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2007 New Mexico Lobos

Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 New Mexico Lobos Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 New Mexico Lobos

Recap: Sparked by a senior-drenched lineup, New Mexico won nine games for the first time in a decade and a bowl game for the first time since 1961, suffocating Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.  Typical of a Rocky Long-coached team, the catalyst for the Lobos’ success was an experienced defense that yielded just 319 yards and 19 points a game.  Had the sporadic offense not disappeared in four losses, averaging just 10 points in those games, New Mexico might have challenged for a Mountain West championship.               

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Rodney Ferguson

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Tyler Donaldson

Biggest Surprise: The Lobos had lost nine in-a-row to Pac-10 opponents, six under Long, before upsetting Arizona on Sept. 15 in Tucson.  Despite giving up a ton of yards through the air, the New Mexico aerial connections of Donovan Porterie to Marcus Smith and Travis Brown were up to the challenge, hooking up 21 times in a two-point, springboard victory for the school.    

Biggest Disappointment: Seemingly peaking as October became November, the sizzling Lobos got annihilated by TCU, 37-0, in their worst game of the season.  Nothing went right for New Mexico, which allowed 421 balanced yards to a bad Frog offense, while managing just 119 yards and six first downs when it had the ball.

Looking Ahead: The majority of last year’s top performers, including six all-league first teamers, are out of eligibility, so Long could be rebuilding in 2008.  He’ll do so around Ferguson, Porterie, and a secondary that boasts capable corners DeAndre Wright and Glover Quin.

- 2007 UNM Preview
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2006 UNM Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
6-6
2007 Record: 9-
4

Sept. 1 at UTEP L 10-6
Sept. 8 NMSU W 44-34
Sept. 15 at Arizona W 29-27
Sept. 22
Sacramento St W 58-9
Sept. 29 BYU L 31-24
Oct. 13 at Wyoming W 20-3
Oct. 20
at S Diego St W 20-13
Oct. 25 Air Force W 34-31
Nov. 3 at TCU L 37-0
Nov. 11
Colorado St W 26-23
Nov. 17 at Utah L 28-10
Nov. 24
UNLV W 24-6
New Mexico Bowl
Dec. 22 Nevada W 23-0

Dec. 22
New Mexico Bowl
New Mexico 23 ... Nevada 0

New Mexico blew past Nevada with 548 yards of total offense, while the defense allowed a mere 210. Marcus Smith took a pass 66 yards for a score on the third play of the game, and Travis Brown caught a 39-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter. John Sullivan was the Lobo scorer the rest of the way with a 53-yard field goal, a 45-yarder and a 37-yard kick. The Lobo defense never let the Wolf Pack offense get close allowing just 73 rushing yards and forced 11 punts. The two teams combined to convert a mere six of 26 third down chances.
Offensive Player of the Game: New Mexico QB Donovan Porterie completed 20 of 36 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
Defensive Player of the Game: Nevada LB Joshua Mauga made 11 tackles, forced a fumble and made a tackle for loss
Stat Leaders: Nevada - Passing: Colin Kaepernick, 13-31, 137 yds
Rushing: Luke Lippencott, 10-40. Receiving: Marko Mitchell, 6-96
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 20-36, 354 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Paul Baker, 22-167. Receiving: Travis Brown, 7-120, 1 TD
Thoughts and Notes ... New Mexico won its first bowl game since the 1961 Aviation Bowl, and Nevada was shut out for the first time since 1980 and a span of 329 games. ... Nevada got badly outprepared and badly outcoached. The Wolf Pack attack never established any sort of consistency, while the offensive line had a nightmare of a time in pass protection. Will this game serve as a motivating factor for next year? The pieces are in place to be far better, and far more consistent. ... New Mexico might have been missing top RB Rodney Ferguson, but WRs Marcus Smith and Travis Brown turned their games up a notch, and QB Donovan Porterie came up with his best performance as a Lobo. Now the bowl monkey is off the program's back, and it'll be interesting to see if this turns into a confidence-builder in the Rocky Long era. ... Considering there was probably going to be a quarterback battle going into 2008 anyway at Nevada, Colin Kaepernick's 13 of 31, 137-yard game opened things up even more. He hardly staked his claim to the full-time job.

