2007 Boise State Broncos

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Boise State Broncos Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Boise State Broncos

Recap: The darlings of college football a season ago, Boise State was forced to take a WAC seat to Sugar Bowl-bound Hawaii in 2007.  The Broncos reeled off nine straight wins after losing at Washington on Sept. 8, but finished with back-to-back losses at Aloha Stadium, a 39-27 loss to the Warriors for the league title and a 41-38 loss to East Carolina in the Hawaii Bowl.  During the winning streak, Boise State scored more than 50 points four times, largely due to the crisp passing of senior Taylor Tharp, who did a nice job as a one-year stop-gap after Jared Zabransky graduated.              

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Taylor Tharp

Defensive Player of the Year: S Marty Tadman

Biggest Surprise: WR Jeremy Childs.  The Bronco staff knew Childs had potential, but few expected it to reach the surface this early in his career.  The sophomore set a school record with 82 catches for 1,045 yards and nine touchdowns, despite skipping the bowl game for disciplinary reasons. 

Biggest Disappointment: The Bronco defense, so solid for more than two months, came apart at the end of the season, allowing Hawaii to rally for a conference-clinching win and East Carolina to pile up 476 yards in the bowl game.  Pirate RB Chris Johnson treated the Boise State defenders like mannequins, zipping past them for a bowl-record 408 all-purpose yards.  

Looking Ahead: Who replaces Tharp at quarterback? Senior Bush Hamdan, junior Nick Lomax, sophomore Mike Coughlin, and redshirt freshman Kellen Moore will duke it out beginning this spring.  The program already received good news when it survived another December without losing coveted head coach Chris Peterson to another school.

- 2007 Boise St Preview
- 2006 Boise St Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record: 10-3

Aug. 30 Weber State W 56-7
Sept. 8 at Washington L 24-10
Sept. 15
Wyoming W 24-14
Sept. 27 So Miss W 38-16
Oct. 7 NMSU W 58-0
Oct. 14 Nevada W 69-67 4OT
Oct. 20 at La Tech W 45-31
Oct. 26 at Fresno St W 34-21
Nov. 3 San Jose State W 42-7
Nov. 10 at Utah State W 52-0
Nov. 17 Idaho W 58-14
Nov. 23 at Hawaii L 39-27
Hawaii Bowl
Dec. 23 East Carolina L 41-38

Dec. 23
2007 Hawaii Bowl
East Carolina 41 ... Boise State 38

East Carolina avoided a huge collapse with a 44-yard drive in six plays finishing up with a 34-yard Ben Hartman field goal with no time left on the clock. Pirate RB Chris Johnson set the NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a bowl while scoring from 68 yards out on a first quarter run and caught an 18-yard scoring pass in the second. Down 38-14, and without star RB Ian Johnson, who was knocked out with an ankle injury, Boise State came roaring back with 24 straight points helped by a 25-yard Jeremy Avery touchdown catch, a one-yard D.J. Harper scoring run, and on a 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Marty Tadman with 1:25 to play after Chris Johnson put it on the turf. Dominique Lindsay scored on two three-yard touchdown runs in the second quarter. ECU outgained Boise State 322 yards to 98 on the ground.
Offensive Player of the Game: East Carolina RB Chris Johnson ran 28 times for 223 yards and a touchdown, caught three passes for 32 yards and a score, and returned six kickoffs for 153 yards. He set the NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a bowl with 408 yards
Defensive Player of the Game: Boise State S Marty Tadman made ten tackles and recovered a fumble for a 47-yard touchdown
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 30-44, 270 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jeremy Avery, 10-69. Receiving: Austin Pettis, 9-89
East Carolina - Passing: Pat Pinkney, 12-19, 118 yds, 1 TD
Chris Johnson, 28-223, 1 TD. Receiving: Jamar Bryant, 6-78
Thoughts & Notes ... Did Boise State start to believe its own hype? After everyone picking the Broncos to walk past East Carolina, the Hawaii Bowl turned out to be a shocker early on as the Pirates and Chris Johnson came out roaring. This appeared to be a fully focused ECU team, but once Boise State settled down, it showed a little of the magic expected with the fantastic comeback. In the end, this wasn't the same Bronco defense as it was in past years, getting shoved around way too easily up front. ... The loss of Ian Johnson to an ankle problem isn't an excuse for Boise's loss, but with the offense already reeling after not having burgeoning star receiver Jeremy Childs, who was out for violating team rules, the team struggled to find a go-to playmaker. Taylor Tharp started to play well late, but he's not the type of quarterback who could carry the offense by himself. ... Lost in the heroics of a last-second field goal for the ECU win, and the wild fourth quarter, was a tremendous day from both punters. ECU's Matt Dodge put it in the end zone four times, but he showed great blast averaging 43.1 yards on seven kicks. Boise State's Kyle Brotzman averaged 42.2 yards on four boots.

