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2007 Connecticut Huskies

Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 Connecticut Huskies Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Connecticut Huskies

Recap: The hands-down surprise of the year in the Big East, Connecticut defied the odds by going 9-4 and winning a share of the league title.  With a win over West Virginia on Nov. 24, the no-frills Huskies would have been the outright champs, earning a BCS bowl berth that was unimaginable just three months earlier.  Connecticut won plenty of games the old-fashioned way, snuffing out opponents with a no-name defense and controlling the clock with talented sophomore backs Andre Dixon and Donald Brown.           

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Donald Brown

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Danny Lansanah

Biggest Surprise: The defense.  Not a whole lot was expected from a unit that lacked star power or high-profile recruits.  Opportunistic and air-tight against the pass, Connecticut allowed just 19 points and 194 yards passing a game behind anonymous players, such as Lansanah, LB Lawrence Wilson, and DE Julius Williams. 

Biggest Disappointment: Connecticut wasn’t supposed to beat West Virginia in Morgantown with so much at stake, but a 66-21 loss robbed the program of earning the national respect that it sorely craves.  After taking a 7-0 lead, the Huskies were never competitive, a stark reminder how far they must travel before measuring up with a team like the Mountaineers. 

Looking Ahead: With so much of last year’s squad, including coveted head coach Randy Edsall, returning in 2008, there’s no reason to believe Connecticut won’t be right back in the bowl hunt again next November.  Unlike this past fall, however, the Huskies won’t be able to sneak up on the rest of the Big East. 

- 2007 UConn Preview
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2006 UConn Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7
2007 Schedule:
9-4

Sept. 1 at Duke W 45-14
Sept. 8 Maine W 38-0
Sept. 15 Temple W 22-17
Sept. 22 at Pitt W 34-14
Sept. 29
Akron W 44-10
Oct. 13 at Virginia L 17-16
Oct. 20 Louisville W 21-17
Oct. 27
South Florida W 22-15
Nov. 3 Rutgers W 38-19
Nov. 10 at Cincinnati L 27-3
Nov. 17 Syracuse W 30-7
Nov. 24 at W Virginia L 66-21
Meineke Car Care Bowl
Dec. 29 Wake Forest L 24-10

Dec. 29
2007 Meineke Car Care Bowl
Wake Forest 24 ... Connecticut 10

Wake Forest gave up a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown to Larry Taylor in the first quarter, and allowed a 29-yard field goal in the second. Then it was all Demon Deacons scoring 24 unanswered points while the defensive shut down the Husky attack. Riley Skinner connected with John Tereshinski for a 20-yard score and Josh Adams tore off a 38-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Sam Swank connected on a 43-yard field goal in the fourth, and Micah Andrews put it away with a nine-yard touchdown run in the final minute. UConn was held to just nine first downs and 213 yards of total offense, while the Demon Deacon had 23 first downs and 412 yards.
Offensive Player of the Game: Wake Forest WR Kenneth Moore made 11 catches for 112 yards, returned four punts for 26 yards, and two kickoffs for 33 yards
Defensive Player of the Game: Wake Forest LB Stanley Arnoux made eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, half a sack, broke up a pass and came up with an interception
Stat Leaders: Wake Forest - Passing: Riley Skinner, 29-38, 268 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Josh Adams, 19-66, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenneth Moore, 11-112
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 13-26, 98 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Donald Brown, 13-72. Receiving: Brad Kanauch, 3-36
Thoughts & Notes ... UConn's defense was solid all season long, and while it forced two turnovers, including a beauty of a hit by Darius Butler to stop a sure touchdown drive, the offense couldn't provide any help. Tyler Lorenzen did the best he could under pressure, but he couldn't make enough plays with his feet, and he struggled to get any consistent offense going. The Huskies simply couldn't get behind, and they did in the second half. ... With 20 wins in the last two years is a lot for anyone, but for Wake Forest, this represents the best era in the school's football history. Jim Grobe continues to be the coach's coach, the one who gets the utmost respect for what he does with less talent than most, but he's had some players over the last few years. Kenneth Moore grew into a top pass catcher, the offensive line has been terrific, and the defense has had a few great college talents here and there. Now the program has expectations, and that's not a bad thing. ... Once the Demon Deacons took control in the second half, never once did it seem like the Huskies had a shot to make a comeback. There were a few chances, and the defense wasn't awful, but the passing game was too off and the ground game didn't provide any pop. Outside of a few big runs, Donald Brown and Andre Dixon never got going.

