2007 Utah Utes

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Utah Utes Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Utah Utes

Recap: The Utes started slowly and finished on a tear in a season that was highlighted by some very strange results from the program.  Impacted by a spate of crippling injuries, Utah opened 1-3, including a head-scratching loss to UNLV, but regrouped to go 8-1, capped by a narrow three-point escape of Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl.  RB Darrell Mack evolved into a life-saver for the offense, rushing for 1,204 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns after starter Matt Asiata broke his leg in the opener.       

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Darrell Mack

Defensive Player of the Year: S Steve Tate

Biggest Surprise: Just a week after losing to Air Force, the last thing anyone expected was a Utah win over No. 11 UCLA, let alone a rout.  The Utes had five takeaways and three touchdowns from Mack, scoring the last 37 points in an improbable 44-6 ambush of the Bruins. 

Biggest Disappointment: The Utes came tantalizingly close to closing the season on a nine-game winning streak, while snapping rival BYU's string of 14 straight Mountain West victories.  They fell short, however, on after the Cougars traveled the length of the field in the final minute for the game-winning touchdown.

Looking Ahead: The Utes head into the offseason as upbeat as they've been since Urban Meyer left for Gainesville.  The program returns eight starters on offense, 10 counting Asiata and shelved WR Brent Casteel.  Versatile QB Brian Johnson could be in store for a monster season after playing most of 2007 with a separated shoulder.        

- 2007 Utah Preview   
2006 Utah Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 9-

Aug. 30 at Oregon State L 24-7
Sept. 8
Air Force L 20-12
Sept. 15 UCLA W 44-6
Sept. 22
at UNLV L 27-0
Sept. 29 Utah State W 34-18
Oct. 5 at Louisville W 44-35
Oct. 13
SDSU W 23-7
Oct. 18 at TCU W 27-20
Oct. 27
at Colorado State W 27-3
Nov. 10 Wyoming W 50-0
Nov. 17 New Mexico W 28-10
Nov. 24 at BYU L 17-10
Poinsettia Bowl
Dec. 20 Navy 35-32

Dec. 20
2007 Poinsettia Bowl
Utah 35 ... Navy 32

Utah seemingly had the game put away on a one-yard Darrell Mack touchdown run with 1:27 to play on the way to a ten-point lead, but Navy wouldn't go away with a 58-yard Zerbin Singleton touchdown catch, followed by a recovered onside kick. Utah's Joe Dale finally ended it with an interception. Brian Johnson ran for a 19-yard touchdown and threw a 40-yard scoring pass to Derrek Richards as the Utes overcame a 17-7 deficit with 21 straight points before the Midshipmen got back in it on a ten-yard catch on a pitch from Shun White. Navy ran for 316 yards to Utah's 213.
Offensive Player of the Game: Utah QB Brian Johnson completed 20 of 25 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown, and ran 11 times for 69 yards and a score.
Defensive Player of the Game: Utah S Joe Dale made 12 tackles (8 solo) and sealed the win with an interception.
Stat Leaders: Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 20-25, 226 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Darrell Mack, 22-76, 2 TD. Receiving: Brian Hernandez, 5-63
Navy - Passing: Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, 7-14, 122 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Eric Kettani, 12-125, 1 TD. Receiving: Zerbin Singleton, 2-64, 1 TD

Thoughts & Notes ...
It was amazing that Navy was able to stay in the game as long as it did with the Utah defense doing a great job against the run. Yes, the Midshipmen gained 316 yards on the ground, but more often than not, the offense had to deal with second and third and long situations and had a hard time keeping the chains moving. ... As the game went on, it seemed like Utah QB Brian Johnson started to trust his injured shoulder a little bit more. While he avoided several big hits, he started to run harder and harder in the second half. ... Utah never provided the big break Navy needed to change the game around, but it came close on a late fumble that hit the pylon that should've been called a touchback, but wasn't. Instead of having the ball on the 20, Navy had to start on its one after a tough goal line stand. After having to go for it on fourth down, and missing, Utah easily marched for what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown. ... In his debut as the Navy head coach, Ken Niumatalolo kept things going as usual. Including several gutty calls on fourth down (even though only one worked), it was if Paul Johnson was still on the sidelines.