Nov. 23
Hawaii 39 ... Boise State 27
Colt Brennan took advantage of a banged up Boise State secondary to hit Jason Rivers from seven yards out and C.J. Hawthorne on a brilliant 38-yard throw to push the Warriors ahead in the third quarter on the way to the WAC title. Boise State started off the scoring with a 50-yard Ian Johnson run, answered a Brennan one-yard touchdown run with a Johnson one-yard touchdown, and got a six-yard scoring catch from Richie Brockel, but couldn't get the offense going in the fourth quarter. Davone Bess caught 15 passes for the Warriors with touchdown catches from 23 and 22 yards out. Solomon Elimimian made 14 tackles for Hawaii with ten solo stops.
Player of the game: Hawaii QB Colt Brennan completed 40 of 53 passes for 495 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions, and ran nine times for 18 yards and a touchdown. Davone Bess caught 15 passes for 181 yards and a two scores
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 22-36, 231 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Ian Johnson, 22-86, 2 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 8-102
Hawaii - Passing: Colt Brennan, 40-53, 495 yds, 5 TD, 2 INT
Kealoha Pilares, 9-48. Receiving: Davone Bess, 15-181, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... While it can't necessarily be used as an excuse since the offense didn't do its part in the fourth quarter against Hawaii, injuries in the secondary proved to be deadly. The Warrior offense is tough enough to deal with without losing defensive backs. Taylor Tharp was fine, but considering the running game wasn't working, he didn't have the special game needed to pull off the road win. Ian Johnson couldn't get on track after a big early touchdown run, and Hawaii's defense seemed to control way too much of the game from the first quarter on.

Nov. 17
Boise State 58 ... Idaho 14
Idaho hung around for about 29 minutes with touchdown runs from Deonte Jackson and Eddie Williams making it 17-14 Boise State, and then the roof caved in. Austin Pettis caught the first of three touchdown passes with 25 seconds to play to spark a run of 41 unanswered points with Titus Young catching a 58-yard scoring pass, Ian Johnson running it in from 15 yards out, and Jeremy Childs taking a Bush Hamdan pass 71 yards for a score. The Broncos ended up outgaining Idaho 556 to 348.
Player of the game: Boise State QB Taylor Tharp completed 22 of 31 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns, and ran eight times for 30 yards.
Stat Leaders: Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 8-23, 182 yds
Rushing: Denote Jackson, 24-84, 1 TD. Receiving: Deonte Jackson, 3-53
Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 22-31, 282 yds, 4 TD
Ian Johnson, 21-108, 2 TD. Receiving: Austin Pettis, 8-139, 3 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's good that Boise State can turn it on whenever it wants to and beat a bad team like Idaho without a problem. It took a little too long to put the game away, but there's no arguing with a 44 point win. And now it's on to the task at hand and dealing with Hawaii in the WAC game of the year. The offense is certainly coming into the showdown hot, and it's going to have to be operating at peak efficiency to pull it off and get to the BCS (maybe).

Nov. 10
Boise State 52 ... Utah State 0
Boise State crushed the Aggies with a near-perfect day from QB Taylor Tharp, a blocked punt return for a score from Ia Falo, and Titus Young touchdown runs from eight, nine and 38 yards out. Utah State never had a chance, turning the ball over four times and only gaining 236 yards of total offense. Ian Johnson ran for 110 yards and a 15-yard score.
Player of the game: Boise State QB Taylor Tharp completed 26 of 29 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 26-29, 283 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Ian Johnson, 19-110, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 7-70
Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 7-15, 95
Jase McCormick, 5-32. Receiving: Rob Myers, 5-66 

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Boise State did exactly what a good team is supposed to against a team like Utah State and put it away early and never had to sweat. This was a near-perfect day with Taylor Tharp able to play catch with his receivers thanks to a ton of time to work, while the running game rumbled effectively enough to take the pressure off the passing game. Now the momentum has to keep on rolling with a Idaho up next before the showdown against Hawaii. With the way the Broncos are playing, the backups should be ready for playing time.