Nov. 24
West Virginia 66 ... Connecticut 21
Connecticut hung tough for a a half, pulling with in 24-14 on a two-yard Donald Brown run with 20 seconds left. And then West Virginia cranked out 42 straight points highlighted by a 24-yard Pat White touchdown dash, a 25-yard Noel Devine scoring run, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown from Reed Williams. Steve Slaton tore off scoring runs from 31 and three yards out as part of the 517 rushing yards the Mountaineers put up. WVU outgained UConn 624 yards to 392.
Player of the game: West Virginia QB Pat White completed nine of 13 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran 16 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 9-13, 107 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Pat White, 16-186, 2 TD. Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 5-76, 1 TD
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 14-28, 151 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Donald Brown, 22-129, 1 TD. Receiving: Brad Kanuch, 3-63, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... While UConn obviously isn't going to be pleased with getting blasted by West Virginia and losing out on the Big East title, it's hard to argue with a 9-3 season and a chance for a double-digit year with a win in the bowl game. The offense simply isn't equipped to keep up in shootouts, and when the defense isn't coming up with big stops, forget about it. Getting more from the passing game will be addressed in the offseason, but simply getting a good bowl game would be a nice finish to a shocking year.

Nov. 17
Connecticut 30 ... Syracuse 7
Connecticut got up to a 30-0 lead with Tyler Lorenzen connecting with Terence Jeffers for a 63-yard touchdown early in the first and Andre Dixon sand Donald Brown each running for scores. The defense got into the act in the second half with Danny Lansanah picking off a pass and taking it 49 yards for a touchdown. SU finally got on the board with a two-yard Mike Williams catch for its only points of the game. The Huskies finished the year unbeaten at home.
Player of the game: Connecticut RB Donald Brown ran 22 times for 99 yards and a touchdown and caught a pass for 11 yards
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Cameron Dantley, 7-17, 61 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Doug Hogue, 12-65. Receiving: Mike Williams, 6-24, 1 TD
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 16-24, 213 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Donald Brown, 22-99, 1 TD. Receiving: Andre Dixon, 4-40
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Huskies might not be pretty, but they pulled off their wins at home, got to 9-2, and now have a shot to win the Big East title with a victory at West Virginia next week. Of course that's easier said than done, but they're in for a good bowl, and possible the the league's number two bowl slot, but they're still realistically thinking about the championship. To beat the Mountaineers, the offense has to go on long, sustained drives and the defense has to force mistakes. A repeat of the performance against Syracuse would be nice.

Nov. 10
Cincinnati 27 ... Connecticut 3
Cincinnati stuffed Connecticut, holding the vaunted ground game to 22 yards, while Ben Mauk scored on an 11-yard run and threw two short first quarter touchdown passes on the was to the win. Mauk closed out the scoring with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Dominick Goodman early in the fourth quarter, and the UConn offense couldn't respond. The Huskies could only manage a 22-yard Tony Ciravino field goal.
Player of the game: Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk completed 21 of 33 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns, and ran nine times for 12 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 21-33, 276 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Jacob Ramsey, 17-66. Receiving: Dominick Goodman, 8-127, 1 TD
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 18-37, 182 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Andre Dixon, 12-35. Receiving: Andre Dixon, 6-51
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's too harsh to say UConn got exposed by Cincinnati, but the formula didn't work. The Bearcats were more physical, didn't make a slew of mistakes, and stuffed the Husky running game cold. This was a game when Tyler Lorenzen needed to throw his way into the game, and he couldn't do it. He had some decent numbers, but he didn't move the ball well enough to overcome the rest of the team's problems. All isn't lost. If West Virginia can beat Cincinnati next week, UConn is right back in the Big East title hunt with the Mountaineers to close out the year after playing Syracuse.

