2007 West Virginia Mountaineers

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 West Virginia Mountaineers Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 West Virginia Mountaineers

Recap: In the 33 days between Dec. 1 and Jan.2, the West Virginia program aged about 33 years.  During that brief time span, the Mountaineers bumbled a chance to play for a national title, lost head coach Rich Rodriguez, sued Rodriguez to collect a $4 million buyout, shocked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and hired an assistant that no one expected to succeed Coach Rod.  Exhale.  Oh yeah, West Virginia got to Glendale by winning the Big East title for the second time in three years, despite dropping a couple of games in league play.    

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Pat White

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Johnny Dingle

Biggest Surprise: The defense.  A disappointment in 2006, defensive coordinator did a magnificent job with this group, molding a more athletic unit that led the league in scoring and rushing defense, and collected a ton of turnovers and plays for minus yardage.

Biggest Disappointment: In what was likely the most deflating loss in school history, West Virginia inexcusably lost to Pittsburgh, a four-touchdown underdog, with a spot in the BCS Championship game hanging in the balance.  White sat out most of the game with an injured hand, but no one was making excuses after the Mountaineers fell to their bitter rival, 13-9, in the regular season finale.

Looking Ahead: If new head coach and life-long assistant Bill Stewart is going to be exposed, it might not happen until 2009.  With White and RB Steve Slaton back for one final year in Morgantown, West Virginia will be favored to win the Big East and be right back in a BCS bowl game next January.

- 2007 WVU Preview
2006 WVU Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 10-

Sept. 1 Western Mich W 62-24
Sept. 8 at Marshall W 48-23
Sept. 13 at Maryland W 31-14
Sept. 22 East Carolina W 48-7
Sept. 28 at South Florida L 21-13
Oct. 6 at Syracuse W 55-14
Oct. 20 Mississippi St W 38-13
Oct. 27 at Rutgers W 31-3
Nov. 8
Louisville W 38-31
Nov. 17 at Cincinnati W 28-23
Nov. 24 Connecticut W 66-21
Dec. 1 Pitt L 13-9
Fiesta Bowl
Jan. 2 Oklahoma W 48-28

Jan. 2
2008 Fiesta Bowl
West Virginia 48 ... Oklahoma 28

In the stunner of the bowl season, West Virginia ran for 349 yards with home run after home run. Up 6-3, the Mountaineers got a 57-yard touchdown run from Owen Schmitt in the second quarter, and the passing game helped out with Pat White hitting a wide open Darius Reynaud with a 21-yard touchdown pass and later on a 79-yard strike to Tito Gonzalez. Reynaud ran for a 30-yard touchdown dash late in the third quarter, and Noel Devine tore off scoring runs from 17 and 65 yards. Oklahoma had a few chances to get in the game, but rarely took advantage of its opportunities. A one-yard Chris Brown touchdown run midway through the third quarter got the Sooners within five, but Sam Bradford misfired on a two-point conversion attempt, an onside kick attempt was recovered by West Virginia, and the Mountaineers opened the game up from there going 39 yards in six plays culminating in Devine's first scoring dash.
Offensive Player of the Game: West Virginia QB Pat White completed 10 of 19 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns and ran 20 times for 150 yards
Defensive Player of the Game: West Virginia LB Reed Williams made nine tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and forced a fumble
Stat Leaders: Oklahoma - Passing: Sam Bradford, 21-33, 242 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Allen Patrick, 14-82. Receiving: Juaquin Iglesias, 8-43, 1 TD
West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 10-19, 176 yds, 2 TD
Pat White, 20-150. Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 5-42, 1 TD

Thoughts & Notes ...
5 Thoughts on the Fiesta Bowl ... Fiesta Bowl Stream of Consciousness Quarter By Quarter Game Notes ...Penalties played a huge role. West Virginia committed eight for 110 yards, but OU didn't take full advantage. 13 Sooner sins accounted for 113 yards with several killing promising drives and kick returns. ... Oklahoma looked stunningly unprepared. West Virginia executed perfectly for a full sixty minutes, but OU time and again overran plays, were out of position, and made big mistakes. ... West Virginia wasn't able to maintain the same effectiveness in the pass rush for a full sixty minutes, but it dominated early on and came up with the key hits on Sam Bradford when it had to. ... OU's Curtis Lofton had one of the emptiest 15 tackle games you'll ever see. ... West Virginia averaged 8.9 yards per carry. Let that sink in for a moment.