Nov. 3
Boise State 42 ... San Jose State 7
Boise State blew the game wide open in the second quarter with a 44-yard touchdown catch from Ryan Putnam, the first of two Austin Pettis touchdown catches, and a 37-yard Jeremy Avery scoring dash, and Ian Johnson put it away in the second half with two short scoring runs. San Jose State managed just a four-yard Kevin Jurovich touchdown catch in the second quarter before the Broncos went on a 28-point runs. Boise State committed ten penalties, San Jose State didn't commit any.
Player of the game: Boise State QB Taylor Tharp completed 28 of 35 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: San Jose State - Passing: Adam Tafralis, 11-19, 77 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Jacob French, 10-37. Receiving: Jalal Beauchman, 4-33
Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 28-35, 259 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jeremy Avery, 7-56, 1 TD. Receiving: Austin Pettis, 7-54, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Boise State keeps on rolling, getting the running game controlling things one week, getting Taylor Tharp and the passing game going the next. San Jose State was never in the game, with the Bronco defenses stuffing early drives and not letting the running game go anywhere. The ten penalties were a bit excessive, but that's the only knock on a near-perfect performance. Now the goal will be to maintain focus in layups against against Utah State and Idaho before the showdown against Hawaii.

Oct. 26
Boise State 34 ... Fresno State 21
Boise State pounded away for 282 rushing yards with Jeremy Avery tearing off scoring runs from 24, 10 and 13 yards out yards out, with the final score capping off a 24-0 run that Fresno State couldn't match. The Bulldogs to a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown from Clifton Smith and a 21-yard touchdown catch from Clifton Smith and a 21-yard scoring catch from Marlon Moore, but it wasn't nearly enough to overcome the BSU running game. BSU converted ten of 18 third down conversion chances, while Fresno State converted just one of 13.
Player of the game: Boise State RB Jeremy Avery ran 18 times for 124 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 18-29, 158 yds
Rushing: D.J. Harper, 19-159, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 9-82
Fresno State - Passing: Tom Brandstater, 21-39, 263 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Clifton Smith, 5-65. Receiving:
Marlon Moore, 6-79, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about picking up the slack, Ian Johnson suffers a bruised kidney and Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper pick up the slack, and then some. Give credit to the offensive line against Fresno State for making the holes for the Avery and Harper to run through, while the backs did a great job of finishing off their runs and keeping the chains moving. The defense might not have been a rock. but on the road in one of the WAC's most hostile environments, it was good enough.

Oct. 20
Boise State 45 ... Louisiana Tech 31
In yet another Boise State shootout, the Broncos came up with 465 yards to Louisiana Tech's 463, but the defense came up with four turnovers and Taylor Tharp threw five touchdown passes. Without an injured Ian Johnson, it was up to Tharp to carry the offense, and he came through in the second half, breaking open a 24-24 game with touchdown passes to Jeremy Childs from 83 and 27 yards out, and an eight-yard Austin Pettis score. The Bulldogs had their moments with Daniel Porter tearing off a 74-yard run and Patrick Jackson scoring twice in the first half. In all, there were seven scores from 20 or more yards away.
Player of the game: Boise State QB Taylor Tharp completed 21 of 35 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 21-35, 328 yds, 5 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jeremy Avery, 21-110, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 7-143, 2 TD
Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 24-42, 255 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Daniel Porter, 13-131, 1 TD. Receiving: Phillip Livas, 5-50

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Uh, defense? It's one thing to get into a shootout with Nevada, but to struggle to slow down Louisiana Tech is another. Without Ian Johnson, who's out with a kidney injury, it'll be up to Jeremy Avery to provide the consistent spark on the ground against Fresno State, but for now, it's all on a defense that has to start tackling better, and Taylor Tharp, who did plenty of good things against Tech, but also threw two picks.