Nov. 3
Connecticut 38 ... Rutgers 19
Connecticut jumped out to an early 18-3 lead helped by two Tyler Lorenzen touchdown passes and a bad snap for a safety, and then let Donald Brown and the running game take over. The Huskies ran for 256 yards to overcome 343 passing yards from Scarlet Knight QB Mike Teel, while the defense did a good job of not breaking too often, only allowing a four-yard Ray Rice touchdown run and four Jeremy Ito field goals. After the second, Tyvon Branch put the game away with a 97-yard kickoff return for a score. Tony Ciaravino added field goals from 43, 30 and 26 for the Huskies.
Player of the game: Connecticut RB Donald Brown ran 24 times for 154 yards and a touchdown, and caught a pass for four yards.
Stat Leaders: Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 32-52, 343 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Ray Rice, 21-116, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenny Britt, 8-122
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 10-21, 140 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Donald Brown, 24-154, 1 TD. Receiving: Steve Brouse, 4-55, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Somehow, some way, the formula continues to work. The running game is bruising, the defense bends, but doesn't break, and the offense capitalizes on seemingly every little mistake. The offensive line dominated Rutgers, and Donald Brown took advantage. Tyler Lorenzen hardly had a good day throwing the ball, but he did just enough early on to set the tone for the game, and basically put the Scarlet Knights away. If the Huskies can beat Cincinnati, then it'll be 10-1 with a layup against Syracuse to follow. Yes, UConn can be 10-1.

Oct. 27
Connecticut 22 ... South Florida 15
Connecticut took a 16-0 lead with Steve Brouse catching a three-yard touchdown pass and Scott Lutrus picking off a pass for a 23-yard score, and then in the rain and mud, had to hang on for deal life. South Florida roared back in the second half with two Delbert Alvarado field goals and a ten-yard Matt Grothe touchdown run, and then had a chance to win in the final minute getting down to the Husky 12. On fourth and goal, Grothe's final pass was incomplete, and UConn hung on. USF committed ten penalties for 79 yards, while UConn committed six for 39.
Player of the game: Connecticut RB Andre Dixon ran 32 times for 167 yards, and caught three passes for 42 yards
Stat Leaders: South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 16-30, 189 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Matt Grothe, 25-146, 1 TD. Receiving: Jessie Hester, 6-50
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 13-25, 194 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Andre Dixon, 32-167. Receiving: D.J. Hernandez, 3-60

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Now will everyone believe that UConn is for real? Probably not. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, flashy about this team. It runs the ball well, with Andre Dixon having a great day against South Florida, the defense is sound, and it's been able to come up with two great home wins in a row with Rutgers coming to Storrs next week. It would be nice if there was more pop to the passing game, but 8-1 is 8-1. Yes, UConn is four wins away from going to the BCS.

Oct. 20
Connecticut 21 ... Louisville 17
In lousy weather, Connecticut forced three Brian Brohm interceptions and overcame a 17-7 fourth quarter deficit with a seven-yard D.J. Hernandez touchdown catch and a five-yard Andre Dixon scoring run. The Huskies got a big break early in the third quarter, as Larry Taylor waved for the fair catch on a punt, fielded it, and ran 74 yards for a score after the Louisville defenders stopped. It was still ruled a score. The Cardinal offense only managed a two-yard Scott Kuhn touchdown catch and a field goal, with Earl Heyman returning a fumble 32 yards for a score in the fourth. UConn's Scott Lutrus made 18 tackles, and Danny Lansanah made 15.
Player of the game: Connecticut RB Andre Dixon ran 22 times for 115 yards and a touchdown and led the team with three catches for 55 yards
Stat Leaders: Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 9-18, 130 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Andre Dixon, 22-115, 1 TD. Receiving: Andre Dixon, 3-55
Louisville - Passing: Brian Brohm, 29-41, 228 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Brock Bolen, 16-60. Receiving: Gary Barnridge, 8-64
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UConn might not play the prettiest brand of football, and it might not have a consistent enough passing game, but it cranks out productive running backs like they came off an assembly line, and the linebacker play has been phenomenal. Louisville's running game never got going, while there was just enough pressure all game long to hurry Brian Brohm and throw him off his game. Now on top of the Big East standings, the Huskies can start to dream big with South Florida and Rutgers coming to town over the next two weeks.

