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2007 BYU Cougars

Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Jan 5, 2008


2007 BYU Cougars Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 BYU Cougars

Recap: Although Hawaii played in the Sugar Bowl, an argument can be made that BYU was the premier non-BCS program of 2007.  The Cougars got off the mat after starting 1-2 to win 10 consecutive games, cop another outright Mountain West title, and get revenge on UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl for one of those two September losses.  Winners of 16 straight conference games under Bronco Mendenhall, BYU is enjoying its best stretch of prosperity since the late 1980s.           

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Max Hall

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Jan Jorgensen

Biggest Surprise: RB Harvey Unga.  Just a redshirt freshman, Unga hasn’t wasted any time becoming one of the most valuable Cougar players.  A physical, 1,000-yard rusher in his debut season, he gave BYU a presence in short yardage, while finishing third on the team with 44 receptions for 655 yards and four scores.    

Biggest Disappointment: The BYU defense had just a single lapse all year, and it cost the program a game to Tulsa and possibly a BCS bowl invitation.  A few weeks before the Cougars would gel, Hurricane QB Paul Smith went ballistic on them, throwing for a career-high 454 yards and five touchdown passes in a wild 55-47 victory.

Looking Ahead: The Cougars will wrap up 2007 in the Top 25 and begin 2008 with most of their league-best offense intact, meaning they’ll be the trendy choice out of the mid-majors to play in a BCS bowl game.  A January game is the next step for a program that’s quietly been terrific the past two seasons, winning 22 games and a pair of Las Vegas Bowls versus Pac-10 opponents.

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- 2007 BYU Preview
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2006 BYU Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
7-5
2007 Record: 11-2

Sept. 1 Arizona W 20-7
Sept. 8 at UCLA L 27-17
Sept. 15
at Tulsa L 55-47
Sept. 22 Air Force W 31-6
Sept. 29 at N Mexico W 31-24
Oct. 13 at UNLV W 24-14
Oct. 20 E. Wash W 42-7
Nov. 3 Colorado St W 35-16
Nov. 8 TCU W 27-22
Nov. 17 at Wyoming W 35-10
Nov. 24 Utah W 17-10
Dec. 1 at SDSU W 48-27
Las Vegas Bowl
Dec. 22 UCLA W 17-16

Dec. 22
2007 Las Vegas Bowl
BYU 17 ... UCLA 16

UCLA rallied to get in position to win the game with a chip shot field goal, but BYU's Eathyn Manumaleuna got a hand on the kick to stop it just enough for it to go barely under the crossbar to preserve the Cougar win. The UCLA defense dominated for most of the game, holding BYU to just 265 yards, but a muffed punt led to a 14-yard Austin Collie touchdown catch and Michael Reed caught a 13-yard scoring pass to cap off a 55-yard drive late in the second quarter. The Bruins capitalized on a Harvey Unga fumble deep in BYU territory to get a four-yard Brandon Breazell scoring grab as time ran out in the first half, but they would only manage a 50-yard Kai Forbath field goal in the second half.
Offensive Player of the Game: BYU WR Austin Collie caught six passes for 107 yards and a touchdown
Defensive Player of the Game: UCLA DE Bruce Davis made seven tackles and three sacks
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: McLeod Bethel-Thompson, 11-27, 154 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Chris Markey, 27-117. Receiving: Brandon Breazell, 4-44, 1 TD
BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 21-35, 231 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Manase Tonga, 3-21. Receiving: Austin Collie, 6-107, 1 TD

Thoughts and Notes ...
While BYU certainly won't give the win over UCLA back, but this was hardly a bright shining moment for the Mountain West. The Bruins were down to an untested third string quarterback, is dealing with all the coaching turmoil, and it still came within a an Eathyn Manumaleuna mitt from pulling off the upset. This might not have been enough of a showing for Dwayne Walker to win the UCLA head coaching job, but he had the defense playing at a high level. ... In several ways, this BYU season might have been even more impressive than last year when it ripped through almost everyone. Bronco Mendenhall and his staff got 11 wins out of a team with a less talented offense, and was able to pull off tight wins over UCLA, New Mexico, Utah and TCU. ... If only UCLA had a healthy Ben Olson or Pat Cowan. McLeod Bethel-Thompson wasn't always helped out by his receiving corps, and he did a great job of getting the team in a position to win the game on a great final drive, but he was too inconsistent throughout. ... The pass rushing stars didn't disappoint. UCLA's Bruce Davis played at another level, and BYU's Jan Jorgensen was terrific.

