LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Aidan Robbins is good at deflecting praise. There’s a lot of “my teammates” when he answers questions about his running style, his success and that of UNLV through its first three games.
The junior running back seems adept at altering his course, lately something he and the Rebels’ football program have in common.
“It’s just the kind of culture that we have,” Robbins said when asked about his running style — akin to a bowling ball flattening pins — after his 227 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the Rebels’ 58-27 rout of North Texas. “We’re a hard-hat culture, blue collar. We come to work every day, work hard.
“From quarterback to right tackle, that’s how we’re going to play every position.”
As the Rebels (2-1) prepare to open Mountain West play Saturday (4 p.m., CBS Sports Network) with a trip to Utah State (1-2), Robbins echoes his teammates’ sentiment; this isn’t the UNLV of old, a team that so often was overwhelmed physically.
“There’s more excitement, a lot of people have bought in,” said wide receiver Kyle Williams. “Everybody’s getting used to that feeling, so we want more.
“We know that we got what it takes to keep winning.”
Robbins is generating some of that excitement. After parts of three seasons at Louisville, where he appeared in 11 games with seven carries and 51 yards rushing, he’s fit nicely with the Rebels. He’s rushed 53 times for 346 yards and six touchdowns and caught five passes for 14 yards and another TD.
“Aidan’s got a fantastic personality, very humble, very sharp, very confident, and it goes with his game,” coach Marcus Arroyo said.
Arroyo said Robbins’ teammates have been receptive to the transfer’s outgoing personality. It’s genuine, the coach said, and other players seem to pick up on that.
“Anywhere you can create an environment that allows you to be who you are, you can flourish,” Arroyo said. “And personality is a big part of it.
“If you suffocate that, you run the risk of not maximizing a guy’s potential.”
Robbins, named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week after the rout of North Texas, isn’t the only player who seems to be flourishing. A number of clutch plays and standout performances have contributed to the Rebels’ start.
Against North Texas, the defense had three crucial fourth-and-1 stops, and after each the UNLV offense responded with touchdowns. One was a 33-yard run from Robbins, the other a 99-yard march covering six plays.
Linebacker Johnathan Baldwin said the stops are part of the Rebels’ overall goal of “trying to change the narrative” for the program.
“As a defense, whenever times get hard, I feel like we are going to stand up in those kind of moments,” Baldwin said.
There most likely will be more chances to display such stoutness against Utah State. The defending Mountain West champion, also playing its conference opener, has won six in a row against UNLV.
The Aggies were 6-2 in the conference last season, 11-3 overall, including beating Oregon State 24-13 in the LA Bowl. They finished No. 24 in The Associated Press final poll.
“Defending champions,” Arroyo said. “They’ve seen the discipline, how to get it done. They know how to win.”