Oct. 13
Virginia 17 ... Connecticut 16
Virginia  got a 19-yard Chris Gould field goal with just over three minutes to play, and survived a late UConn drive, helped by an errant snap and a false start penalty, to hang on for the win. The Huskies got three Tony Ciaravino field goals and a six-yard Steve Brouse touchdown catch, while Virginia got a one-yard Keith Payne touchdown run and an eight-yard John Phillips scoring grab.
Player of the game: In a losing cause, Connecticut LB Lawrence Wilson made 17 tackles and three tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 14-24, 149 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jameel Sewell, 16-66. Receiving: Chris Gorham, 3-76
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 17-33, 176 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Andre Dixon, 14-63. Receiving:
Terence Jeffers, 5-60
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Huskies had their chances to beat Virginia, but the running game went into the tank, gaining just 78 yards, and the offense blew up on the key late drive that appeared to be almost certain to produce a field goal. As ugly as the game was, and as bad as the loss was, it still was a non-conference loss. The real work is ahead in Big East play, and the Huskies get Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers at home. If the defense plays like it did against Virginia, there Huskies will have a chance to win any or all of those.

Sept. 29
Connecticut 44 ... Akron 10
Connecticut took just over a quarter to wake up, and after getting down 10-9 late in the first half on a six-yard Jabari Arthur touchdown grab, and then things quickly changed as Tyvon Branch took the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a score. The Huskies scored 35 unanswered points with Donald Brown and Lou Allen running for short scores, and Andre Dixon ripping off a 55-yard score, his second touchdown of the game. Tyler Lorenzen threw two touchdown passes.
Player of the game: Connecticut RB Andre Dixon ran for 116 yards and a score on 12 carries, and had four catches for 52 yards and another touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Akron - Passing: Chris Jacquemain, 19-28, 145 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Bryan Williams, 13-65. Receiving: Jabari Arthur, 8-81, 1 TD
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 17-26, 203 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
Andre Dixon, 12-116, 1 TD. Receiving: Andre Dixon, 4-52, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UConn took a while to get going against Akron, committed 11 penalties, only forced one turnover, and struggled on third downs ... and won by 34 over Akron. There might not be a great win to hang a hat on yet, but the defense is playing extremely well against the run and the ground game was stellar. 5-0 is 5-0, with the help coming from several different spots to provide the spark. As long as there's balance, limited mistakes, and good run D, UConn will come up with a win or two over the nasty next few games against Virginia, Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers.

Sept. 22
Connecticut 34 ... Pitt 14
Connecticut's offense wasn't sharp, but it didn't have to be, with the defense forcing six turnovers highlighted by a 51-yard Lawrence Wilson interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.  Danny Lansanah came up with an interception on the third play of the game, and Lou Allen cashed it in with a one-yard touchdown run as part of a 10-0 first quarter lead. Pitt's main highlight came on a 19-yard LeSean McCoy touchdown run early in the second quarter, but the UConn offense went on its two best drives of the day, with Allen and Donald Brown running for short scores, with Allen's one-yard dash coming with 32 seconds to play. A sack forced a fumble, and UConn converted with a 39-yard Tony Ciaravino field goal with no time left on the clock. In the second half, Pitt only managed a 21-yard Oderick Turner touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Connecticut LB Lawrence Wilson made 11 tackles, a tackle for loss, and picked off a pass for a 51-yard touchdown
Stat Leaders: Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 12-25, 174 yds
Rushing:
Donald Brown, 18-53, 1 TD. Receiving: D.J. Hernandez, 3-50
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 27-41, 230 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing:
LeSean McCoy, 11-70, 1 TD. Receiving: Darrell Strong, 6-73

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense continues to struggle, and there's still a concern about a passing game that doesn't seem to be able to get jump-started, but the defense has come through time and again. Pitt's offense couldn't get the running game going, and too many drives were halted with turnovers and third down stops. Credit a Husky defense that has become ball-hawking and occasionally dominant. With Akron up next, it's vital to get more from the offense attack before going to Virginia. There must be more explosion to deal with the start of the Big East season in mid-October.

