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2007 Cincinnati Bearcats

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 Cincinnati Bearcats Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Cincinnati Bearcats

Recap: In his first year at the helm, Bearcat head coach left no doubts that he was the right man to replace Mark Dantonio, leading Cincinnati to a bowl victory and its first 10-win season since 1951.  Kelly’s spread offense, a stark contrast to Dantonio’s conservative running game, was a smashing success, cranking out 36 points and 434 yards a game.  Cincy’s three losses came by a total of 16 points, a testament to how much the program grew in such a short period of time, and how close it was to really doing something special.             

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Ben Mauk

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Terrill Byrd

Biggest Surprise: Waxing Oregon State, 34-3, on Sept. 6.  Still a mystery outside the Queen City, the Bearcats gave a glimpse of its potential in front a national TV audience, blocking a punt for a touchdown and picking off six passes, a degree of thievery that would become their trademark in 2007.  

Biggest Disappointment: Unbeaten and ranked in the Top 25 on Oct. 13, Cincinnati allowed struggling Louisville to temporarily find its footing in a sloppy 28-24 loss.  The Bearcats moved the ball well, but committed four turnovers and 11 penalties in a heartbreaking home defeat. 

Looking Ahead: The foundation is in place for Cincinnati to build on last season, and contend for a Big East championship.  The Bearcats are clinging to the hope that Mauk, the heart and soul of the offense, will be granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.       

- 2007 UC Preview
-
2006 UC Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
6-6
2007 Record:
10-3

Aug. 30 SE Missouri St W 59-3
Sept. 6 Oregon State W 34-3
Sept. 15
at Miami Univ. W 47-10
Sept. 22 Marshall W 40-14
Sept. 29 at S Diego St W 52-23
Oct. 6 at Rutgers W 28-23
Oct. 13 Louisville L 28-24
Oct. 20 at Pitt L 24-17
Nov. 3 at So Florida W 38-33
Nov. 10
Connecticut W 27-3
Nov. 17 West Virginia L 28-23
Nov. 24
at Syracuse W 52-31
PapaJohns.com Bowl
Dec. 22 Southern Miss W 31-21

Dec. 22
2007 PapaJohns.com Bowl
Cincinnati 31 ... Southern Miss 21

Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk overcame a rough start to throw four touchdown passes including two to Dominick Goodman in the second quarter, and put the game away late in the third quarter with a ten-yard scoring pass to Antwuan Giddens. Bearcat corner DeAngelo Smith came up with three interceptions, including one to stop the final USM drive, but the Golden Eagles had their moments with Jeremy Young throwing two short touchdown passes and running for a one-yard score. The two teams combined for seven sacks, 17 penalties and seven turnovers.
Offensive Player of the Game: Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk completed 30 of 52 passes for 334 yards, and four touchdowns with three interceptions
Defensive Player of the Game: Cincinnati CB DeAngelo Smith made five tackles, broke up a pass and picked off three passes
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 30-52, 334 yds, 4 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Ben Mauk, 12-41. Receiving: Dominick Goodman, 7-95, 2 TD
Southern Miss - Passing: Jeremy Young, 18-32, 122 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
Rushing:
Damion Fletcher, 29-155. Receiving: Damion Fletcher, 7-50
Thoughts and Notes ... Southern Miss played hard in head coach Jeff Bower's final game. The defense was flying around against the run, and QB Jeremy Young tried to do his best to keep the team in the game, but Cincinnati was simply the better team. QB Ben Mauk overcame his rough patches, settled down, and showed why he took the team from good to great this year. ... A ten-win season in Brian Kelly's first season has set the bar high. Now Cincinnati has to use a win like this, a relatively easy one over an overmatched team, to go into next year with even more of an attitude. This team should win games. This program should be able to beat average ones when it's not playing its sharpest or its best. ... Southern Miss RB Damion Fletcher will be overshadowed next year if UCF RB Kevin Smith returns as expected, but he's every bit as good. He got a bit banged up early against the Bearcats, but he was able to still carry the offense as both a runner and a receiver. He gained 155 rushing yards, and led the Eagles with seven catches for 50 yards, while UC only gained 71 net yards rushing.