Nov. 24
BYU 17 ... Utah 10
Down 10-9, BYU needed a 49-yard catch by Austin Collie on fourth-and-18, a few pass interference calls and a personal foul, and an 11-yard touchdown run from Harvey Unga with 38 seconds to play to break Utah's heart for a second straight season. Utah had taken the lead with 1:34 to play on a one-yard Darrell Mack run and got a 35-yard Louie Sakoda field goal in the third quarter, but couldn't move the ball on a last gasp drive. Mitch Payne nailed three field goals for the Cougars before their final drive.
Player of the game: BYU RB Harvey Unga ran 23 times for 141 yards and a touchdown and caught a 27-yard pass.
Stat Leaders: Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 17-29, 129 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Darrell Mack, 14-56, 1 TD. Receiving: Bradon Godfrey, 7-73
BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 17-40, 269 yds, 1 INT
Harvey Unga, 23-141, 1 TD. Receiving: Austin Collie, 5-126

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
How much more can Utah fans take after the last two games against BYU? An all-timer of a final Cougar drive meant a second straight brutal loss made happen on an all-timer of a pass play, but the offensive ineffectiveness had something to do with that. Only 244 yards of total offense with two interceptions and ten penalties allowed the Cougars to stay in the game. Brian Johnson never got the passing game going and Darrell Mack was held in check. Even so, after the start of the season, 8-4 isn't bad.

Nov. 17
Utah 28 ... New Mexico 10
Utah took advantage of four New Mexico turnovers with Koa Misi returning a fumble 28 yards for a score, and Brian Johnson connecting with Derrek Richards for a seven-yard touchdown to pull away in the second half. New Mexico mounted a comeback in the third quarter on a two-yard Rodney Ferguson run and a 22-yard John Sullivan field goal, but the fumbles proved critical. The Utes held the Lobos to just 279 yards of offense.
Player of the game: Utah S Steve Tate made ten tackles and a tackle for loss
Stat Leaders: Utah Passing: Brian Johnson, 16-27, 165 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Darrell Mack, 24-77, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon Godfrey, 6-77, 1 TD
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 18-41, 198 yds
Rushing: Rodney Ferguson, 19-51, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 6-64
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The momentum continues as the Utes win their seventh straight be taking advantage of New Mexico screw ups and getting just enough offense to get by. Brian Johnson continues to take a bit of a backseat role in the offense as he's letting the running game and defense win games, but to beat BYU, he's going to have to air it out a bit more and he'll have to be better on third downs than he was this week.

Nov. 20
Utah 50 ... Wyoming 0
Utah destroyed the Cowboys with 505 yards to 122 and a 30-point second quarter to win a laugher. Darrell Mack ran for two one-yard scores and Louie Sakoda connected on field goals from 32-26 and 41 yards out. Wyoming was sacked six times, with Gabe Long coming up with three of them, and held on to the ball for just 22:03. The two teams combined for 19 penalties.
Player of the game: Utah DL Gabe Long made five tackles, three sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble.
Stat Leaders: Wyoming - Passing: Ian Hetrick, 5-9, 44 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Wynel Seldon, 8-40. Receiving: Michael Ford, 5-31
Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 17-29, 167 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Darrell Mack, 14-97, 2 TD. Receiving: Derrek Richards, 6-86

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
How strange a year has this been for the Utes? Now they're on a six-game wining streak and all but assured of a bowl bid. The win over Wyoming was a total team blasting, with the defense getting into the backfield all day long, and the offense taking advantage of every chance to put the game away. The running game is rumbling, Brian Johnson doesn't have to do everything, and the team is playing well at just the right time. Now the penalties have to stop, committing 11 for 90 yards against UW.