Sept. 15
Connecticut 22 ... Temple 17
Connecticut got a five-yard Donald Brown touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to take the lead, and then held on for dear life as Temple got the ball down to the Husky 11 in the final moments, but couldn't score. However, it was close, as QB Adam DiMichelle, in the end zone, battled a pass off a flea-flicker to Bruce Francis, but was ruled out of bounds even after a review. The Owls got touchdowns on a 59-yard Francis catch and a 13-yard Jason Harper run, while the Huskies struggled, getting two Brown touchdown runs and three Tony Ciaravino field goals.
Player of the game: Connecticut RB Donald Brown ran for 54 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, while catching one pass for a touchdown..
Stat Leaders: Temple - Passing: Adam DiMichele, 9-18, 143 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jason Harper, 22-114, 1 TD. Receiving: Bruce Francis, 4-84, 1 TD
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 19-29, 222 yds
Rushing:
Andre Dixon, 21-129. Receiving: D.J. Hernandez, 5-58
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's not like the Huskies weren't efficient against Temple; they simply weren't explosive. The defense did a fantastic job for around 55 minutes, and then couldn't come up with the final stop until Temple misfired late. On the plus side, there weren't a slew of mistakes with Tyler Lorenzen throwing the ball well, but to beat Pitt next week, the offensive line will have to do a better job of protecting him. Temple got six sacks, and Pitt should get nearly that many.

Sept. 8
Connecticut 45 ... Duke 14
Duke started off the scoring with a Brandon King six-yard touchdown run to cap off a six-play, 80-yard drive, and held a 14-11 halftime lead as Jabari Marshall returned a kickoff 94 yards for a score following a 27-yard Tony Ciaravino field goal. And then the roof caved in as the Huskies scored 37 unanswered points as Tyler Lorenzen threw two touchdown passes including a 57-yarder to D.J. Hernandez, and Donald Brown tore off a 25-yard touchdown run. Darius Butler capped off a nightmare of a second half for Duke with a 36-yard interception return for a score.
Player of the game: Connecticut QB Tyler Lorenzen completed 22 of 30 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and ran 19 times for 56 yards
Stat Leaders: Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 22-30, 298 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Donald Brown, 19-99, 1 TD. Receiving: Terence Jeffers, 8-92
Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 14-28, 148 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing:
Justin Boyle, 6-31. Receiving: Jomar Wright, 4-31
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
It might have only been against Duke, but Connecticut has to be ecstatic with the play of Tyler Lorenzen, who settled the quarterback issues with a great all-around game, or at least a great all-around second half, while the rest of the running game did whatever it wanted to against the Blue Devils. Defensively, the Huskies stuffed the Duke ground game and forced several bad plays with continuous pressure into the backfield. With tuneups against Maine and Temple coming up, Lorenzen has to keep progressing and has to keep working the ball around. The less running he has to do, the better.

Sept. 1 - Duke
Offense: Eleven starters return to an offense that lived through the growing pains of a youth movement in an attempt to take a giant leap forward. New offensive coordinator Peter Vaas, who comes over from Notre Dame, should help make quarterback Thaddeus Lewis more consistent. Helping the overall cause even more is a veteran line that needs to be far better after doing next to nothing well throughout last year. It'll be tailback by committee with several different options to see carries, while the overall strength will be at receiver with several young, big, good-looking targets for Lewis to use to push the ball deeper.
Defense: The defense is still not going to be a rock, but there's promise with several good young players to revolve around. Top prospects Vince Oghobaase and Ayanga Okpokowuruk are rising stars on the line, while Patrick Bailey is a playmaker who'll be one of the ACC's better pass rushers. Michael Tauiliili is a playmaker at middle linebacker, but the outside linebackers are question marks. Safeties Chris Davis and Adrian Aye-Darko are good, and they'll need to be with major concerns at corner.

Sept. 8 - Maine

Sept. 15 - Temple
Offense: There was a little bit of improvement; the offense averaged 10.92 points per game after averaging 9.73 in 2005. There's plenty of experience and a major infusion of talent at running back and receiver, but can any of them play? The attack will rely on several true freshmen all over the place while praying for a major, major improvement on the offensive line. The quarterback situation is solid with Adam DiMichele and Vaughn Charlton each good enough to start after seeing plenty of time last season. Whatever happens, the offense will average more than a nation's worst 215.67 yards per game.
Defense: The good: The D improved giving up nine fewer yards and four fewer points per game than in 2005. The bad: The Owls were 117th in the nation in total defense and 118th in scoring D. The 2008 version should be tremendous once all the freshmen and sophomores are crusty veterans, but for now, there's good competition at almost every spot with no sure-thing starter. The defensive line should be far better with an instant infusion of talent, while the back seven has potential, especially at linebacker, to make a big jump in production. It would be nice if a true shut-down corner could quickly emerge with the hope that JUCO transfer Tommie Williams will be that guy. Don't expect miracles, but the overall numbers should improve.