Nov. 24
New Mexico 27 ... UNLV 6
New Mexico overcame four turnovers and 11 penalties with a great defensive performance holding UNLV to just two first half field goals. The Lobo offense overcame a 6-3 deficit with a 63-yard Marcus Smith touchdown catch, a 26-yard Travis Brown scoring dash and a one-yard Rodney Ferguson run as part of a 24-0 scoring run to close out the game. The two teams combined for 21 penalties. Beau Bell made 15 tackles and forced a fumble for the Rebels.
Player of the game: New Mexico WR Marcus Smith caught eight passes for 130 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 14-38, 135 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Frank Summers, 17-48. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 7-68
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 18-32, 199 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 24-117, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 8-130, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Against UNLV, the Lobos didn't do anything special offensively and made a slew of mistakes, but the defense pitched a near perfect game making it a blowout over the final 40 minutes. Now it's a case of watching and waiting for a possible bowl bid. At 8-4, the Lobos certainly have a strong enough record to find its way into a 13th game, but it can't go to the New Mexico Bowl after playing in it last year, and it has to hope some other openings could be there with six wins teams certain to be nervous about being bounced out.

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: Bradon 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 schizophrenic season continues for the Lobos playing well off and on and not being consistent from one week to the next. Rodney Ferguson and the running game has to work to beat teams like Utah, and there can't be the turnovers to kill drives like there were this week. Donovan Porterie has to be more efficient and needs to handle a pass rush a little better at this point in the season. This is a far better team than UNLV, but the playing field will be evened next week if the mistakes continue.

Nov. 10
New Mexico 26 ... Colorado State 23
For the second year in a row, New Mexico beat Colorado State on a last second kick, getting a 43-yard field goal with no time left on the clock. Sullivan also nailed shots from 46, 39 and 34 yards out, while Donovan Porterie threw two first half touchdown passes. The Rams kept pace helped by a 172-yard rushing day from Gartrell Johnson and Johnny Walker touchdown catches from 64 and 31 yards out.
Player of the game: New Mexico QB Donovan Porterie completed 21 of 29 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and PK John Sullivan connected on field goals from 34, 39, 46 and 43 yards out.
Stat Leaders: Colorado State - Passing: Caleb Hanie, 13-19, 221 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Gartrell Johnson, 31-172. Receiving: Johnny Walker, 7-177, 2 TD
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 21-29, 211 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 20-110. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 9-83, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Lobos played well against Colorado State getting an efficient day from Donovan Porterie, great kicking from John Sullivan, and big plays, from the special teams and defense, particularly from O.J. Swift, to stay in the hunt for a bowl bid. The run defense could stand to be stronger, but after a dud of a game in the shutout loss to TCU, this was a nice win to get back on track before dealing with the trip to Utah.

Nov. 3
TCU 37 ... New Mexico 0
TCU's defense was stunning, keeping New Mexico to 28 rushing yards, 119 yards of total offense, and allowed just two of 16 third down conversions, while the offense had few problems, getting two Andy Dalton touchdown passes and three Chris Manfredini field goals. Rafael Priest picked up a fumble for a 13-yard score, and Marcus Jackson connected with Marcus Brock for a seven-yard score. TCU held on to the ball for 36:52.
Player of the game: TCU RB Joseph Turner ran 28 times for 115 yards.
Stat Leaders: New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 7-23, 76 yds
Rushing: Rodney Ferguson, 13-28. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 4-39
TCU - Passing: Andy Dalton, 11-18, 149 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Joseph Turner 28-115. Receiving: Ervin Dickerson, 3-50, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
It's vital the Lobos get over the drubbing against TCU right away and not let Colorado State pull off the upset next week. Nothing worked for the Lobos in the type of clunker game that happens every once in a while when a superior defensive team steps up its intensity and play. This can't be a trend. Work still needs to be done to secure a bowl bid, and winning two of the last three games would do that.

Oct. 26
New Mexico 34 ... Air Force 31
Rodney Ferguson ran 41 times with two short touchdown runs, and John Sullivan connected on four field goals as New Mexico took advantage of five Air Force fumbles to pull off the win. The Falcons got four touchdown runs, including two from Chad Hall, but they turned the ball over on three of their final four drives. The Lobos held on to the ball for 34:40 and turned it over two times.
Player of the game: New Mexico RB Rodney Ferguson ran 41 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns and caught a pass for 15 yards
Stat Leaders: Air Force - Passing: Shaun Carney, 11-18, 110 yds
Rushing: Chad Hall, 21-97, 2 TD. Receiving: Chad Hall, 6-66
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 16-28, 169 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 41-146, 2 TD. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 7-84

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
It's not like the Lobos played all that well against Air Force, turning it over twice, committing eight penalties to two, and converting just four of 18 third down chances, but they got the turnovers late and took advantage of most of the opportunities. With a road trip to TCU coming up, this was a huge win to get in a great position to finish second in the league pecking order behind BYU. To get through the final month, Rodney Ferguson has to rest up after getting 42 touches. If he's not the best player in the Mountain West this year, he's the most valuable.