Oct. 27
Utah 27 ... Colorado State 3
Utah had few problems with Colorado State, running for 322 yards and holding the Ram attack to just 275 yards.  Ray Stowers caught a 16-yard touchdown pass and ran for a one-yard score, and Brian Hernandez caught a four-yard scoring pass. Louie Sakoda added two second quarter field goals for a 20-3 halftime lead, and the Utes coasted from there. CSU only managed a 24-yard Jason Smith field goal.
Player of the game: Utah RBs Darrell Mack and Ray Stowers combined for 274 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. Stowers also caught a 16-yard touchdown pass
Stat Leaders: Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 14-21, 130 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Darrell Mack, 20-151. Receiving: Marquis Wilson, 5-66
Colorado State - Passing: Caleb Hanie, 12-18, 94 yds, 1 INT
Gartrell Johnson, 17-95. Receiving: Damon Morton, 3-50

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Very, very, very quietly, Utah has won five in a row since the shocking clunker to UNLV, and while it might not be in a position to win the Mountain West, it goes home to play Wyoming and New Mexico with a chance to get into a prime position for the regular season ender against BYU if the Cougars lose along the way. This isn't the high-octane attack the Utes might have been planning for, but that's fine. Getting a grinding ground game and great defense works too.

Oct. 18
Utah 27 ... TCU 20
Utah picked off TCU's Andy Dalton four times, with Martel Bennett returning one 55 yards for a score, Darrell Mack ran for a one-yard score, and Marquis Wilson caught a 24-yard touchdown pass, but had to hold on late as TCU got a late field goal to pull within seven, then couldn't convert the onside kick. TCU got a blocked punt return for a score and converted a trick play into a one-yard Marcus Brock rushing touchdown, but the turnovers proved too costly.
Player of the game: Utah S Steve Tate made 12 tackles, picked off a pass, and made a sack
Stat Leaders: Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 13-20, 120 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Darrell Mack, 32-100, 1 TD. Receiving: Marquis Wilson, 6-73, 1 TD
TCU - Passing: Andy Dalton, 20-45, 164 yds, 4 INT
Aaron Brown, 11-59. Receiving: Aaron Brown, 5-21

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's not like Utah moved the ball on TCU. It was a two man show with Darrell Mack earning every yard and Brian Johnson throwing efficiently, but the fourth win in a row came from the defense. Steve Tate and the Ute D stuffed the Horned Frogs time and again, and snuffed out promising, momentum-changing moments with picks. It still might be too late to win the Mountain West, but now the Utes have to focus on being No. 2.

Oct. 13
Utah 23 ... San Diego State 7
Utah ran for 282 yards, but didn't pull away until the second half when Jeremy Brooks caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from RB Louis Corbin, and Darrell Mack caught a seven-yard touchdown pass. The Utes could only manage three Louie Sakoda field goals in the first half, while the Aztecs stayed alive on a five-yard Brandon Sullivan touchdown run. But the SDSU offense sputtered in the second half and ended up being outgained 514 yards to 211.
Player of the game: Utah QB Brian Johnson completed 21 of 28 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran for three yards.
Stat Leaders: Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 21-28, 208 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Darrell Mack, 22-131. Receiving: Bradon Godfrey, 5-59
San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 14-31, 114 yds, 1 INT
Kevin O'Connell, 14-24. Receiving: Brett Swain, 5-56

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Is Utah back on track? The Louisville win was nice, and beating San Diego State certainly was a must, but offense failed to put the game away early, despite moving the ball well. Now the real season begins, going on the road to deal with a battered TCU. If the defense plays as well as it did against the Aztecs, and Darrell Mack keeps running well, this might be the second best team in the league behind BYU.

Oct. 5
Utah 44 ... Louisville 35
Utah rolled up 582 yards for the game, and got out to a 27-7 halftime lead, but had to hold on for dear life, as Louisville's Brian Brohm, without his usual targets, bombed his way back into the game, pulling within 41-35 with 3:33 to play on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Trent Guy. The Cardinals tried its second onside kick following a score, and for the second time, failed. Utah was able to get a 46-yard Louie Sakoda field goal to make it a nine-point lead with just over a minute to play. The Utes got out to their big lead on three Darrell Mack touchdown runs, from three, two, and three yards out, while the Cards got Brohm touchdown passes to with two to Guy.
Player of the game: Utah RB Darrell Mack rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries.
Stat Leaders: Louisville - Passing: Brian Brohm, 39-58, 467 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Brock Bolen, 8-43, 1 TD. Receiving: Patrick Carter, 9-154, 1 TD
Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 24-31, 312 yds, 1 TD
Darrell Mack, 32-163, 3 TD. Receiving: Bradon Godfrey, 6-78, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Louisville's defense is giving away yards and points in bunches, but it was still impressive how the Ute offense rolled. Brian Johnson played like Brian Johnson again, running well, and spreading his passes around better, but it was the steady running of Darrell Mack that kept things moving. It gave the Ute attack a focus for the Cardinals to deal with, and allowed Johnson to work a little easier on the outside. Now the Utes have to start producing in Mountain West play after starting out 0-2. San Diego State is next.