Nov. 24
Cincinnati 52 ... Syracuse 31
Cincinnati cranked out 544 yards of total offense and sacked Syracuse quarterback Andrew Robinson 11 times, but needed a 16-yard fumble recovery for a score as part of a 17-0 run to put the Orange away. Ben Mauk had a career day with 431 yards and four touchdown passes including three to Marcus Barnett from 33, eight and 18 yards out. SU kept up the pace for three quarters with Robinson bombing away for 419 yards including a 78-yard play to Taj Smith on the first play of the second half. The two teams combined for 859 passing yards and 21 penalties.
Player of the game: Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk completed 29 of 42 passes for 431 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for a score.
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 29-42, 431 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Butler Benton, 9-63. Receiving: Marcus Barnett, 11-127, 3 TD
Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 29-47, 419 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Doug Hogue, 8-30. Receiving: Mike Williams, 9-160, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... After getting run over by West Virginia, the Bearcats got thrown on by Syracuse in a crazier shootout than head coach Brian Kelly might've liked. The defense did a great job of consistently getting into the backfield with 11 sacks and 13 tackles for loss, but the Orange kept on throwing. Ben Mauk had a phenomenal day throwing the ball yet again as he has gotten better and better as the season has gone on. For the bowl game, the key will be to establish more of a running game and get a big day out of the defense. Mauk might be the team's star, but improve play from the defense will be what gets UC a tenth win.

Nov. 17
West Virginia 28 ... Cincinnati 23
West Virginia ran for 295 yards and got out to a 28-10 lead in the fourth quarter on two short touchdown runs from Pat White, a one-yard Steve Slaton run, and a four-yard Owen Schmitt touchdown, but the secondary struggled with Marcus Barnett, who finished with 210 yards and touchdown catches from 70 and 13 yards out. Bradley Glatthaar pulled the Bearcats within five on a one-yard run with 2:26 to play, the two point conversion failed, but the Mountaineers were able to run out the clock. WVU hung on to the ball for 36:21.
Player of the game: West Virginia QB Pat White completed 13 of 19 passes for 140 yards and an interception, and ran 27 times for 155 yards and two scores.
Stat Leaders: West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 13-19, 140 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Pat White, 27-155, 2 TD. Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 6-29
Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 19-34, 323 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Ben Mauk, 15-52. Receiving: Marcus Barnett, 10-210, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Bearcats did a good job of taking advantage of West Virginia mistakes to get back in the game late, but it didn't do enough early to take control of the game. WR Marcus Barnett was terrific, and Ben Mauk had a nice all-around game, but there wasn't enough help from the running backs and there weren't enough defensive stops on third downs. In the end, UC was beaten by a possible national title team. This wasn't a loss to hang heads over. A ten-win season is still possible.

Nov. 10
Cincinnati 27 ... Connecticut 3
Cincinnati stuffed Connecticut, holding the vaunted ground game to 22 yards, while Ben Mauk scored on an 11-yard run and threw two short first quarter touchdown passes on the was to the win. Mauk closed out the scoring with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Dominick Goodman early in the fourth quarter, and the UConn offense couldn't respond. The Huskies could only manage a 22-yard Tony Ciravino field goal.
Player of the game: Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk completed 21 of 33 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns, and ran nine times for 12 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 21-33, 276 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Jacob Ramsey, 17-66. Receiving: Dominick Goodman, 8-127, 1 TD
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 18-37, 182 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Andre Dixon, 12-35. Receiving: Andre Dixon, 6-51
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Cincinnati is back in control of its Big East title destiny with a dominant win over Connecticut. Considering the season finale is against Syracuse, next week's battle with West Virginia should be for the title and a spot in the BCS. To get it done, the defense has to hit like it did against the Huskies, while QB Ben Mauk will have to continue to hold up under intense pressure. He was beaten up this week, but he hung in there and had a great game.