Dec. 1
BYU 48 ... San Diego State 27
BYU cranked out 538 yards of total offense, but it wasn't until the second half until it finally pulled away. Harvey Unga ran touchdowns from one, seven and three yards away, and started off the scoring with an eight-yard catch on the opening drive. The Aztecs stayed alive thanks to Kevin O'Connell, who ran for two touchdown and threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Lynell Hamilton. But the BYU offense proved to be too much with 28 second half points.
Player of the game: BYU RB Harvey Unga ran 12 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns, and caught three passes for 29 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 33-55, 288 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Kevin O'Connell, 17-61, 2 TD. Receiving: Brett Swain, 10-98
BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 19-26, 227 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Harvey Unga, 12-161, 3 TD. Receiving: Dennis Pitta, 4-47, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Harvey Unga is a machine. The touchdown maker rolled over San Diego State with four scores to put the game out of reach, while Max Hall came up with one of his most efficient passing days of the year. Considering the Cougars didn't need this game, it was a nice, relaxed offensive performance to get to ten wins and a spotless Mountain West record. On a nine-game winning streak, this is one of the nation's hottest teams going into the bowls.

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
Rushing:
Harvey Unga, 23-141, 1 TD. Receiving: Austin Collie, 5-126

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... BYU moved the ball well against Utah and the defense did a great job, but it struggled to close on three key drives forcing the miraculous final march to yet another tough win in the rivalry. Max Hall struggled way too much, as he didn't appear to always be on quite the same page with his receivers, but he was great when he had to be. All Cougar and Ute fans will remember is the fourth and 18 throw to Austin Collie to keep the game alive. Now with a second straight Mountain West title in hand, a second straight 11-win season is possible.

Nov. 17
BYU 35 ... Wyoming 10
BYU held Wyoming to nine net yards rushing and gave up only a field goal and a two-yard Wynel Seldon touchdown run on the way to the easy win. The Cougars got out to a 21-0 lead on two of Max Hall's three touchdown passes and a two-yard Harvey Unga run, and then put the game away on the opening drive of the second half going 69 yards in ten plays with Michael Reed catching a ten-yard scoring pass. Unga closed things out with a two-yard run. BYU held on to the ball for 34:39.
Player of the game: BYU QB Max Hall completed 26 of 37 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 26-37, 331 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Harvey Unga, 23-110, 2 TD. Receiving: Austin Collie, 8-103
Wyoming- Passing: Karsten Sween, 17-29, 217 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Wynel Seldon, 9-28, 1 TD. Receiving: Michael Ford, 7-71

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Wyoming, even when it's struggling, it tough at home, and BYU went into Laramie and won without breathing hard. The run defense has stepped its play up a few notches over the last few weeks, and now it gets its biggest test in weeks needing to deal with a hot Utah ground game. The win clinched at least a share of the Mountain West title with the potential to win it outright against either Utah or San Diego State. With the offense operating effectively, and Max Hall quietly cranking out big game after big game, getting one more win won't be a problem.