Sept. 29
Utah 34 ... Utah State 18
Utah got its leader back as Brian Johnson returned from a separated shoulder to start for the first time in three weeks, with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jereme Brooks and a 38-yard pass to Marquis Wilson. Louie Sakoda added two field goals and Darrell Mack ran for a three-yard score as part of a 20-point run that Utah State finally stopped with a ten-yard Otis Nelson catch late in the fourth. The two teams combined to convert just nine of 31 third down chances.
Player of the game: Utah RB Darrell Mack rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, and had a reception for seven yards.
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 17-24, 139 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Derrvin Speight, 22-67. Receiving: Kevin Robinson, 7-71
Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 18-29, 181 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Darrell Mack, 26-132, 1 TD. Receiving: Brian Hernandez, 5-50

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Brian Johnson might not have been back to being Brian Johnson, but he was certainly a lot better against Utah State than Tommy Grady has been over the last few weeks. However, considering Johnson is back, and with the way Darrell Mack ran, it should've been a much easier win. Steve Tate and the defense did a fantastic job of bottling up the Aggies until late, but still the Ute offense has to prove it can explode very soon. Against Louisville this week, it'll need to be far, far better.

Sept. 22
UNLV 27 ... Utah 0
Frank Summers scored on a 29-yard pass play, and ran for fourth quarter touchdowns from four and 36 yards out as UNLV stunned Utah. The defense forced four Ute turnovers and held the offense to just 300 yards, while the offense was able to take advantage of the opportunities, going less than 40 yards on three scoring drives. Sergio Aguayo hit field goals from 28 and 20 yards out.
Player of the game: UNLV RB Frank Summer ran 29 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a pass for a 29-yard score.
Stat Leaders: UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 12-27, 144 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Frank Summers, 29-190 yds, 2 TD. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 3-50
Utah - Passing: Tommy Grady, 11-21, 117 yds, 1 INT
Darrell Mack, 21-89. Receiving: Brandon Godfrey, 6-62

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Not even the hurried return of Brian Johnson could save the Utah offense against UNLV. Tommy Grady couldn't build on the good game against UCLA, and even with Darrell Mack running well, and Johnson throwing relatively well when he entered in the second half, the Utes couldn't overcome a slew of mistakes and misfires. The offense simply isn't working right now, and if things don't pick up against Utah State next week, they never will. The O has to do a far, far better job of keeping the chains moving.

Sept. 15
Utah 44 ... UCLA 6
UCLA turned it over five times, committed ten penalties, and lost a sure touchdown when WR Marcus Everett lost the ball through the end zone for a touchback, but it was the opportunistic Utah offense that made it a blowout. Following a 53-yard Marquis Wilson touchdown catch on the game's opening drive, the Bruins cut the lead to one on two Kai Forbath field goals. That would be it for UCLA, as Utah cranked out 37 unanswered points on two more Tommy Grady touchdown passes and helped by three Darrell Mack touchdowns. Four Utah scoring drives went fewer than ten yards.
Player of the game: Utah RB Darrell Mack carried 19 times for 107 yards and a score, and caught three passes for 34 yards and two more touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: Ben Olson, 20-40, 290 yds, 3 INTs
Rushing: Kahlil Bell, 12-59. Receiving: Brandon Breazell, 6-121
Utah - Passing: Tommy Grady, 17-30, 246 yds, 3 TDs
Darrell Mack, 19-107, 1 TD. Receiving: Derrek Richards, 4-65
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's not like the offense ripped UCLA apart, but considering the woes of the first two games, cranking out 44 points by taking advantage of every mistake qualifies as a huge performance for Tommy Grady and the Utes. The running game didn't do much and the passing game didn't led the way to many long marches, but the O didn't screw up like UCLA's did, while the defense was suffocating. The Utes brought the pressure far better than they did against Oregon State or Air Force. Defensively, Robert Johnson played a whale of a game, as he might have served notice to the Mountain West that he'll be a defensive back who needs to be avoided.

