led all receivers with five catches for 67 yards.
With the exception of two 15-yard penalties on sophomore wideout Phillip Payne — on the same second quarter drive — the Rebels played a relatively mistake-free brand of ball, committing no turnovers and drawing no more yellow laundry from the refs.
However, the room for error will be even tighter next Saturday night, as UNLV welcomes Oregon State to town for an 8 p.m. meeting. The penalties will have to stay at a minimum and the scoreless stretches cannot be nearly as long.
The Beavers, who went 9-4 in 2008 and took care of Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl, 3-0, dispatched Portland State with ease earlier in the day to start its season in Corvallis, 34-7.
"Definitely have to step it up," Clayton said. "Those mistakes we made aren't going to be possible. We can't win games if we do those things, especially having lags in the second quarter like we did. I don't think there was anything that happened tonight that isn't fixable, and I think we recognized the things we need to fix and will be able to do that."