Nov. 8
BYU 27 ... TCU 22
Harvey Unga ran for touchdowns from 15 and three yards out, and Max Hall threw one-yard touchdown pass to Joe Semanoff, as BYU got up early, but had to hold on to beat TCU. Down 24-9 in the third quarter, the Horned Frogs mounted a comeback with a one-yard Marcus Brock touchdown run and with less than four minutes to play, a Bart Johnson seven-yard scoring catch. TCU would get one more drive, but it went nowhere as Bryan Kehl sacked Andy Dalton on fourth down and the Cougar offense was able to run out the clock. BYU converted 13 of 20 third down chances, while TCU converted four of 14 and went 0 for 3 on third downs.
Player of the game: BYU QB Max Hall completed 26 of 44 passes for 305 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran for 28 yards.
Stat Leaders: TCU - Passing: Andy Dalton, 18-30, 165 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Andy Dalton, 12-60. Receiving: Ervin Dickerson, 6-48
BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 26-44, 305 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Harvey Unga, 16-64, 2 TD. Receiving: Dennis Pitta, 7-88

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The BYU defense wasn't great against TCU, and allowed the game to get close late, but it was great when it had to be, stopping the Horned Frog offense on several key third downs and all three fourth down attempts. Max Hall made plenty of mistakes and misreads, but he only threw one pick, pushed the ball deep for a few good gains to stretch things out, and he spread the ball around well. Now that the Cougars all but have the Mountain West won, it'll be vital to keep the momentum going, and to stay focused, with a few extra days off before going to Wyoming.

Nov. 3
BYU 35 ... Colorado State 16
BYU got up right away with a 21-3 halftime lead helped by two Max Hall touchdown passes and a thee-yard Manase Tonga scoring run. A three-yard Harvey Unga scoring run made it 28-3 Cougars and they cruised from there. Colorado State got a three-yard Michael Myers touchdown run off the team's best drive of the day, but wasn't able to get back into the end zone until Jesse Nading took an interception 31 yards for a score late in the fourth.
Player of the game: BYU QB Max Hall completed 22 of 30 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Colorado State - Passing: Caleb Hanie, 18-34, 161 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Gartrell Johnson, 19-72. Receiving: Johnny Walker, 4-26
BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 22-30, 355 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Harvey Unga, 11-51, 1 TD. Receiving: Austin Collie, 8-111, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The offense hasn't been totally crisp over the the last few games, but it's been effective enough to keep winning with. On a five-game streak after ripping up Colorado State, a win over TCU would all but seal the Mountain West title. With Fui Vakapuna back from injury, the running game has all its weapons back, while Max Hall is coming off one of his most impressive games of the year. He's doing a great job of spreading the ball around.

Oct. 20
BYU 42 ... Eastern Washington 7
BYU had few problems with Eastern Washington, at least until a blizzard hit in the second half, as Harvey Unga scored on a 22-yard pass and a 13-yard run, and Manase Tonga, Max Hall and Fui Vakapuna each ran for short second half scores. The defense opened up the scoring with Corby Hodgkiss taking an interception 39 yards for a score. EWU's points came in the second quarter on a 28-yard Aaron Boyce catch.
Player of the game: BYU RB Harvey Unga ran 21 times for 145 yards and a touchdown, and caught four passes for 57 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 15-30, 156 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Harvey Unga, 21-145, 1 TD. Receiving: Harvey Unga, 4-57, 1 TD
Eastern Washington - Passing: Matt Nichols, 20-32, 216 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Dale Morris, 10-33. Receiving: Aaron Boyce, 9-135, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... BYU didn't exactly go through the motions to beat Eastern Washington, but it didn't have to exert itself. In interesting conditions late, the offense took advantage of short fields to put the game away thanks to turnovers and great field position. Now the Cougars have to stay focused against Mountain West lightweights San Diego State and Colorado State before the tough finishing kick. As long as the O line keeps paving the way for the grinding running game, everything should be fine.