Sept. 22 – at Pitt
Offense: The graduation of Tyler Palko leaves a gaping hole on the Panther offense that’ll be filled by either junior Bill Stull or hot-shot rookie Pat Bostick.  Whoever gets the ball will enjoy an outstanding supporting cast that includes junior running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation and the program’s best front wall since Dave Wannstedt arrived.  Wannstedt and Matt Cavanaugh want to establish a more physical ground game, but if the new hurler is up to the challenge, the ensuing balance will make this a very dangerous offense.   
Defense: Last year’s defense had big names, like H.B. Blades and Darrelle Revis, with poor results.  This year’s defense is devoid of stars, but might wind up being statistically better.  The key will be stopping the run, something that vexed the Panthers throughout the second half of the 2006 season.  The difference this fall will be a defensive line that’ll be much deeper than last year, and capable of creating inside-outside pressure with junior tackle Gus Mustakas and senior end Joe Clermond.  Although replacing Revis won’t be a snap, the secondary is busting with potential from future all-Big East players, like sophomores Aaron Berry and Elijah Fields.

Sept. 29 - Akron
Offense: The offense was a major disappointment last season with almost no production from a veteran offensive line and too much of a reliance on the passing game. Now the running game, with a good 1-2 punch of Dennis Kennedy and Andre Walker, should provide more pop, but the the line, with four new starters, has to be far better. The quarterback situation will be unsettled going into the fall with Carlton Jackson, Chris Jaquemain, and Sean Hakes all in the race. The receiving corps is fast and experienced, and now everyone has to play beyond their talent level to help out whoever the new passer will be.
Defense: The 3-3-5 defense of Jim Fleming was excellent last year, and it should be even better with eight starters returning and the right pieces in place. To run this type of defense, you need big linemen. Check. The Zips have 300-pounders in a rotation at tackle and big size at the other two spots. You need playmaking linebackers. Check. Three starters return with excellent depth to rotate in. You also need a secondary to hold it's own. Not a problem. Four starters return in the back five led by veteran corners Reggie Corner and Davanzo Tate.

Oct. 13 – at Virginia
Offense: Until the receivers prove they can play, it'll be run, run and run some more with mobile quarterback Jameel Sewell and decent backs Cedric Peerman and Keith Payne working behind a much improved, veteran line. The tight ends are excellent, but the receiving corps suffered a nasty blow when it lost leading receiver Kevin Ogletree with a knee injury. Now it'll be up to Sewell, a rising star but an inconsistent passer, to make everyone around him better. Don't expect anything flashy for a while.
Defense: Somewhat quietly, the Virginia defense had a terrific year finishing 17th in the nation in total D and 22nd in scoring D. It should be even better with ten starters returning, including top linemen Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald to anchor the front three. All four starting linebackers are back to form a solid group that doesn't make a whole bunch of mistakes. This might not be the most athletic defense, but it's aggressive and is always around the ball.

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

Oct. 27 - South Florida
Offense: This is Matt Grothe’s offense, but unlike last season, he shouldn’t have to do everything short of crafting the weekly gameplan in order to make the unit hum.  Although he led the offense in passing, rushing and scoring, the program realizes it needs to protect its most important commodity and give him more support.  Can freshman Mike Ford live up to the hype?  Plenty is expected from a back that should ignite a rushing attack that did little in 2006 when Grothe wasn’t slithering through opposing defenses.  Originally headed to Tuscaloosa, he’s the highest-profile recruit to ever sign with USF.  The Bull receivers are a dynamic bunch that’s loaded with size, speed and underachievers that need to get their act together.
Defense: Like all teams from Florida, the USF defense pursues well and is built on speed.  Wally Burnham’s unit is well-coached, prevents the big play and is vastly underappreciated and unnoticed on a national level.  That could change if the Bulls crack the top 10 in total defense in 2007, a distinct possibility.  Next level corners Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins allow the defense to sell out on occasion, and the front four, led by sophomore rush end George Selvie, returns seven linemen that started games in 2006.  Importing defensive line coach Dan McCarney and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie from Iowa State were coups that’ll pay immediate dividends.