Sept. 8
Air Force 20 ... Utah 12
Air Force came up with a late stand, stuffing a direct snap on a third and goal from the one and stuffing Ute RB Darryl Poston on fourth down in the final minute to hang on for the win. The Falcon offense got a three-yard Jim Ollis touchdown run early in the fourth and a 31-yard Ryan Harrison field goal, his second score of the day, to get ahead by eight late. Utah's attack sputtered all game long, but it came up with a 34-yard Derrek Richards touchdown catch late to get it close. Louie Sakoda added field goals from 43 and 40 yards for the Utes.
Player of the game: Air Force QB Shaun Carney was 8-of-14 for 56 yards, and carried 16 times for 113 yards.
Stat Leaders: Air Force
- Passing: Shaun Carney, 8-14, 56 yds
Rushing: Shaun Carney, 16-113. Receiving: Chad Hall, 3-14
- Passing: Tommy Grady, 20-39, 240 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Darryl Poston, 12-37. Receiving: Derrek Richards, 8-109, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The season couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. It's now obvious; the Ute offense isn't going to do much of anything without Brian Johnson. The loss of top RB Matt Asiata also helped to kill the running game, so it's sink or swim with the passing of Tommy Grady, and he can't get the job done. Worse yet, the run defense has been non-existent over the first two games and now has to deal with UCLA. The team needs to find an identity in a big hurry, and it has to find something on offense it can count on.

Aug. 30
Oregon State 24 ... Utah 7
It took a while for the Oregon State offense to produce, and then Yvenson Bernard took over with touchdown runs from nine and ten yards out, and Darrell Catchings caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Sean Canfield as part of a 24-0 run. Utah started off the scoring on a 36-yard pass from Brian Johnson to Brent Casteel, but Johnson was soon knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury and the offense never found its groove. The Beavers outrushed Utah 241 yards to 18.
Player of the game: Oregon State RB Yvenson Bernard ran 29 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns and led the team with four catches for 23 yards.
Stat Leaders: Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 8-13, 119 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Ray Stowers, 11-26. Receiving: Brent Casteel, 7-64, 1 TD
Oregon State - Passing: Sean Canfield, 8-19, 87 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Yvenson Bernard, 29-165, 2 TD. Receiving: Yvenson Bernard, 4-23
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about getting the wind knocked out of your sails. Utah and its defense appeared ready to give Oregon State all it could handle, and then it lost RB Matt Asiata, and then came the crushing blow with the loss of QB Brian Johnson to a shoulder injury. Tommy Grady has been around the program for too long to complete just nine of 24 passes for 59 yards, and without Asiata and Johnson, there doesn't appear to be much of a running game. Assuming Johnson won't be ready for a while, Grady has to find a way to make use of his great receiving corps against Air Force or the UCLA game will be ugly. On the plus side, punter Louie Sakoda was magnificent, averaging 41.6 yards on 11 punts with five put inside the 20 highlighted by a 62-yard beauty.

Aug. 30 – at Oregon State
Offense: While the Beavers regularly skip using a fullback in favor of a third receiver, they're a balanced offense that'll run it as much as they throw.  When you've got a back as talented as senior Yvenson Bernard, that's called using your resources wisely.  Bernard has run for more than 1,300 yards in each of the last two seasons behind a nasty, no-nonsense line that welcomes back all but one starter.  Senior split end Sammie Stroughter is an open field dynamo coming off a monster season in 2006.  What he can do for an encore depends in large part on how well one of two sophomore quarterbacks adapts to a full-time gig.  Hard-throwing lefty Sean Canfield is the acknowledged favorite to supplant Matt Moore, but Lyle Moevao sent a message this spring that he won't go away quietly.             
Defense: Much of the unit that led the Pac-10 in takeaways and sacks is back in Corvallis for 2007.  The front seven, in particular, is rock solid and made up entirely of seniors.  The best of the bunch is outside linebacker Derrick Doggett, who has the range and long stride to literally make plays anywhere on the field.  After bagging a team-high nine sacks as a reserve in 2006, end Dorian Smith is a sleeper with a chance to shed his anonymity this fall.  Whether the Beaver D can get from really good to impervious in 2007 depends on the development of a suspect secondary that allowed 223 yards a game a year ago.  Junior corners Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes are moving in the right direction, but you don't get better by losing long-time patrolman Sabby Piscitelli.