Oct. 13
BYU 24 ... UNLV 14
It wasn't pretty, but BYU overcame four turnovers by outrushing UNLV 227 yards to 96 with Harvey Unga tearing off 177 yards with a five-yard run, and Manase Tonga running for a three yards score to get by the Rebels. Sergio Aguayo hit two field goals, but the Rebels didn't get into the end zone until the final 1:11 on a five-yard pass from Omar Clayton to Rodelin Anthony.
Player of the game: BYU RB Harvey Unga ran 25 times for 177 yards and a touchdown, and caught five passes for 44 yards.
Stat Leaders: BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 21-33, 214 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Harvey Unga, 25-177, 1 TD. Receiving: Dennis Pitta, 7-97
UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 11-21, 78 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Frank Summers, 13-50. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 5-50

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... When things weren't working with the passing game, it became the Harvey Unga show against UNLV, as the BYU ground game helped keep the ball for 37:24, kept the Rebel spread attack off the field, and pulled away with the win. By default, this is still the best team in the Mountain West, but it's not playing like anything special. It doesn't matter. The schedule is easy enough to roll until mid-November without a problem.

Sept. 29
BYU 31 ... New Mexico 24
Max Hall threw two touchdown passes, highlighted by a 59-yard play to Austin Collie in the third, but it took a ten-point fourth quarter to put the Lobos away. Rodney Ferguson did what he could to carry New Mexico, scoring on a second quarter one-yard run, and in the third quarter, on a five-yard run, and then two minutes later, he took a pass 71 yards for a score. Hall connected with Dennis Pitta for a 14-yard score, and Mitch Payne hit a 22-yard field goal, while the Lobos were only able to crank out a 43-yard John Sullivan field goal in the fourth. BYU LB Bryan Kehl opened the scoring with a 36-yard interception return in the first two minutes.
Player of the game: BYU LB Bryan Kehl made nine tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 18-40, 251 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Harvey Unga, 22-56. Receiving: Austin Collie, 4-98, 1 TD
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 20-38, 231 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 22-87, 2 TD. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 7-53

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... BYU can take a deep breath after the tough road win over New Mexico. Max Hal threw for 251 yards, but he didn't play well, missing too many passes, and there wasn't enough of a running game to take the heat off. The defense generated tremendous pressure and forced five turnovers to make all the difference. Now the team gets a week off to rest before an apparent easy stretch against UNLV, Eastern Washington, San Diego State and Colorado State. 7-2 is a must going into the TCU showdown.

Sept. 22
BYU 31 ... Air Force 6
BYU got up 7-0 on the opening drive with Manase Tonga running for a one-yard score, and rolled from there with two Max Hall touchdown passes on the way to a 24-0 lead. Air Force finally got on the board late in the third quarter on an eight-yard Shaun Carney run, but the Cougars answered with a 80-yard drive culminating in a one-yard Tonga run. Air Force was held to 231 yards and 12 first downs.
Player of the game: BYU RB Manase Tonga ran 14 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns, adding six catches for 69 yards.
Stat Leaders: Air Force - Passing: Shaun Carney, 10-21, 98 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Chad Smith, 2-47. Receiving: Chad Hall, 6-80
BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 23-33, 293 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
Harvey Unga, 22-111. Receiving: Manase Tonga, 6-69

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... After the way the BYU defense was obliterated by Tulsa, a blowout was much needed. Getting it in the Mountain West opener was even sweeter, as the Cougar D stuffed the Air Force offense all game long, while the offense was balanced and effective. Max Hall had a nice game to keep the ball moving, but it was the defense that starred, especially on third downs. Air Force only had the ball for 22:50, and wore down. This game didn't establish BYU as the class of the Mountain West, but it was a good step forward.