Oct. 20
New Mexico 20 ... San Diego State 17
San Diego State appeared to be on the way to the win after QB Kevin O'Connell scrambled for a first down, but he fumbled, and the Lobos took advantage. Down four, they marched 65 yards in eight plays with Rodney Ferguson scoring on a six-yard run with 15 seconds to play to get the win. O'Connell ran for scored from one yard and 23 yards out, while the Lobos got in the end zone on a 25-yard Travis Brown catch with 11 seconds to play in the first half.
Player of the game: New Mexico WR Travis Brown caught seven passes for 119 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O’Connell, 18-26, 133 yds
Rushing: Kevin O’Connell, 11-82, 2 TD. Receiving: Vincent Brown, 9-58
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 18-35, 239 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 24-78, 1 TD. Receiving: Travis Brown, 7-119, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Just win and move on. San Diego State had New Mexico beaten, but a huge play from the defense, a crisp drive, and a last-second Rodney Ferguson touchdown run kept the Mountain West title hopes alive. Now come the big tests against Air Force and on the road to deal with TCU and Utah over the next month. The running game has to kick in again. New Mexico can't keep playing with fire, and it needs Ferguson to be a 100-yard back on a consistent basis.

Oct. 13
New Mexico 20 ... Wyoming 3
In the snow and sloppy weather, with a midgame delay, New Mexico dominated after the break with a 63-yard Travis Brown touchdown catch at the end of the first half, and then controlled the second on a two-yard Ian Clark fumble recovery for a score and John Sullivan's second field goal of the game. The Cowboys only came up with 238 yards of total offense and a 26-yard Billy Vinnedge field goal.
Player of the game: New Mexico S Ian Clark made eight tackles and recovered a fumble for a touchdown
Stat Leaders: New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 12-21, 191 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Rodney Ferguson, 26-89. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 5-75
Wyoming - Passing: Karsten Sween, 18-28, 176 yds
Rushing:
Devin Moore, 12-30. Receiving: Michael Ford, 5-58

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Thanks to the bad weather, New Mexico came up with a huge win over Wyoming to make a statement in the Mountain West race. The offense wasn't great, but it couldn't be in the sloppy conditions and against the UW defense. The run defense shut down the Cowboy running game, and the secondary never allowed the big pass play to turn things around. Now the key will be staying focused at San Diego State, while hoping BYU starts to slip. It's all Mountain West the rest of the way out, and UNM will be a player.

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? ... The run defense did a nice job against BYU, and the secondary kept Max Hall from getting into a groove, but five turnovers ruined any hope of coming up with a win and making a statement in the Mountain West race. With four road games in the next six, this was a win the Lobos desperately needed to have, and while it played well, and Rodney Ferguson was tremendous, the mistakes proved too costly.

Sept. 22
New Mexico 58 ... Sacramento State 0
In a game even uglier than the final score, New Mexico held Sacramento State to 104 yards of total offense, including 27 passing yards, and got four rushing touchdown from Rodney Ferguson to go along with a 24-yard Travis Brown scoring grab. John Sullivan added field goals from 36, 30 and 37 yards. Lobo backup Bryan Clampitt came in and completed all six of his passes for 38 yards with a touchdown pass to Jonathan Brooks.
Player of the game: New Mexico RB Rodney Ferguson ran 18 times for 129 yards and four touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Sacramento State - Passing: Jason Smith, 3-7, 18 yds
Rushing: Travon James, 18-33. Receiving: Phillip Perry, 3-8
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 19-26, 229 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 18-129, 4 TD. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 7-69

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Does New Mexico feel better about itself now? Coming off the big win over Arizona, the Lobos had the layup against Sacramento State, and they took full advantage of the situation by getting all the parts working, and getting the backups some good time in the fourth quarter. The offensive line dominated, and now it needs to continue the momentum into the big game with BYU. If the offense is as balanced as it was this week, the Lobos could actually pull off the win and become a major factor in the Mountain West title race.

Sept. 15
New Mexico 29 ... Arizona 27
In a weird and wild game, New Mexico and Arizona combined for 773 passing yards with three different Wildcat receivers going over the 100-yard mark and the Lobos getting 100-yad days from Marcus Smith and Travis Brown. Arizona held a 13-7 lead late in the first half, when Brown made a 38-yard touchdown grab with three seconds to play, sparking a 21-point run that ended late in the third quarter on a 23-yard Smith scoring grab. The Wildcats kept it close in the fourth on two Mike Thomas touchdown catches to pull within two, but a final chance was snuffed out by an interception. Arizona last two fumbles in the end zone, with both recovered by O.J. Swift.
Player of the game: New Mexico WR Marcus Smith caught 11 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 30-53, 446 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Chris Jennings, 11-41. Receiving: Michael Thomas, 7-127, 2 TD
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 29-41, 327 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 26-94. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 11-164, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Lobo secondary has been ripped apart over the past two weeks, but to be fair, New Mexico State and Arizona throw and throw some more. Even so, the D did a tremendous job against the Arizona running game, and it forced the devastating turnovers when it needed them. The defensive front didn't generate enough pressure, allowing Willie Tuitama way too much time to operate. With BYU coming up soon, the Lobos need to work on getting into the backfield this week against Sacramento State.