Sept. 8 - Air Force
Offense: For what seems like the 19th year in a row, Air Force is going to make an attempt to be more diversified and add some passing to the mix. This time, under new offensive coordinator Tim Horton, it might actually happen. Slowly. Running the ball will still be the team's bread-and-butter, but there will be some shotgun, some spread, and a mish-mosh of other offenses to try to get thing moving. Shaun Carney is a good, veteran quarterback to handle all the changes, but he doesn't have much to work with. The receiving corps needs work before it can become a threat, the backfield will be fine in the triple-option, but could struggle in a traditional set, and the offensive line needs to undergo major changes.
Air Force hasn't played defense in about three years and it'll take a major overhaul and a fantastic coaching job by new coordinator Tim DeRuyter to change things up. There's no size, not enough speed, and little in the way of experienced reserves. There has to be some semblance of a pass rush, and the hope will be for the speedy outside linebackers in the 3-4 to generate it. Far more has to be done against the pass. Now for the positives. Drew Fowler is one of the Mountain West's best linebackers and safety Bobby Giannini is a tackling machine.

Sept. 15 - UCLA
Offense: Tired of his feeble offense and conservative play calling, Karl Dorrell is turning the unit over to Jay Norvell, a Nebraska import who'll be calling plays for the first time in his career.  With him comes an up tempo version of the West Coast offense that'll be rooted in high percentage passes and the occasional use of the shotgun.  Norvell's triggerman will be lefty Ben Olson, who's held off the challenge of Patrick Cowan, and is still waiting for a breakthrough season five years after being a ballyhooed BYU recruit.  Although 12 players with extensive starting experience return, only guard Shannon Tevaga and running back Chris Markey can be considered bona fide threats for all-league honors.  To help get Olson where he needs to be, a playmaker or two needs to emerge among a pedestrian receiving corps.
Defense: Kudos to defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who did the improbable in 2006 by whipping a sorry Bruin defense into shape.  Ten starters are back from that unit, which finished No. 2 in the Pac-10 in total defense and tops against the run.  One All-American rush end, Justin Hickman, has departed, but one, Bruce Davis, returns to wreak havoc on league quarterbacks.  Although the linebackers look nothing like the ones across town at USC, they're fast, instinctive and a nice fit for Walker's defense.  Middle linebacker Christian Taylor is the definition of a hard-working college athlete that makes a ton of plays, but likely won't be wearing pads beyond 2007.  The secondary is an enigma that's loaded with returning talent, yet still vulnerable through the air.  Strong safety Chris Horton laid the groundwork last year for what should be a terrific final season at UCLA.

Sept. 22 – at UNLV
Offense: The Rebel Shotgun Spread has basically misfired over the first two seasons, but the potential is there for a huge turnaround. QB Rocky Hinds, a disappointment in his first season after coming over from USC, played with a torn ACL almost all season, and now he'll be healthy. He'll have a loaded receiving corps to work with led by Casey Flair and Ryan Wolfe, but all eyes will be on Aaron Straiten on the outside. The star JUCO transfer of last year has million-dollar talent, but now he needs to use it. The emergence of Frank Summers as a powerback should help out the running game, which already has speed -rusher David Peeples, but the offensive line has to do more to pave the way.
Defense: The defense struggled way too much to get a stop early in games, and it forced the offense to press way too often. Now there should be a bit of an improvement with several good returning starters and a fearsome pass rush. The ends should be terrific, and the linebackers can all move, but the emphasis going into the year will be to stop the run. Are the defenders in place to do it? That remains to be seen, but the biggest concern will be with a secondary that didn't make nearly enough plays last year, and now it doesn't have Eric Wright.