Sept. 15
Tulsa 55 ... BYU 47
In a wild shootout with the two teams combining for 1,027 passing yards, it was two false start penalties to ruin a final BYU chance, and Tulsa's defense snuffing out long drives with four takeaways. Paul Smith threw five touchdown passes with three to Charles Clay, but BYU always had an answer in the see-saw game. Max Hall threw for 547 yards and four touchdowns, and Manase Tonga ran for two touchdowns. Tulsa's defense got in the big play act with a 49-yard interception return for a score from Ray Roberts, but this was all about the haymakers. In one tremendous second quarter sequence, Hall his Austin Collie for a 45-yard touchdown, and Smith answered ten second later by connecting with Brennan Marion for a 75-yard touchdown pass. BYU responded in four plays with a 13-yard Dennis Pitta scoring grab, and the scoring went on and one, with the two teams combining for 44 points in the quarter. In all the two teams cranked out 1,289 yards of total offense and 59 first downs.
Player of the game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith completed 21 of 35 passes for 454 yards and five touchdowns
Stat Leaders: BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 35-57, 537 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Harvey Unga, 21-100, 1 TD. Receiving: Michael Reed, 8-132, 1 TD
Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 21-35, 454 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Tarrion Adams, 18-79, 1 TD. Receiving: Trae Johnson, 5-95, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
How in the world did BYU lose to Tulsa when it cranked out 694 yards of offense, 537 passing yards, 36 first downs, and roared up and down the field? It kept screwing up, and Tulsa didn't. BYU turned it over four times, and all hurt, and committed 14 penalties for 138 yards, with two late false start penalties killing the momentum on the final drive. On the plus side, the Cougars showed that the offense can explode, with Max Hall having a phenomenal game. Take away the errors, and the Cougars would've won in a walk.

Sept. 8
UCLA 27 ... BYU 17
UCLA jumped out to a 20-0 lead helped by a 56-yard Trey Brown interception return for a score, two Kai Forbath field goals and a four-yard Kahlil Bell scoring run, but had to hang on as BYU pulled within three in the third quarter on two Max Hall to Austin Collie touchdown passes. The Bruins finally got a little breathing room in the final minutes on a three-yard Chris Markey run to finish off a 12-play, 45-yard drive that ate up 3:40. BYU outgained UCLA 435 yards to 236 but got timely plays from the defense including two key sacks and a forced fumble from Bruce Davis.
Player of the game: UCLA CB Trey Brown had five pass break ups, 4.5 tackles, a fumble recovery, and a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: BYU
- Passing: Max Hall, 30-52, 391 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Harvey Unga, 5-28. Receiving: Austin Collie, 7-79, 2 TDs
UCLA
- Passing: Ben Olson, 13-28, 126 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Kahlil Bell, 16-79, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcus Everett, 5-66
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Last year's team would've beaten this UCLA team. It wasn't that Max Hall, who threw for 391 yards, wasn't good, it was that he didn't come up with big early passes to move the offense, and while the Bruin defense had a lot to do with that, it'll be interesting to see if the team can win games like this as the year goes on. 11 penalties and three turnovers didn't help, but the big problem was the comeback. It was like the O couldn't get over the hump when it needed just one little spark late to potentially turn the tide. The D was great and should only get better over the next several weeks. There's not a game until early November that BYU won't be favored.

Sept. 1
BYU 20 ... Arizona 7
BYU's defense stole the show, keeping Arizona off the board until a seven-yard Earl Mitchell touchdown catch in the final minute of the game. The Cougars got two first half touchdown passes from Max Hall, and Harvey Unga scored twice on a 27-yard catch and an 11-yard run on the way to a 20-0 lead. The Wildcats only managed 30 rushing yards.
Player of the game ... BYU HB Harvey Unga had 15 carries for 67 yards and one touchdown, while leading the team with nine receptions for 127 yards and another score.
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 26-36, 216 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Chris Jennings, 14-41  Receiving: Chris Jennings, 9-27
BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 26-39, 288 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing:
Harvey Unga, 15-67, 1 TD  Receiving: Harvey Unga, 9-127, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Max Hall might not have been John Beck against Arizona, but he didn't throw any interceptions and he was more than good enough at spreading the ball around. The key to the game was a defense that never let the Wildcats get going. The run defense was a brick wall, while the pass defense never let Willie Tuitama push the ball deep. If the D plays like this against UCLA next week, and if Hall again limits his mistakes, the Cougars have a real shot at a big upset.