Sept. 8
New Mexico 44 ... New Mexico State 34
The two teams traded offensive punches all game long when New Mexico finally broke the game open in the fourth quarter on a one-yard Rodney Ferguson touchdown run. a field goal and a 26-yard Chris Mark touchdown catch gave the Lobos some breathing room, but it was a deflected pass into the hands of Frankie Solomon that sealed NMSU's fate. Chase Holbrook and Chris Williams hooked up for touchdowns from 38, nine and four yards out, while New Mexico kept pace all game long helped by two Donovan Porterie touchdown passes and two Ferguson touchdowns. The two teams combined for 1,077 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: New Mexico QB Donovan Porterie completed 17 of 24 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 47-63, 473 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Tonny Glynn, 10-92. Receiving: Chris Williams, 10-120, 3 TD
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 17-24, 342 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 26-118, 2 TD. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 6-128
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Lobos can exhale now. New Mexico State pushed and pushed and pushed, but the balance of the Lobo offense, and a flawless day from QB Donovan Porterie, were enough to get by in a hard-fought, must-have win. The Lobos need to keep getting big games out of their offensive stars, and the defense has to do even more to create turnovers when Porterie isn't on. This is a talented team that just needs to find some overall consistency game in and game out.

Sept. 1
UTEP 10 ... New Mexico 6
New Mexico outgained UTEP 379 yards to 195, but the Miners got the one big play it had to have with a 36-yard Terrell Jackson touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. The Miner defense held, as hit had all game long allowing  John Sullivan field goals from 20 and 40 yards out. UTEP scored first on the game's opening drive on a 51-yard Jose Martinez field goal.
Player of the game: UTEP S Quintin Demps made 17 tackles with two tackles for loss and broke up a pass
Stat Leaders: UTEP - Passing: Trevor Vittatoe, 6-21, 59 yds
Rushing: Terrell Jackson, 11-70, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeff Moturi, 3-22
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 25-39, 190 yds
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 32-128. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 11-77
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... New Mexico held on to the ball fro 38:23 against UTEP. Outgained the Miners 379 yards to 195, didn't turn the ball over, and got 23 first downs to 12, and still lost. Rodney Ferguson ran relatively well but didn't break off many big runs, while Donovan Porterie was effective from short range. To beat New Mexico State next week, the offense has to start figuring out how to put points on the board in a hurry.

Sept. 1 – at UTEP
Offense: The offense continued to be one-sided finishing fifth in the nation in passing and 116th in rushing, and now things will make a shift back the other way, although not necessarily for the positive. A battle for the quarterback job will continue until the fall, but the running game should be set with Marcus Thomas ready to break out as on of Conference USA's best backs. However, he needs room to move behind a line that has to be night-and-day better than last year when it struggled to pound away.
Defense:
The Miners melted down over the second half of last season and needs to be far more productive with nine starters returning. Don't expect miracles, but unlike previous years, the D should be better as the season goes on. The defense was miserable last season despite getting a consistent pass rush from the front seven. Now the whole line needs to find replacements while the linebacking corps has to hope for Jeremy Jones to be healthy after a knee injury. The secondary should be a strength after a rough year with safeties Quintin Demps and Braxton Amy potential all-stars, while Josh Ferguson is a solid corner.

Sept. 8 - New Mexico State
Offense:
So that's how it's supposed to work? With Chase Holbrook at the helm, the Aggies finished third in the nation in total offense averaging 475 yards a game, 15th in scoring averaging 31 points a game, and second in passing averaging 399 yards per game. Those numbers might seem pedestrian this year if everyone stays healthy. Nine starters return including the top seven pass catchers, starting running back Jeremiah Williams, four linemen, and of course, Holbrook, who'll be one of the nation's statistical leaders all year long if the line, which found the right combination late last year, gives him just a little more time.
Defense: Big plays, big plays, big plays. The call has gone out from defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer for the defense to use all its experience, with eight returning starters (with safety Gerald Gurrier moving to receiver) to find a way to force more turnovers, come up with more stops on third downs, and most importantly, generate a pass rush. The Aggies came up with a mere 15 sacks and 55 tackles for loss last year, and those numbers need to double to give the beleaguered secondary any shot of being better. There isn't a whole bunch of talent from top to bottom, so everyone will have to be ultra-aggressive and more consistent.

Sept. 15 – at 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. 22 – Sacramento State

Sept. 29 - 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.


Oct. 13 – 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.

Oct. 20 – 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. 25 - 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.


Nov. 3 – 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.
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. 11 - 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. 17 – at 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.


Nov. 24 - 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.

 


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