Nov. 3 - Rutgers
Offense: Although Rutgers is more than content to pound the ball between the tackles 30 times a game with All-America running back Ray Rice, it wouldn’t mind a little more offensive balance this year.  Whether that happens depends on the development of junior quarterback Mike Teel who struggled badly last year, but did play his best ball at the end of the year and has a speedy group of receivers needed to author a rebound.  While question marks exist on the interior of the offensive line, the tackle tandem of seniors Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah is one of the best in the country.
Defense: For Greg Schiano and his Rutgers defense, it’s all about creating pressure and turnovers with a variety of different looks to confuse opposing offenses.  Everything came together last year for a unit that had 31 takeaways and allowed just 252 yards and 14 points a game, but five starters need to be replaced.  Senior defensive tackle Eric Foster is a ticking time bomb that exploded on quarterbacks in 2006, en route to All-America recognition.  He’s the physical and spiritual leader of a front seven that’s noticeably less experienced than last year.  Provided sophomore Devin McCourty can handle the corner spot opposite twin brother Jason, the secondary will rock with the return of all-league safeties, Courtney Greene and Ron Girault.

Nov. 10 – at Cincinnati
Offense: Take whatever you knew about last year’s Cincy offense and delete it.  Nothing will be the same, as Brian Kelly and his staff dismantle Mark Dantonio’s plodding run game in favor of a fancy spread attack.  There’ll be growing pains, to be sure, but by mid-season, there should also be improvement if a consistent quarterback, such as Wake Forest transfer Ben Mauk, develops and the line adjusts to a zone blocking scheme.  A receiving corps that’s led by juniors Derrick Stewart, Dominick Goodman and Connor Barwin has a chance to blow up in the new system.
Defense: That Bearcat defense, which was so stingy a year ago, returns almost virtually intact.  The unit is small, but very quick from sideline to sideline, and prone to swarming anyone with the ball in his hands.  It all starts up front with a line that welcomes back four players with starting experience, including its figurehead, junior tackle Terrill Byrd.  Junior cornerback Mike Mickens is one of the best unknown cornerbacks in the country and the kind of defender that can shut down the opposition’s No. 1 receiver.  While the offense takes time to adjust to a new system, the defense is going to keep Cincy in plenty of games.


Nov. 17 - Syracuse
Offense: The pieces are there among the skill players for a night-and-day improvement from last year’s putrid attack that cranked out a mere 264 yards and 17.4 points per game. The receiving cops, helped by the return of Taj Smith from injury, should be one of the best in the Big East, while Curtis Brinkley is a good back to work around. Sophomore QB Andrew Robinson is a star in the making, but he’ll have a hard time with his consistency behind an offensive line that needs work even with three starters returning in the interior.
Defense: It might take a little while, but the D will improve as the season goes on, it struggled in every area but getting into the backfield, and with a strong defensive line returning, led be end Jameel McClain, generating pressure won’t be much of a problem. The linebacking corps will be a work in progress with three news starters, but the excellent safety tandem of Dowayne Davis and Joe Fields should clean up plenty of messes.


Nov. 24 – at West Virginia
Offense: Unlike most schools that run the spread offense, West Virginia aims to open lanes for its prolific ground game, rarely putting the ball in the air more than 20 times a game.  The Mountaineers want the ball in the hands of its two junior Heisman candidates, quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton.  Along with receiver Darius Reynaud, they form the fastest offensive trio in America, and are threats for six with even a hint of daylight.  White is an underrated passer that rarely misses his target, but needs more help from a receiving corps that’s suspect after Reynaud.  Few schools rebuild on the offensive line better than West Virginia, but how will the unit react without its long-time quarterback Dan Mozes and long-time coach Rick Trickett?
Defense: Lost in all the yards the Mountaineer offense gained in 2006 was all the yards the defense allowed.  West Virginia allowed 35 or more points three times last fall and was torched through the air repeatedly over the second half of the year.  Worse, this once relentless defense had trouble getting to the quarterback and looked a step slow.  Rich Rodriguez is banking on a few tweaks to the back eight and an influx of faster players as the solutions in the team’s 3-3-5 stack formation.  Led by playmaking senior safety Eric Wicks, the secondary has a glut of really talented athletes that need to gel into a cohesive unit.

 

 

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