Nov. 3
Cincinnati 38 ... South Florida 33
South Florida kicked off the scoring with a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown from Trae Williams, and then it decided to return the turnover favor. Eight times. Cincinnati went on a 31-7 first quarter run with a 63-yard Antwuan Giddens touchdown catch, answered by a Mike Jenkins kickoff return for a score, a blocked punt for a score, a 79-yard Mike Mickens interception return for a touchdown, and a 16-yard Dominick Goodman catch. And then the Bearcats had to hang on for dear life. South Florida got a nine-yard Jessie Hester touchdown grab with just over two minutes to play to pull within five, and after getting the ball back with 25 seconds to play, it got to the UC 18, but a last gasp pass was incomplete. USF outgained the Bearcats 481 yards to 375.
Player of the game: Cincinnati LB Ryan Manalac made 11 tackles, all solo stops, with two tackles for loss, one broken up pass, and recovered a fumble.
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 13-31, 162 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Ben Mauk, 7-75. Receiving: Dominick Goodman, 4-36, 1 TD
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 31-54, 382 yds, 1 TD, 4 INT
Rushing:
Matt Grothe, 22-75, 1 TD. Receiving: Benjamin Williams, 8-63
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... In one of the more bizarre games in UC's history, the defense came up with turnover after turnover, but South Florida kept battling back and the Bearcats had to hang on. Even with all the breaks and the 31-point first quarter, UC had a hard time putting the Bulls away. It doesn't matter. Now, with this win, the Big East title is still within reach. Beat Connecticut, beat West Virginia, beat Syracuse, and hope for one other Husky loss, and UC will go into the big money games.

Oct. 20
Pitt 24 ... Cincinnati 17
Pitt ran for 260 yards, with LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens each going over 100 yards, with Stephens running for a one-yard touchdown with just over five minutes to play to take the lead for good. Conor Lee added field goals from 41, 25 and 27 yards out. Cincy appeared on the way to an easy win early on with a quick 10-0 lead helped by a Ben Mauk one-yard touchdown run and a field goal off a missed fourth and one call deep in Pitt territory. But the Panthers would bounce back, tying it up with a four-yard Darrell Strong touchdown catch, and dominating in the second half. Scott McKillop made 16 tackles for the Panthers.
Player of the game: Pitt RBs LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens combined for 237 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 21-32, 237 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Ben Mauk, 10-94, 1 TD. Receiving: Marshawn Gilyard, 5-45
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 18-29, 167 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
LeSean McCoy, 25-137. Receiving: T.J. Porter, 7-85
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... In two weeks, Cincinnati went from being a hot Big East player to last in the league, but it shouldn't require too much tweaking to get back on track after losing to Pitt and Louisville. First of all, the running backs have to get going again. Ben Mauk might be playing extremely well, but when he's taking care of all the rushing duties, the offense isn't nearly as effective. The defense had better figure out how do toughen up against the run in a big hurry with South Florida, Connecticut and West Virginia up next.

Oct. 13
Louisville 28 ... Cincinnati 24
A 51-yard completion to Harry Douglas set up a three-yard Anthony Allen touchdown run for what would turn out to be Louisville's game-winning score. Along with that big throw, Brian Brohm threw three touchdowns passes with two to Patrick Carter, while Cincinnati came up with three Ben Mauk touchdown passes, with two to Marcus Barnett. The Bearcats were able to pull within four on a 23-yard Jake Rogers field goal, but didn't get any closer, punting on one late possession and throwing an interception on the other.  The two teams combined for 674 passing yards and 22 penalties.
Player of the game: Louisville QB Brian Brohm completed 28 of 38 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 26-45, 324 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Butler Benton, 10-56. Receiving: Dominick Goodman, 11-141, 1 TD
Louisville - Passing: Brian Brohm, 28-38, 350 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Trent Guy, 3-45. Receiving: Harry Douglas, 7-118
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... All year long, Cincinnati has fed off of turnovers. It didn't get any against Louisville, lost four turnovers, and it never was able to seize the momentum. Brian Brohm just so happens to be a superstar a superstar, and he played like it this week. As depressing as the first loss of the year is, UC has to gear it back up in a big hurry for a winnable road game at Pitt before the showdown at South Florida. The Big East title is still there for the taking, and the offense did a great job of moving the ball this week. There just can't be so many mistakes (with 11 penalties to go along with all the turnovers).