Dec. 1
Pitt 13 ... West Virginia 9
In an all-time stunner that ruined West Virginia's national title dream, Pitt got two Conor Lee field goals and a one-yard Pat Bostick touchdown run for all the points it would need. The defense held the high powered Mountaineer attack to 183 yards and just 104 on the ground. Pat White suffered a dislocated thumb, was in street clothes for a little while, and then came back into the game late. The Mountaineers had their chances, but two missed field goals early, and a throw out of the end zone on a desperation fourth down on their final play, helped the Panthers pull it off. Pitt held on to the ball for 36:19.
Player of the game: Pitt RB LeSean McCoy ran 38 times for 148 yards
Stat Leaders: West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 5-10, 50 yds
Rushing: Pat White, 14-41. Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 3-46
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 10-19, 67 yds, 2 INT
LeSean McCoy, 38-148. Receiving: Oderick Turner, 3-29
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Pat White, heroics and all with the dislocated thumb, had an awful game against the Panthers, making several wrong reads in key situations and not coming up with the efficient passing he's been able to display all season long. It wasn't all his fault by a long shot. Steve Slaton didn't show up with a mere 11 yards on nine carries, and the rest of the offense failed to pick up the slack. This was a tight-as-a-drum performance from a group of speedy offensive stars who'll be kicking themselves for the rest of their lives. They had their chances and didn't come through.

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
Donald Brown, 22-129, 1 TD. Receiving: Brad Kanuch, 3-63, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... You think West Virginia knows it's in the national title chase? After a relatively sluggish first half, the machine was firing on all cylinders with the ground game showing off its breathtaking speed and variety. Steve Slaton looked like Steve Slaton again, especially on his 31-yard scoring dash, where he cranked out the breakaway speed and giddyup that seemed to be missing for a few weeks. Don't choke against Pitt, play for the national title. It's that simple.

Nov. 17
West Virginia 28 ... Cincinnati 23
West Virginia ran for 295 yards and got out to a 28-10 lead in the fourth quarter on two short touchdown runs from Pat White, a one-yard Steve Slaton run, and a four-yard Owen Schmitt touchdown, but the secondary struggled with Marcus Barnett, who finished with 210 yards and touchdown catches from 70 and 13 yards out. Bradley Glatthaar pulled the Bearcats within five on a one-yard run with 2:26 to play, the two point conversion failed, but the Mountaineers were able to run out the clock. WVU hung on to the ball for 36:21.
Player of the game: West Virginia QB Pat White completed 13 of 19 passes for 140 yards and an interception, and ran 27 times for 155 yards and two scores.
Stat Leaders: West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 13-19, 140 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Pat White, 27-155, 2 TD. Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 6-29
Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 19-34, 323 yds, 2 TD
Ben Mauk, 15-52. Receiving: Marcus Barnett, 10-210, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... West Virginia is certainly making life harder than it should be. It had Cincinnati beaten, but late fumbles made it interesting. With style points important right now, the Mountaineers have to do a better job of blowing teams away just to make sure they're not going to be lapped by Ohio State, or possibly Arizona State, if there's a debate. The defense needs to start proving again that all the great numbers didn't just come because of average competition. This really is a national title-good team, but it has to start showing that to the world.

Nov. 8
West Virginia 38 ... Louisville 31
An ugly game with 18 penalties, seven turnovers, and horrible all yellow West Virginia uniforms was all but ended on a beautiful 50-yard Pat White touchdown run with 1:36 to play. White got the team out to an early 14-0 lead with two touchdown passes to Darius Reynaud, and got up 31-14 late in the third quarter on a 44-yard John Holmes fumble recovery for a score. But Louisville would come back with a two-yard Brock Bolen touchdown run, a 12-yard Mario Urrutia scoring grab, and a 37-yard Art Carmody field goal to tie it. And then White went to work going 65 yards in four plays for the win. Louisville's final drive was snuffed with a Hail Mary interception, but Brian Brohm had a brilliant game throwing for 345 yards, scoring on a one-yard touchdown run, and throwing two touchdown passes.
Player of the game: West Virginia QB Pat White completed 16 of 25 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns and ran 24 times for 147 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Louisville - Passing: Brian Brohm, 27-46, 345 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: George Stripling, 12-23. Receiving: George Stripling, 8-106
West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 16-25, 181 yds, 2 TD
Pat White, 24-147, 1 TD. Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 6-79, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Pat White was beaten up, battered, and momentarily knocked out by Louisville, but he got his head cleared in time to save West Virginia's national title hopes, and his Heisman chances, by running for a late touchdown that could be the team's signature moment if it goes on to win the Big East title. As sloppy as the game was, with three turnovers and 11 penalties, many of them bad, it was still a huge win. Now the team has to figure out how to get Steve Slaton going. He was fine, but he wasn't his special self, looking a half-step slow, for him, without his same burst. 