Sept. 1 - Arizona
Offense: After averaging a 100th place finish in total offense over the last three years, Mike Stoops has handed the unit off to former Texas Tech coordinator Sonny Dykes.  Dykes has learned from the likes of Mike Leach and Hal Mumme over the last decade, so expect to see a rejuvenated Willie Tuitama in the shotgun, putting the ball up a ton more than last season.  The Wildcats’ quest to stretch defenses vertically and horizontally in the spread offense will hinge on their ability to develop dependable receivers other than junior Mike Thomas.  The beleaguered offensive line is a year older, intact and poised to benefit from a system that forces the quarterback to make quick passes and even quicker decisions.  Sophomore Eben Britton is on the brink of becoming a prodigy at right tackle.
Defense: With the return of ten starters and an all-star caliber player at each unit, Arizona should be even stingier than 2006, when it led the Pac-10 in turnover margin and allowed fewer than 20 points a game.  The headliner once again will be senior Antoine Cason, one of the smoothest corners in America and a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award.  Led by underrated senior Spencer Larsen, the linebackers are a no-name crew that just goes out and makes a bunch of tackles every Saturday.  The onus for jump starting the pass rush falls squarely on the shoulders of senior Louis Holmes, a massive talent that underachieved in his first season out of junior college.

Sept. 8 – at 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. 15 – at Tulsa
Offense: Can Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense really work at this level … take two.  All the buzz about Malzahn’s fancy playbook fizzled in Fayetteville last year, but unlike at Arkansas, Tulsa coach Tood Graham is on board and prepared to see all of the offense’s bell and whistles.  The system aims to control the tempo, physically and mentally wear out opponents, and sort of run a two-minute offense for four quarters.  Senior quarterback Paul Smith is liable to go berserk running this offense, but a makeshift offensive line and a whole new set of receivers will be two major stumbling blocks.  When the Hurricane runs the ball, it’ll turn to senior Courtney Tennial and junior Tarrion Adams, arguably the best running duo in Conference USA.   
Defense: Head coach Todd Graham brings the 3-3-5 and a very aggressive style back to Tulsa, where he led the defense from 2003-2005.  The fact that he coached and recruited many of this year’s players should make for a smoother-than-expected transition.  Graham will showcase a swarming unit that brings turnovers back to Tulsa.  In his final season as the defensive coordinator, the Hurricane had 36 takeaways.  Without him last year? 14.  The strength is at linebacker, which features three senior starters and Nelson Coleman, one of the nation’s best middle linebackers you’ve never seen play.  With so much over pursuing going on in 2007, a retooled secondary could give up as many big plays this year as it has in the last two combined.

Sept. 22 - 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.
Defense:
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. 29 – at 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.

Oct. 13 – 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.

Oct. 20 – Eastern Washington

Oct. 27 – 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.

Nov. 3 - 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.
Defense:
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. 8 - 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.
Defense:
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.

Nov. 17 – at 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. 24 - Utah
Offense: Look out. Utah not only gets just about everyone back with its top six wide receivers, leading rusher Darryl Poston, and four starting offensive linemen, but it also welcomes back its superstar, quarterback Brian Johnson, after taking last year off to recover from a torn ACL. All the problems with inconsistency throughout last season should be gone thanks to all the experience. Expect more explosion, a slew of Mountain West all-stars, and for Johnson to become a national college football name. There's more than enough depth at the skill positions to withstand injuries, but there's no development among the backups on the line.  
Defense: There's a ton of athleticism and loads of potential, but there are also several major concerns on the line and secondary. The linebacking corps will be fine with four starting-caliber players returning led by Joe Jianonni in the middle. Martail Burnett is an all-star waiting to blow up at end, free safety Steve Tate is good for 100 tackles, and Brice McCain has the kind of speed that NFL scouts tend to drool over. Everything else is up in the air with former receiver Sean Smith trying to handle the second corner spot, no experience to count on at strong safety, and unproven new starters at tackle and the second defensive end. In the end, the D will be fine in Mountain West play because of all the talent, but it might not be good enough to win the league title if the offense struggles for a game or two.


 


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