Channing Trotter knew this was his opportunity to show he was worthy of being UNLV’s starting tailback — and he took full advantage of it.
Trotter scored three touchdowns and rushed for 102 yards Saturday to help the Rebels open their season with a 38-3 victory over Sacramento State at Sam Boyd Stadium. More important, the junior showed coach Mike Sanford he could be reliable on the field, hanging onto the ball and gaining the tough final yards before finding the end zone on his three 1-yard scoring runs.
“As soon as I got to the stadium, I made sure I was ready,” Trotter said. “I stayed patient and didn’t try to do more than I could. I stayed within myself.”
Coach Mike Sanford said: “Channing was excellent. He ran tonight the way he has been running in practice.”
Not only did Trotter justify Sanford’s faith in him, he also became UNLV’s first player to rush for three TDs since Jason Thomas did it against Wyoming in 2002.
Trotter, a backup his first two years, had a brush with the law during his redshirt season in 2006, when he was involved in a shoplifting scheme while employed at a clothing store. He has had no issues off the field since getting the matter resolved in 2007, and his focus is strictly on football.
It shows. He ran hard every time he touched the ball, exploding past the line of scrimmage, accelerating through the holes opened up by the UNLV offensive line and making sure he had the ball secured. It’s the kind of performance he displayed in practice, which is why Sanford made him the starter.
Trotter had 157 yards and two TDs on 21 carries in his first two seasons. Saturday, he eclipsed his TD total and needed just 16 carries to get his 102 yards.
“I learned not to take playing for granted,” Trotter said. “I know everything can be snatched away from you in an instant.
“I didn’t think I was in a rhythm in the first half, but I got more carries in the second half and just ran as hard as I could. I tried to be under control and protect the ball and make all of my carries count.”
Sanford said Trotter earned his spot on the field Saturday from what he had done the past few months.
“He’s very deserving of being our starting running back, and I think this is just the beginning for Channing,” Sanford said. “He’s only going to get better and better and better.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.