Oct. 14
Boise State 69 ... Nevada 67 4OT
In the highest scoring game in recent D-I college football history (going back to 1930 when the official records starting being kept), Boise State won in the fourth overtime on a defensive play, Nevada tried for a two point conversion after a seven-yard Luke Lippencott touchdown run, but QB Colin Kaepernick was tripped up. Boise State forced overtime with a 27-yard Kyle Brotzman field goal as time ran out, and that's when the fun began. Lippencott ran for a 25-yard score, and then Boise answered with a 25-yard Sherm Blaser catch on its first play. Jeremy Childs gave the Broncos the lead on a 25-yard Jeremy Childs score on the next play, and then the Pack answered with a weaving Kaepernick 25-yard touchdown run. The two teams traded field goals in the third OT, and then Boise took the lead for good on a one-yard Ian Johnson run and a Jeremy Avery catch on the two point conversion. The statistics are ridiculous. 1,266 total yards of offense, 58 first downs.21 of 34 on third down conversions. Nevada averaged 7.6 yards per carry and 22.1 yards per completion, while Boise State cranked out 353 passing yards.
Player of the game: Boise State RB Ian Johnson ran 28 times for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and caught four passes for 51 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 26-35, 320 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Ian Johnson, 28-205, 2 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 12-140, 1 TD
Nevada - Passing: Colin Kaepernick, 11-26, 243 yds, 3 TD
Luke Lippincott, 31-187 yds, 4 TD. Receiving: Marko Mitchell, 4-161, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Boise State can breathe a sigh of relief after beating Nevada in one of the wildest games ever, and now the coaching staff can go to work trying to revamp the defense after it couldn't tackle the Luke Lippincott or Colin Kaepernick. Taylor Tharp had a third straight great game to take the pressure off of Ian Johnson, while the offense came through with every play needed to pull it off. Now it's time to hit the road with three away games in the next four, including the showdown with Fresno State.

Oct. 7
Boise State 58 ... New Mexico State 0
Boise State dominated, outgained the Aggies 604 yards to 89, with Jeremy Childs catching touchdown passes from nine, 24, and 33 yards away, Ian Johnson running for a six-yard score, and Taylor Tharp throwing for four scores, including an 18-yard pass to Ryan Putnam and a 50-yard play to Titus Young. Aggie star QB Chase Holbrook started, but was too injured to last more than a drive.
Player of the game: Boise State WR Jeremy Childs caught six passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 19-26, 251 yds, 4 TDs
Rushing: Ian Johnson, 17-85, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 6-102, 3 TD
New Mexico State - Passing: J.J. McDermott, 10-19, 57 yds, 2 INT
J. Williams, 3-8. Receiving: Chris Johnson, 4-32

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Even though most of the world was watching the Bears vs. the Packers, Boise State once against proved how unbelievable it is when at home with the national spotlight on. Everything worked on both sides of the ball against New Mexico State, with QB Taylor Tharp having his best game yet, and Ian Johnson cranking out yards in chunks with both his running and receiving. The team is starting to hum at just the right time.

Sept. 27
Boise State 38 ... Southern Miss 16
It was the Ian Johnson show, as the Bronco running back ripped off touchdown runs from 12, 22 and two yards out, and Southern Miss didn't have an answer. Down 28-3 late in the first half, the Eagles appeared to take the momentum with a one-yard Damion Fletcher touchdown run in the final minute, and then marched on a 75-yard drive to open the second half, with a 23-yard touchdown catch from Shawn Nelson. But the extra point hit the upright, and nothing else went right from there. The Broncos started off the scoring with two Taylor Tharp touchdown passes in the first quarter.
Player of the game: Boise State RB Ian Johnson ran 22 times for 111 yards and three touchdowns and caught three passes for 80 yards
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 19-27, 307 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Ian Johnson, 22-111, 3 TD. Receiving: Ian Johnson, 3-80
Southern Miss - Passing: Jeremy Young 13-23, 190 yds, 1 TD
Damion Fletcher, 21-83, 1 TD. Receiving: Chris Johnson, 5-71

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... When the national spotlight is on, Boise State is always tremendous. Against Southern Miss, the Bronco offensive line dominated throughout, while Ian Johnson made things happen as a receiver and a runner, slipping through Eagles for a big game that'll put him back on the Heisman map. While Johnson's performance helped pad Taylor Tharp's stats, this was still a strong day for the passing game. As long as the O line plays like it did, ripping through the WAC won't be a problem.