Sept. 29 - Utah State
Offense: The offense did next to nothing last season scoring fewer than 14 points seven times and finishing averaging 10.83 points and 254 yards per game. The offensive line isn't bad and the starting receivers, led by Kevin Robinson, are solid, but the quarterback situation isn't settled with Riley Nelson out on a church mission, and there's no experience whatsoever at running back after Marcus Cross transferred. Basically, the attack needs to find one thing it can do well.
If experience counts for anything, the Aggies should be far better with 11 returning starters and a ton of veteran backups ready to fill in. Now the defense has to stop someone after getting ripped apart by just about everyone. How bad did things get? The Aggies allowed an average of 48.8 points per game over the final five games. Ben Calderwood leads an undersized line that has to do more to get into the backfield. The corners are way too small, the linebackers are way too small, and the tackles are way too small. If the overall team quickness isn't accounting for big plays, there will be problems.

Oct. 5 – at Louisville
Offense: The coaching staff is new, but the results won't differ much from last season when Louisville rung up 37 points and 475 yards a game.  The Cardinals will spread the field and ask future first round draft choice Brian Brohm to distribute the ball to his plethora of playmakers.  Brohm's embarrassment of riches at receiver includes senior Harry Douglas, junior Mario Urrutia and senior Gary Barnidge, who combined for 159 receptions and 16 touchdowns in 2006.  Head coach Steve Kragthorpe and offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs love leaning on the tight end, so Barnidge could be particularly busy this fall.  Even without Michael Bush the running game is in good shape with the returns of Anthony Allen and George Stripling, a thunder and lightning combo that had 20 touchdowns a year ago.  If Kragthorpe was able to supercharge the Tulsa offense, just imagine what he'll do with all the resources they have in Louisville.
Defense: Not unlike the offense, the Cardinal D is aggressive, unpredictable and built on speed.  They'll attack regularly which often means sacks, turnovers and the occasional busted play that goes for 65 yards.  The latter could happen a little more frequently in 2007, as the secondary adjusts to three new starters and uncertainty at cornerback.  Even without All-American tackle Amobi Okoye, the defensive line figures to be among the best in the Big East.  Sophomore end Peanut Whitehead and junior tackle Earl Heyman aren't household names today, but both have the explosiveness to change that by November.  Senior linebacker Malik Jackson is a disruptive force with enough range to wreak havoc all over the field.

Oct. 13 - San Diego State
Offense: Could everyone please stay healthy so we can see what the offense can do? Eight starters return, along with many others with starting experience, but it'll be the ones who weren't a part of the mix throughout all of last year, QB Kevin O'Connell and RB Lynell Hamilton, who'll need to make the offense sing after it finished averaging a woeful 14.17 points per game. Even if they don't backup quarterback Kevin Craft and a host of running backs are good enough to bring more production. The receivers are big and fast, the combination of running backs are big and fast, and O'Connell is big and fast. The line should be fine with plenty of returning experience, so now there has to be real, live production.
Defense: Uh oh. Four starters return from a defense that struggled with its consistency throughout the year and did nothing to get into the backfield. That was with Antwan Applewhite, who left a year early. The outside linebackers, Russell Allen and Brett Martin, are the strength of the defense, Ray Bass is a solid, veteran safety, while Nick Osborn is a good, versatile lineman who'll start out at tackle after playing last year at end. That's about it for the sure-things. The corner situation is a mess, there's no pass rusher to count on, and the overall depth will be an issue.

Oct. 18 – at TCU
Offense: This won't be the offense of last year that finished second in the Mountain West in yards and scoring, but it won't be bad as long as there isn't a major injury problem among the starters. The line should be the strength with three returning starters and experience to count on at the other spots. Aaron Brown is about to shine now that he doesn't have to split carries. He'll be the do-it-all back who'll be the offense until the passing game, which struggled mightily in spring, comes around. The receiving corps has potential, but it needs Donald Massey to become a number one target, and it needs the quarterback situation to be settled with Marcus Jackson, who'll likely win the job, battling with Andy Dalton.
The Horned Frogs finished second in the nation in total defense, third in scoring defense, and led the Mountain West in several top categories. It'll be a total shock if they weren't even better. The only possible problems will come if injuries strike. Nine starters return, led by all-star ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, who make life easy for everyone else on the defense with the pressure they provide. The 4-2-5 has four good linebackers, an amazing group of safeties, rising stars at corner, and a good, active line. The only potential issue is a lack of raw bulk at tackle, but that's looking for a problem.