Oct. 6
Cincinnati 28 ... Rutgers 23
Cincinnati came up with three interceptions, with a pick by Ryan Manalac snuffing out a final Rutgers drive to seal the win. The Bearcat offense got three Ben Mauk touchdown passes, including a 27-yarder to Marshawn Gilyard late in the third quarter to pull ahead for good. Rutgers got a one-yard Ray Rice touchdown run, three Jeremy Ito field goals, and started off the scoring with a 36-yard interception return for a score, but couldn't get the running game, and was hurt by all four turnovers.
Player of the game: Cincinnati LB Ryan Manalac made 11 tackles and sealed the win with an interception
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 20-37, 257 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Greg Moore, 14-60. Receiving: Marcus Barnett, 6-74, 1 TD
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 22-38, 334 yds, 3 INT
Rushing:
Ray Rice, 34-94, 1 TD. Receiving: Tim Brown, 7-127
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Now Cincinnati is a true player, but beating Rutgers is just step one. With the way the defense made the big plays needed to pick off Mike Teel passes, and with the way it shut down Ray Rice and the running game, allowing him to average just 2.8 yards per carry, the Bearcats can't just be satisfied with being 6-0 and bowl eligible. They have to beat Louisville at home. They have to beat West Virginia at home. They have to go on the road and beat South Florida. Getting more from the running game is a must, but as long as the O keeps the turnovers to a minimum, and as long as the defense continues to swarm, this will be a dangerous team.

Sept. 29
Cincinnati 52 ... San Diego State 23
Cincinnati rolled up 547 yards of total offense, and held on to the ball for almost 35 minutes, in the blowout win. Marcus Barnett and Dominick Goodman each caught two of Ben Mauk's four first half touchdown passes, and Brad Glatthaar ran for a one-yard score on the way to a 35-10 first half lead. A Greg Moore 21-yard touchdown run made it 42-10 before the Aztecs finally got back on the board with a 35-yard Vonnie Holmes interception return for a score. The Bearcats got a pick six of its own late in the fourth on a 58-yard Aaron Webster interception.
Player of the game: Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk completed 17 of 23 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns, and ran three times for 36 yards.
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 17-23, 257 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Greg Moore, 12-84, 1 TD. Receiving: Dominick Goodman, 7-101, 2 TD
San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O’Connell, 20-27, 253 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Atiyyah Henderson, 3-23. Receiving: Darren Mougey, 8-90
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Cincinnati was really looking ahead to Rutgers ... yikes. The offense dominated San Diego State from the start, and despite three interceptions and ten penalties, this was as easy a win as it's had all season long. The team is simply blasting everyone, and hasn't been close to threatened so far. Is this the best team in the Big East right now? It's certainly playing like it, with Ben Mauk playing extremely well leading the attack. Everything's working just at the right time.

Sept. 22
Cincinnati 40 ... Marshall 14
In an ugly game, Cincinnati overcame an intentional grounding call in the end zone for a safety with 26 straight first half points on two Marcus Barnett touchdown catches, a 17-yard Greg Moore scoring run, and a safety of its own off a fumble. Marshall tried to get back on the game with two Bernard Morris touchdowns passes, highlighted by a 33-yard throw to Darius Passmore, but the Bearcats scored the final 14 points wit a seven-yard Connor Barwin catch and a 42-yard Jacob Ramsey run. The two teams combined for 23 penalties for 186 yards.
Player of the game: Cincinnati QB Dustin Grutza completed 14 of 20 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns and ran six times for 28 yards.
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Dustin Grutza, 14-20, 142 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Greg Moore, 6-70, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcus Barnett, 6-77, 2 TD
Marshall - Passing: Bernard Morris, 20-30, 252 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Darius Marshall, 7-63. Receiving: Darius Passmore, 7-106, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Bearcats didn't exactly look like world-beaters in the win over Marshall, but it's nice when you don't play well and still win in a walk. Dustin Grutza struggled early in place of a dinged up Ben Mauk, but he eventually found a good groove and got the offense going. However, the attack works far better when Mauk is in. The hope has to be to tighten things up against San Diego State before having to travel to Rutgers. Fewer penalties, better play on third downs, and more consistency for four quarter are all vital.

