Published Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009 | 6:30 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009 | 9:43 p.m.
Final, UNLV wins 38-3
The Rebels looked great, then sleepy, then great yet again. But no matter how they got there, Mike Sanford's squad opened its 2009 season in expected fashion, routing Sacramento State, 38-3, on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The star of the night for the Rebels was junior running back Channing Trotter. On the same day that the man he replaced — Frank Summers — officially made the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2009 roster, Trotter's first career start ended with 102 yards and three touchdowns to his credit off of 16 carries.
He scored from one yard out on the game's opening possession, but the Rebels went offensively dormant for the rest of the half, taking a 10-3 lead into the locker room.
In the third quarter, they opened the gates, as Trotter scored twice more on one-yard runs, and Omar Clayton delivered the dagger with a 55-yard touchdown connection to Rodelin Anthony down the sideline.
Clayton finished with 213 yards on 13-of-17 passing with the one score and no interceptions.
The defensive showing marked the first time a UNLV opponent did not score a touchdown since Sept. 22, 2007, when the Rebels downed Utah, 27-0.
For full postgame coverage, including stats, photos, video, stories and complete analysis with the Rebel Room podcast, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
6:53, fourth quarter, UNLV leads 31-3
It took a little longer than expected, but the Rebels are now pouring it on at Sam Boyd Stadium.
A 55-yard hookup from Omar Clayton to Rodelin Anthony put this one officially out of reach, with UNLV now leading 31-3 over Sacramento State.
The play was set up by a 25-yard run by Channing Trotter, which put him over the century mark with 102 yards on 16 carries to go with his three touchdowns.
Clayton then caught a Sac State cornerback sleeping on a play-fake, hitting Anthony with no one on him down the right sideline.
Anthony now has two catches for 73 yards, while Clayton has 213 yard through the air on 13-of-17 efficiency.
The defense deserves some mention for forcing another Hornets offensive possession to stall out, thanks to a huge play by Starr Fuimaono deep in UNLV territory, then a pick by Malo Taumua off a tipped ball on fourth-and-10. The interesting thing with Taumua's interception is that it came 20 yards downfield from his defensive end post.
10:15, fourth quarter, UNLV leads 24-3
Channing Trotter scored from a yard out yet again, giving the UNLV junior running back three touchdown runs on the night as UNLV leads Sacramento State in the fourth quarter, 24-3.
In the process, Trotter became the first Rebel to run for three scores in a game since Jason Thomas did so against Wyoming on Nov. 2, 2002.
For the night, he has 77 yards on 15 carries.
Omar Clayton was again steady on the drive with 18-yard tosses to both Ryan Wolfe and Jerriman Robinson to help set up the score. For the night, he has 158 yards on 12-of-16 passing. Pretty solid.
Now it's up to the defense to continue to pitch a shutout of sorts. Sure, they've given up three points. But no TDs so far. That'd be nice for this unit to build off of with Oregon State set to come to town next Saturday night. Boy, seems like I can't mention that game enough, huh?
4:43, third quarter, UNLV leads 17-3
The feel-good story that is Channing Trotter added another chapter, as the junior running back's second score of the game gave UNLV a 17-3 lead in the third quarter against Sacramento State.
After an offensive drought that had lasted since mid-way through the first quarter, Trotter had six carries for 33 yards on the Rebels' second possession of the third quarter, capping it with a tough one-yard plunge.
He now has 79 yards on 13 carries for the evening.
Now, you may ask, why is he a feel-good story?
Well, if you're interested in some mid-game reading, take a look at the nice story Rob Miech put together on Trotter a couple of weeks back, reflecting on his early struggles at UNLV and how he's triumphed and moved past them.
Halftime, UNLV leads 10-3
UNLV will need to be pretty convincing in the second half if they want most of these fans back next Saturday when Oregon State comes to town.
It started with a bang, but Sacramento State soon found out that it could run the ball against the Rebels, racking up 95 yards on the ground, leading to a 44-yard field goal just before the half to pull within a score of UNLV.
Junior QB Jason Smith was just 3-of-6 for 33 yards, but Terrance Dailey had 60 yards on 10 carries, while Evander Wilkins had 10 totes of his own for 37 yards.
For the Rebels, Channing Trotter was the star of the first half, solidifying his grasp on the No. 1 tailback spot with 46 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Omar Clayton was 6-of-8 for 87 yards.
In the second half, Sac State will take the ball to start things off, and you'd better believe that the Hornets will keep the ball on the ground. Why mess with what's working.
All I keep thinking is, right now, if UNLV's defense against the run doesn't improve, how many yards could Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers pile up next Saturday? The Rebels sorely need to dominate this second half.
2:09, second quarter, UNLV leads 10-0
Does it feel like it's been awhile since we've had an update here? Well, that's because it has been.