Oct. 27 – at Colorado State
Offense: There's no reason for the Ram offense to be far, far better. Nine starters are back, led by the return of power back Kyle Bell from a knee injury to save a ground game that was among the worst in America. Caleb Hanie is a veteran passer with one of the Mountain West's best receiving corps at his disposal. It all comes down to a line that gets the interior back, but has to find consistent tackles who can protect Hanie. Keeping Bell healthy is also vital. There was no rushing production two years ago when he wasn't on, and there was nothing happening last year with him on the sidelines.
A veteran defense returns with everyone back except the two outside linebackers. With all the experience, there has to be more pressure in the backfield and more big plays against the pass after coming up with just 27 sacks and seven interceptions. There aren't any superstars, but there are several very good players who know what they're doing. Undersized tackle Blake Smith might move to end to provide the pass rusher the team desperately needs, and the secondary should benefit.

Nov. 10 - Wyoming
Offense: The offense wasn't consistent and did nothing against the good teams (averaging 8.5 points against Boise State, New Mexico, TCU and BYU), but there's plenty of hope for a big turnaround with a good pair of backs in powerful Wynel Seldon and speedy Devin Moore, a strong receiving corps with Michael Ford, Hoost Marsh, and emerging deep threat Greg Bolling, and a great quarterback situation with three possible starters led by rising star Karsten Sween. The one issue could be the offensive line that returns just two starters and has question marks at guard.
Defense: The Cowboys had a terrific, unnoticed defensive season finishing ninth in the nation in total defense. However, it struggled at the end of year, for the second straight season, and now it has some holes to fill. The linebacking corps, with four great starters and a slew of good reserves for the 3-4, will be among the best in the league, and while there aren't any returning starters up front, they're big. Corners Julius Stinson and Michael Medina should be excellent, but the star safeties of last year have to be replaced.

Nov. 17 - New Mexico
Offense: The offense is scrapping the Bob Toledo attack and going back to a more basic style that'll pound the ball more with a big line, but won't forget about balancing things out through the air. With one of the Mountain West's best receiving tandems in Travis Brown and Marcus Smith, and a rising superstar in quarterback Donovan Porterie, the passing game should shine, while Rodney Ferguson will be a 1,000-yard back. If injuries are a problem, there will be big troubles with no developed depth among the skills positions and even less to count on up front.
Defense: The 3-3-5 scheme will stay in place, but the Lobo position will be fifth defensive back more than a linebacker. As always, there are plenty of great athletes who can run and fly to the ball. Now there has to be more production against the pass and more big plays in the backfield. The linebacking corps with Cody Kase moving from the outside in, should be stellar, while the cornerback tandem of DeAndre Wright and Glover Quin should be among the best in the league. There's a ton of talent to get excited about, but, unlike last year, will it all come together to form one of the league's better defenses? It's possible.

Nov. 24 – at BYU
Offense: While the offense won't crank out the big numbers last year's attack did (finishing fourth in the nation in total offense and fifth in scoring), it'll be fantastic starting with a great line that has more talent and depth (though unproven) than the program has seen in a long time. The receivers have to step up with the top targets of last year gone, and new starting quarterback Max Hall has to be efficient from day one. The 1-2 rushing punch of Manase Tonga and Fui Vakapuna will carry things when it needs to with an interesting blend of speed and power.
Defense This won't be the best defense in the Mountain West, but it'll be good enough to win with. The 3-3-5 was replaced by the 3-4 last year with tremendous results. Now the production should be there again with a big front three, led by end Jan Jorgensen, and a good linebacking corps that needs Kelly Poppinga to be the main man in the middle in place of Cameron Jensen. The safeties, Dustin Gabriel and Quinn Gooch, are as good as any in the conference, but the corners are nothing special.


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