Sept. 15
Cincinnati 47 ... Miami University 10
Cincinnati won a laugher as Marshawn Gilyard blocked a punt for a safety and caught a six-yard touchdown pass on the way to a 16-0 first quarter lead, and Dustin Gruza finished with two touchdown passes. The RedHawks turned it over four times, with DeAngelo Smith returning an interception 54 yards for a score. MU's touchdown came on a 16-yard Armand Robinson catch early in the second half, but the Bearcats scored 21 unanswered points helped by five-yard touchdown run from Doug Jones and Bradley Glatthaar.
Player of the game: Cincinnati QB Dustin Grutza went 25-of-35 for 290 yards and two touchdown passes, while rushing five times for 16 yards.
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Dustin Grutza, 25-35, 290 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing: Bradley Glatthaar, 11-43, 1 TD. Receiving: Connor Barwin, 6-109
Miami Univ. - Passing: Daniel Raudabaugh, 24-45, 240 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing:
Austin Sykes, 13-76. Receiving: Eugene Harris, 6-47
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Lose the quarterback, roll by 37. Dustin Grutza filled in nicely for an injured Ben Mauk and the offense still had few problems against Miami University. The run defense was stifling yet again, coming up with the mistakes and turnovers needed to not force the offense to take too many chances. If the Bearcats can keep the formula working, and can remain nearly mistake-free, a 5-0 record is a must before playing Rutgers.

Sept. 6
Cincinnati 34 ... Oregon State 3
Cincinnati stunned a surging Oregon State team by holding it to 310 yards of total offense and three points. The UC offense only managed 229 yards, but thanks to a defense that forced seven turnovers, it got the big plays when it had to with Ben Mauk hitting Marcus Barnett for a five-yard touchdown pass late in the first half to break a 3-3 tie, and getting the ball to Greg Moore, who took it 50 yards for a score late in the third. Barnett also recovered a blocked punt for a score, while Jake Rogers connected on field goals from 39 and 55 yards out. OSU's only points came on a 31-yard Alexis Serna field goal.
Player of the game: Cincinnati SS Haruki Nakamura made six tackles and intercepted two passes
Stat Leaders: Oregon State - Passing: Lyle Moevao, 14-23, 143 yds, 3 INT
Rushing: Yvenson Bernard, 16-30. Receiving: Yvenson Bernard, 7-17
Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 15-23, 199 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Butler Benton, 11-47. Receiving: Marcus Barnett, 5-61, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... All of a sudden, Cincinnati has throw its hat into the ring as a bone fide player in the Big East race. Oregon State is a much, much better team than it showed on Thursday night, and the UC defense dominated it like it was SE Missouri State. Offensively, there are major issues in the running game, but again, Oregon State is really good. The UC defense was simply better. The key will be keeping focus and momentum over a relatively easy three game stretch (at Miami University, Marshall and at San Diego State) before dealing with Rutgers and Louisville.

Aug. 30
Cincinnati 59 ... SE Missouri State 3
Cincinnati cranked out 615 yards of total offense with new quarterback Ben Mauk throwing a 56-yard touchdown pass to Marshawn Gilyard and a 13-yarder to Butler Benton in the first half. Benton added a seven-yard scoring run in the third quarter, while Bradley Glatthaar ran for two short scoring runs. The defense got into the act with a 45-yard interception return for a score from Mike Mickens. SE Missouri State's only points came on a 25-yard Doug Spada field goal in the second quarter.
Player of the game: Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk completed 18 of 27 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: SE Missouri State - Passing: Victor Anderson, 8-16, 58 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Victor Anderson, 13-118. Receiving: Vince Anderson, 3-22
Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 18-27, 244, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Butler Benton, 12-101, 1 TD. Receiving: Marshawn Gilyard, 8-134, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Lighting up SE Missouri State is one thing. Now Brian Kelly's UC offense has to show it can produce against a speedy, talented defense like Oregon State's next week. At the very least, Ben Mauk was effective leading the attack, spreading the ball around well to several receivers, while the running game was dominant. 314 yards and five touchdowns is a successful day no matter who it's against.

Aug. 30 – SE Missouri St.

Sept. 6 - 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. 15 – at Miami University
Offense: It's all about the offensive line. The front five was hit by injuries last season and the whole machine broke down with no running game, an obscene amount of sacks, and not enough of a passing game. Now the line is experienced with decent depth, the running backs should be solid as long as Brandon Murphy is over his ankle problems, and Mike Kokal has the potential to be the MAC's most effective all-around quarterback. And then there's the receiving corps. With Ryne Robinson gone, there's no proven number one receiver, but there's a boatload of speed on the outside in Dustin Woods and Armand Robinson. While they'll make big plays, someone has to become a go-to guy.
Defense: There were huge concerns about the defense going into last season with only two returning starters, but the lumps taken against the run and against way too many mediocre offenses should pay off in a return to the days when MU had one of the MAC's best defenses. While just six starters are back, there are more than enough promising options at several positions to create good overall competition and have more depth than there's been in a long time. The pass rush needs to be better with Craig Mester needing to get back to form to help out junior end Joe Coniglio. Joey Hudson and Clayton Mullins form one of the MAC's best 1-2 linebacking punches, while the secondary should be one of the team's strengths led by speedy corner Jerrid Gaines and veteran safety Robbie Wilson.