Sept. 15
Boise State 24 ... Wyoming 14
Boise State got out to a 21-0 lead on two Taylor Tharp touchdown passes and an eight-yard D.J. Harper run, but it was a struggle. Wyoming kept the Bronco offense in check, for the most part, but Boise State's defense swarmed, allowing just 35 rushing yards. The Cowboys got on the board with a 21-yard Devin Moore catch midway through the fourth, but it was too late. Wynel Seldon added a two-yard touchdown run in the final minute.
Player of the game: Boise State QB Taylor Tharp completed 15 of 30 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 15-30, 182 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Ian Johnson, 24-83. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 4-88, 1 TD
Wyoming - Passing: Karsten Sween, 26-48, 227 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Devin Moore, 8-27. Receiving: Greg Bolling, 6-59

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Wyoming is a dangerous team with a nasty defense, and Boise State did a nice job of bouncing back from the Washington loss with an effective, tough defensive performance of its own. The Wyoming running game didn't go anywhere, and the passing attack didn't get the chains moving until it was too late. Most might look at the box score and assume the Bronco offense isn't what it used to be, and it isn't, but it's effective, holding on to the ball for 19 minutes in the second half, and outside of one fumble, mistake free. Chalk this up to the Broncos doing what they had to do in a grinding win over a good team.

Sept. 8
Washington 24 .. Boise State 10
Washington ended Boise State's 14-game winning streak as Jake Locker ran for a six-yard score and connected with Marcel Reece for a 58-yard touchdowns. The Huskies took a 14-0 lead when RB Louis Rankin hit Quintin Demps for a 16-yard score, but Boise State responded :20 later with a one-yard Taylor Tharp scoring run. The Broncos wouldn't get in the end zone again, and neither team was able to score in the second half. BSU RB Ian Johnson's streak of seven straight 100-yard games was halted as he was held to 81 yards.
Player of the game: Washington QB Jake Locker finished 13-of-25 for 193 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while rushing 16 times for 84 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Boise State
- Passing: Taylor Tharp, 29-47, 285 yds, 3 INTs
Rushing: Ian Johnson, 20-81. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 9-94
- Passing: Jake Locker, 13-25, 193 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jake Locker, 16-84, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcel Reece, 4-102, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Boise State can beat most teams straight up, but it can't afford to make mistakes against teams that now take the game seriously. BSU is a name game now, meaning teams like Washington will bring their A games. Four turnovers, nine penalties, and not doing much on third downs isn't going to get it done, especially when the offense is sputtering. Taylor Tharp made too many mistakes and not enough big plays to take advantage of all the chances the Huskies provided.

Aug. 30
Boise State 56 ... Weber State 7
Boise State exploded for 49 first half points helped by Ian Johnson touchdown runs from one, 54, and five yards out and a 53-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Tharp to Titus Young. WR Vinny Perretta started off the scoring on a five-yard dash after lining up at quarterback, and Jeremy Avery closed the Boise State fun with scoring runs from seven and three yards out. Weber State got its only points on a 21-yard Bryant Eteuati catch after getting down 56-0.
Player of the game: Boise State RB Ian Johnson ran 18 times for 129 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Weber State - Passing: Jimmy Barnes, 9-23, 67 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Trevyn Smith, 19-76. Receiving: Bryant Eteuati, 6-51, 1 TD
Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 14-19, 184 yds, 1 TD
Ian Johnson, 18-129, 3 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 5-61
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Forgetting that it was a ridiculously overmatched Weber State team Boise State got to play around with, there were some great signs in the season opener. Taylor Tharp was impressive in his first game as the main man under center, and Jeremy Avery was a bolt of lightning in relieve of Ian Johnson. The machine just keeps on rolling, but now comes the big test against Washington on the road. Tharp has to remain poised, and the offensive line has to continue to dominate and give Johnson and Avery just a sliver of daylight.

Aug. 30 – Weber State

Sept. 8 – at Washington
Offense: All eyes in Seattle will be fixed on the debut of hot-shot rookie quarterback Jake Locker, but if there's one priority for Tyrone Willingham in 2007, it's to get more consistent on the ground.  Conservative by Pac-10 doctrine, the third-year coach wants to pound it between the tackles to set up the pass.  Top back Louis Rankin is more of an outside runner, putting the onus on 210-pound sophomore J.R. Hasty to start realizing his vast potential.  While Locker has all the tools for stardom, he'll spend most of the upcoming season adapting to his new role as the face of the program.  His big-play target will be senior Marcel Reece, a Mike Walker clone poised to make a salary run.
Even with a slight improvement in 2006, the Husky pass defense ranked among the nation's worst for the second straight year.  With no stars and two new starters, expect more of the same in 2007.  The problems in the secondary will again overshadow a sneaky good front seven that features four returning starters on the defensive line and a group of young, dynamic linebackers, including sophomores E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler that could evolve into playmakers.  Defensive ends Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te'o Nesheim are a couple of warriors that combined for two dozen tackles for loss last fall.  At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Gunheim runs like a gazelle, making him a magnet for NFL scouts visiting the Northwest.