The Hornets chewed up nearly seven minutes of game clock on their last drive by sticking primarily with the run. And the Rebels had more than a tough time stopping it, with the drive ultimately stalling out near midfield thanks to a holding call.
The possession before saw Mike Clausen manning the offense for UNLV. He completed his first three pass attempts for 28 yards, but a Michael Johnson fumble on an option pitch, then a negative gain by C.J. Cox and a sack of Clausen finished the drive.
The thing to remember here is that as Omar Clayton comes out to lead the Rebels, pinned back at their own two-yard line, he hasn't seen the field in quite awhile. He might be a little cold.
5:25, first quarter, UNLV leads 10-0
The defense passed its first test of the night, pestering Jason Smith into two hurried incompletions en route to a three-and-out.
The lead could be 14-0 right now, but it's 10-0, thanks in part to a pair of Phillip Payne penalties.
The sophomore wideout drew a personal foul flag early in UNLV's second possession, but Omar Clayton wiped that out within two plays, with a 10-yard run, then a 19-yard throw to Payne.
But Payne was called for offensive pass interference on a long pass to Ryan Wolfe inside of the 10-yard line, but Kyle Watson capped the possession with an impressive 39-yard field goal into the howling wind.
Aside from the bad penalties, all is well so far for the 2009 Rebels.
10:47, first quarter, UNLV leads 7-0
That didn't take long.
Omar Clayton went 3-for-3 for 44 yards, including an impressive one-handed grab by Ryan Wolfe for a 31-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage.
Channing Trotter took care of the rest.
The junior running back had four carries for 13 yards, including a one-yard plunge for the game's first score less than five minutes in.
Now it's the defense's turn. And that, as we all know, is what everyone wants to see. Well, at least everyone who watched the Rebels in 2008 ...
Pregame, part deux
Well, we're moments from kickoff, and the teams are taking part in the ceremonial pregame 'handshake.' You know my feelings on this one if you read the blog yesterday. No punches yet. Phew.
As for what's going on around the country, BYU just took a 14-13 lead over Oklahoma down in Dallas with 3:03 to go. I don't care if Sam Bradford was out for the entire second half or not. That drive that Max Hall just orchestrated was something else, highlighted by a fourth-and-four pass to Dennis Pitta for 23 yards. And they've done this without Harvey Unga. Don't forget that.
The wind here is pretty ridiculous. You wonder how much it will effect the passing game, most notably for UNLV.
By the way, Malo Taumua's eye black is flat-out classic. He looks like Batman. UNLV will receive to start the game and will go into the wind.
Welcome to another season of UNLV football at Sam Boyd Stadium. The place has a little bit of a different look.
4,300 additional blue seats are behind the end zone at the open end. The reason they're there? It's for the U2 concert which will take place here in late October. UNLV is allowed to sell them for the rest of the season, but they're not a permanent addition.
One group wishing they were probably there right now is the Sacramento State band, wearing black and just about 100 yards to the right of the seats, squarely in the sun.
The parking lot is packed, and attendance looks like it'll be pretty strong tonight for the opener. After all, when was the last time a UNLV squad entered the season with bowl hopes?
An early candidate tonight for the X-factor in this game is the wind, which is whipping straight towards the open end. I don't know how fast it's blowing, but I know my car was struggling to make it up I-215 to come here as the wind was pushing me practically onto the shoulder.
Before getting into this game too much, a quick look around the Mountain West today ...
— The game everyone was watching — BYU and Oklahoma — is closer than many expected in the third quarter, with OU leading the Cougs, 10-7. The big story here is that reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford is out for the Sooners, having hurt his throwing shoulder. He's out of his pads and watching from the sideline. So much for a blowout there, huh? Even before Bradford got hurt, BYU wasn't backing down.
— You may not have heard about this one — mostly because they were playing Nicholls State — but Air Force rolled, 72-0, racking up 474 yards on the ground in the process. Boom.
— San Diego State hardly looks the part of a pushover at UCLA, and Rob Miech couldn't have been prouder. Sophomore QB Ryan Lindley has 175 yards and 2 TDs at the half, as the Bruins lead 23-14.
— New Mexico? Blech. Down 27-6 at Texas A&M and hardly putting up much of a fight.
— As for UNLV's upcoming opponent — Oregon State — the Beavers rolled Portland State today in Corvallis, 34-7. Standout running back Jacquizz Rodgers had 16 carries for 103 yards and three scores.
As for tonight's game, as you know, this is the place to stay tuned for updates as the Rebels' opener progresses.
Before taking off, here are our predictions ...
— Rob Miech is saying UNLV, 41-9, with all three of Sacramento State's field goals being aided by the vicious winds.
— I'm taking UNLV, 38-17, with Omar Clayton throwing for, oh, 248 yards and three scores.
Again, updates will be available here, and also on my twitter page at twitter.com/ryanmgreene.