Sept. 22 - Marshall

Offense: Not since Byron Leftwich graduated has Marshall been Marshall on offense.  That should begin to change this fall provided erratic senior quarterback Bernard Morris can make the most of a receiving corps that’s brimming with young game-breakers.  All-conference back Ahmad Bradshaw, a 1,500-yard rusher in 2006, left early for the NFL, leaving Chubb Small to shoulder the load.  If he can’t handle the promotion, look for one of three blue-chip freshmen to rise up and accept an expanded role.  While the offensive line has pending issues at tackle, Doug Legursky is a beast at center that could parlay big efforts early versus Miami and West Virginia into post-season awards.
Defense: Disgusted with the play of last year’s defense, head coach Mark Snyder changed course, hiring veteran Steve Dunlap as the coordinator.  While last year’s team sat back, and often paid for the conservative approach, the 2007 edition will attack wherever and whenever it makes sense.  The chief attacker will be junior end Albert McClellan, a sack machine that’ll be in the mix for just about every individual award given to defensive players.  At linebacker, junior Josh Johnson is good enough to consider early entry into the 2008 NFL Draft once the season concludes.  Dunlap’s biggest concerns in his first season on the job surround a pedestrian group of tackles and a beatable secondary that allowed way too many long gainers last season.

Sept. 29 – at 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. 6 – at Rutgers
Offense: Although Rutgers is more than content to pound the ball between the tackles 30 times a game with All-America running back Ray Rice, it wouldn’t mind a little more offensive balance this year.  Whether that happens depends on the development of junior quarterback Mike Teel who struggled badly last year, but did play his best ball at the end of the year and has a speedy group of receivers needed to author a rebound.  While question marks exist on the interior of the offensive line, the tackle tandem of seniors Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah is one of the best in the country.
Defense: For Greg Schiano and his Rutgers defense, it’s all about creating pressure and turnovers with a variety of different looks to confuse opposing offenses.  Everything came together last year for a unit that had 31 takeaways and allowed just 252 yards and 14 points a game, but five starters need to be replaced.  Senior defensive tackle Eric Foster is a ticking time bomb that exploded on quarterbacks in 2006, en route to All-America recognition.  He’s the physical and spiritual leader of a front seven that’s noticeably less experienced than last year.  Provided sophomore Devin McCourty can handle the corner spot opposite twin brother Jason, the secondary will rock with the return of all-league safeties, Courtney Greene and Ron Girault.

Oct. 13 - 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. 20 – at Pitt
Offense: The graduation of Tyler Palko leaves a gaping hole on the Panther offense that’ll be filled by either junior Bill Stull or hot-shot rookie Pat Bostick.  Whoever gets the ball will enjoy an outstanding supporting cast that includes junior running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation and the program’s best front wall since Dave Wannstedt arrived.  Wannstedt and Matt Cavanaugh want to establish a more physical ground game, but if the new hurler is up to the challenge, the ensuing balance will make this a very dangerous offense.   
Defense: Last year’s defense had big names, like H.B. Blades and Darrelle Revis, with poor results.  This year’s defense is devoid of stars, but might wind up being statistically better.  The key will be stopping the run, something that vexed the Panthers throughout the second half of the 2006 season.  The difference this fall will be a defensive line that’ll be much deeper than last year, and capable of creating inside-outside pressure with junior tackle Gus Mustakas and senior end Joe Clermond.  Although replacing Revis won’t be a snap, the secondary is busting with potential from future all-Big East players, like sophomores Aaron Berry and Elijah Fields.