Sept. 15 - 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.

Sept. 27 - Southern Miss
Offense: While it's become fashionable for programs across the country to switch to some fancy derivative of the spread offense, Southern Miss is content to pound the ball on the ground, control the clock and let its defense win games.  Sure, the Eagles prefer balance, but in Hattiesburg, the run continues to set up the pass.  Last year's league-leading rusher, sophomore Damion Fletcher, is back for an encore, and this time, he brought friends.  Southern Miss is deep in the backfield, which will take pressure off versatile, yet erratic, senior quarterback Jeremy Young.  His favorite target will again be tight end Shawn Nelson, a future pro with All-America potential.  For a change, there are restless moments about an offensive line that's replacing three starters, two of which were First Team All-Conference USA in 2006.
Defense: The "Nasty Bunch" defense that's become the trademark of Southern Miss football under Jeff Bower should be one of the nation's top ranked units in 2007.  It's fast and experienced, and if Bower gets his way, about to become as physical as his vintage teams of the late 1990s.  The Eagles return nine starters, including the entire front seven and five players that earned all-Conference USA recognition in 2006.  Good luck moving the ball on this veteran group.  If there's a weak link on defense it's in the secondary, where two new starting corners will be broken in.  One way to help rookies Eddie Willingham and Michael McGee will be to get more pressure on the quarterback than last year, when USM was No. 81 in the country in sacks.

Oct. 7 - New Mexico State
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.

Oct. 14 - Nevada
Offense: The offense is going to be a work in progress and should be far better midseason than it will be to start. The biggest question marks are on the offensive line, particularly at tackle, after Charles Manu moved to guard and Dominic Green move to center. The receiving corps is big, faster than last year, and should make more big plays with big-armed Nick Graziano taking over at quarterback. The running backs need Brandon Fragger to be healthy to add a speed option along with Luke Lippencott. The Pistol offense will likely use a little more fullback this year, and will try to push the passing game deeper.
Defense: There will be some new defensive coaches taking over with coordinator Ken Wilson keeping the 3-4 scheme to take advantage of the great linebackers. Ezra Butler, Jeremy Engstrom, and Joshua Mauga are as good as any trio in the WAC, and will be the team's strength. The line is solid, helped by the emergence of nose tackle Matt Hines as a top all-around playmaker. The secondary is fine, but nothing special; the better WAC passing games won't have a problem against it.

Oct. 20 – at Louisiana Tech
Defense: 2006 was expected to be a year of transition, but yeesh. The D was the worst in America allowing 483 yards and close to 42 points per game, and it was simply awful from start to finish. Step one for the new coaching staff is to find a way to get into the backfield after the Bulldogs finished dead last in sacks and tackles for loss, and it'll alternated between a 3-4 and a 4-3 to try to get some production. The linebacking corps should be decent, the secondary can fly, and the defensive line is full of decent-sized veterans. Now there has to be come semblance of production.
Offense: It's not like the offense was awful last year, but it wasn't consistent and it didn't do enough to keep in all the shootouts created by its defense. Enough talent returns to look for more overall production, especially in the running game where Patrick Jackson should shine behind a big, veteran offensive line that can block, but can't pass protect. The quarterback situation will be worth watching with Zac Champion likely to get the job to start the season, but will be pushed by Michael Mosley and Ross Jenkins for time.