Nov. 3 – at South Florida
Offense: This is Matt Grothe’s offense, but unlike last season, he shouldn’t have to do everything short of crafting the weekly gameplan in order to make the unit hum.  Although he led the offense in passing, rushing and scoring, the program realizes it needs to protect its most important commodity and give him more support.  Can freshman Mike Ford live up to the hype?  Plenty is expected from a back that should ignite a rushing attack that did little in 2006 when Grothe wasn’t slithering through opposing defenses.  Originally headed to Tuscaloosa, he’s the highest-profile recruit to ever sign with USF.  The Bull receivers are a dynamic bunch that’s loaded with size, speed and underachievers that need to get their act together.
Defense: Like all teams from Florida, the USF defense pursues well and is built on speed.  Wally Burnham’s unit is well-coached, prevents the big play and is vastly underappreciated and unnoticed on a national level.  That could change if the Bulls crack the top 10 in total defense in 2007, a distinct possibility.  Next level corners Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins allow the defense to sell out on occasion, and the front four, led by sophomore rush end George Selvie, returns seven linemen that started games in 2006.  Importing defensive line coach Dan McCarney and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie from Iowa State were coups that’ll pay immediate dividends.

Nov. 10 - Connecticut
Offense: For two years running, the Husky offense has been painfully inept, particularly in the passing game.  Tyler Lorenzen was recruited from the ranks of the junior colleges to specifically address that vertical shortcoming.  His arrival pushed D.J. Hernandez to slot receiver and set up a heated competition with sophomore Dennis Brown that’ll resume in August.  While quarterback is a question mark, running back is not.  Sophomore Donald Brown exploded on to the scene in 2006 with almost 700 yards and five scores in a torrid five-game stretch to finish the season.  With a bunch of linemen back, he’s poised for a monster season in an offense that still uses the run to set up the pass.
Defense: The bend-but-don’t-break Huskies snapped like a toothpick in 2006.  The main culprit was a run defense that couldn’t slow down anyone not named Rhode Island.  Things don’t get any easier this year, as the unit will be looking for ways to replace both of last year’s starting tackles.  Uh-oh.  Led by senior linebacker Danny Lansanah and junior corner Darius Butler, the back seven will be picking up a lot of the slack on Saturdays.  Expect the pass rush that produced only 11 sacks in the final eight games to get a spark from the returns of junior Cody Brown and sophomore Lindsey Witten, disruptive ends that’ll be on the line together for the first time in September.

Nov. 17 - West Virginia
Offense: Unlike most schools that run the spread offense, West Virginia aims to open lanes for its prolific ground game, rarely putting the ball in the air more than 20 times a game.  The Mountaineers want the ball in the hands of its two junior Heisman candidates, quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton.  Along with receiver Darius Reynaud, they form the fastest offensive trio in America, and are threats for six with even a hint of daylight.  White is an underrated passer that rarely misses his target, but needs more help from a receiving corps that’s suspect after Reynaud.  Few schools rebuild on the offensive line better than West Virginia, but how will the unit react without its long-time quarterback Dan Mozes and long-time coach Rick Trickett?
Defense: Lost in all the yards the Mountaineer offense gained in 2006 was all the yards the defense allowed.  West Virginia allowed 35 or more points three times last fall and was torched through the air repeatedly over the second half of the year.  Worse, this once relentless defense had trouble getting to the quarterback and looked a step slow.  Rich Rodriguez is banking on a few tweaks to the back eight and an influx of faster players as the solutions in the team’s 3-3-5 stack formation.  Led by playmaking senior safety Eric Wicks, the secondary has a glut of really talented athletes that need to gel into a cohesive unit.

Nov. 24 – at Syracuse
Offense: The pieces are there among the skill players for a night-and-day improvement from last year’s putrid attack that cranked out a mere 264 yards and 17.4 points per game. The receiving cops, helped by the return of Taj Smith from injury, should be one of the best in the Big East, while Curtis Brinkley is a good back to work around. Sophomore QB Andrew Robinson is a star in the making, but he’ll have a hard time with his consistency behind an offensive line that needs work even with three starters returning in the interior.
Defense: It might take a little while, but the D will improve as the season goes on, it struggled in every area but getting into the backfield, and with a strong defensive line returning, led be end Jameel McClain, generating pressure won’t be much of a problem. The linebacking corps will be a work in progress with three news starters, but the excellent safety tandem of Dowayne Davis and Joe Fields should clean up plenty of messes.


 

 

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