Oct. 26 – at Fresno State
Offense: New offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will pump some life into a stagnant passing game with a wide-open attack featuring some funky, multi-receiver formations while not running quite as much. Call it playing to the strengths, as the receiving corps is lightning fast, but untested, while Tom Brandstater, who struggled mightily last year, is still a talent who appears ready to make a big jump and become a major player. The running game will suffer without Dwayne Wright, but Lonyae Wright and Clifton Smith should be decent. The line is the strength of the team with four starters returning to a group that allowed just 12 sacks.
Defense: After a tremendous 2005 season when the defense dominated, last year was a step back, especially in the secondary. Enough overall experience returns to be better, but the line has to do more to get into the backfield and the corners have to pick off more passes after taking away just three. There's plenty of speed and athleticism in the linebacking corps to swarm to the ball, and there's size and pass rushing ability from the front four, but there have to be more big plays and more takeaways.

Nov. 3 - San Jose State
Offense: The offense wasn't always explosive, but it was steady, didn't give the ball away, kept the chains moving, and got the job done. Expect more of the same if the offensive line can quickly replace three starters and the new recruits for the receiving corps can play right away. The passing game loses the top three targets and 141 of 181 catches, so ultra-efficient QB Adam Tafralis has to be even better. Yonus Davis leads a small, quick, veteran group of running backs that can take it the distance with a little bit of room.
Defense: The Spartan defense took a giant leap forward giving up yards, but not a whole bunch of points allowing fewer than 24 in ten of the final 11 games. Seven starters are back from the ball-hawking crew led by tackling machine Matt Castelo at middle linebacker and corners Dwight Lowery and Christopher Owens. The defensive front has to do a better overall job, and it will now that it's experienced after cutting its teeth last season. Jarron Gilbert and Justin Cole will be pass rushing terrors. Expect this group to give up plenty of yards, but also come up with more than its share of takeaways.

Nov. 10 - at Utah State
Offense: The offense did next to nothing last season scoring fewer than 14 points seven times and finishing averaging 10.83 points and 254 yards per game. The offensive line isn't bad and the starting receivers, led by Kevin Robinson, are solid, but the quarterback situation isn't settled with Riley Nelson out on a church mission, and there's no experience whatsoever at running back after Marcus Cross transferred. Basically, the attack needs to find one thing it can do well.
If experience counts for anything, the Aggies should be far better with 11 returning starters and a ton of veteran backups ready to fill in. Now the defense has to stop someone after getting ripped apart by just about everyone. How bad did things get? The Aggies allowed an average of 48.8 points per game over the final five games. Ben Calderwood leads an undersized line that has to do more to get into the backfield. The corners are way too small, the linebackers are way too small, and the tackles are way too small. If the overall team quickness isn't accounting for big plays, there will be problems.

Nov. 17 - Idaho
Offense: Same idea, different implementation. The new coaching staff will go with a one-back set using four and five-wide formations, sort of like the old coaching staff did, but there will be an even bigger emphasis on tough running. That's a good thing with the strength in the running back corps with four good players, led by junior Jayson Bird, to carry the offense early on. The quarterback situation will be settled this fall with the likely winner being 6-5 redshirt freshman Nathan Enderle, but the receiving corps is going to be a work in progress well into the season. The starting five up front should be fine due to its experience, but it's nothing special. 
Defense: There's experience and all-star talent to work with, so why was the Vandal defense so miserable last season? The line. The front four has to find tackles that can stop the run, and ends that can get into the backfield. If that happens, there could be a night-and-day improvement as the coaching staff looks to attack, attack, and attack some more. With MLB JoArtis Ratti back and healthy, he should combine with David Vobora to create the WAC's most dangerous linebacking duo. Corner Stanley Franks is an interception machine, and safety Shiloh Keo is an undersized hitter. Now everything has to start working around those four.

Nov. 23 – at Hawaii       
Offense: Everything worked last year as Colt Brennan and the offense exploded for a nation-leading 559 yards and 46.86 points per game. While Brennan is back, after flirting with the idea of turning pro early, along with star receivers Davone Bess, Jason Rivers and Ryan Grice-Mullen, the line isn't remotely as good as last year's and the running game will desperately miss Nate Ilaoa. David Farmer has to add the run to the run and shoot, or else Brennan won't be nearly as effective. Even so, expect video game numbers out of the nation's best passing attack.
With defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville gone, Greg McMackin will change the D from a 3-4 to a 4-3, even though the one weak spot, at least early on, is experience on the line. The linebackers will be excellent with good depth behind top tacklers Adam Leonard and Solomon Elimimian, and they won't have to do  as much compared to last year with a more conservative, though not that much, overall defensive approach. Three starters return to a secondary that needs to be far tighter and far more clutch in big situations.



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