Oct. 27
West Virginia 31 ... Rutgers 3
West Virginia's defense gave up a 183 rushing yards and a big day to Ray Rice, but it forced four turnovers and only allowed just a 39-yard Jeremy Ito field goal. The Mountaineer offense was another story, getting two short Steve Slaton touchdown runs and a 38-yarder, along with a one-yard Pat White scoring run. West Virginia ran for 254 yards and converted 11 of 18 third down chances.
Player of the game: West Virginia LB Reed Williams made 13 tackles
Stat Leaders: West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 10-16, 144 yds
Rushing: Pat White, 22-156, 1 TD. Receiving: Dorrell Jalloh, 4-44
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 14-30, 128 yds, 2 INT
Ray Rice, 20-142. Receiving:
Tiquan Underwood, 7-59
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Mountaineers are rolling, and it's from more than just the running game. The defense continues to be terrific, stopping the Rutgers offense, for the most part, and forcing four turnovers. Now on a three game winning streak going into the Louisville game, the key will be to continue to keep everything going as is. There's no reason they can't win the final four games of the year as long as Pat White stays healthy, and as long as the defense continues to be stingy when it comes to giving up big plays.

Oct. 20
West Virginia 38 ... Mississippi State 13
West Virginia rolled for 262 rushing yards, betting 64 of them right off the bat with a Pat White touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. The Mountaineers pounded away for a 28-0 first quarter lead helped by a 12-yard Owen Schmitt run, a ten-yard Darius Reynaud dash, and a 26-yard Steve Slaton run. Down 31-0, MSU finally got on the board with a one-yard Anthony Dixon run. Reynaud caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jarrett Brown to complete the blowout.
Player of the game: West Virginia QB Pat White completed eight of 12 passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and ran five times for 89 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 8-12, 61 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Steve Slaton, 23-127, 1 TD. Receiving: Steve Slaton, 4-36
Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 18-35, 169 yds
Anthony Dixon, 20-61, 1 TD. Receiving: Tony Burks, 6-41

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... If Pat White isn't 100% healthy, he sure looked the part against Mississippi State. The Mountaineer attack is back to being the Mountaineer attack over the last two games, and while most of the nation remembers the South Florida loss, the offense has made a statement. MSU supposedly can play a little bit of defense, this is a team that beat Auburn at Auburn, and the Mountaineers won without having to break much of a sweat. The more Jarrett Brown can get meaningful work to keep White on the bench and rested, the better, but there might not be too many chances for him to get in with all the big boys from the Big East up next.

Oct. 6
West Virginia 55 ... Syracuse 14
With a balanced attack, West Virginia rolled for 486 yards and the easy win, getting up 31-7 at halftime and continuing a run of 334 straight points through the third quarter. Pat White threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Darius Reynaud and ran for a one-yard score before leaving with an injury, and Owen Schmitt barreled in for two short touchdowns. The Mountaineer defense also got in the act with a 19-yard Kellen Dykes interception return for a score. The Orange only gained 202 yards with most coming on a 61-yard Mike Williams touchdown late in the third quarter.
Player of the game: West Virginia QB Pat White completed 12 of 15 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown, and ran 14 times for 89 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 5-15, 100 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Curtis Brinkley, 18-50, 1 TD. Receiving: Mike Williams, 2-72, 1 TD
West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 12-15, 148 yds, 1 TD  
Pat White, 14-89, 1 TD. Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 6-48, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Chalk one up to the West Virginia defense. Considered a relative weak link compared to the offense, the D shut down Syracuse, outside of one big pass play, and even came up with a pick six of its own. That the Mountaineers rolled to such an easy win with Pat White missing part of the game hurt, and Steve Slaton not having a Steve Slaton game, shows once again just how many weapons the team had. Now the team gets two weeks off before facing Mississippi State, giving White time to get healthy.

Sept. 28
South Florida 21 ... West Virginia 13
The USF defense stuffed West Virginia's running game, and started off the scoring when LB Ben Moffitt picked off a Pat White pass for a 26-yard touchdown, in the seminal win in the young program's history. The Bulls took a 14-0 lead in the first half on a 55-yard Carlton Mitchell touchdown catch, and padded the lead on the opening drive of the second half, finishing with a 19-yard Jamar Taylor rushing score. The Mountaineer offense only managed two Pat McAfee field goals until late. With Pat White out with a leg injury, Jarrett Brown had to take over the West Virginia offense, and he came through with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Darius Reynaud with just under six minutes to play. The Mountaineers had one final shot, but Brown couldn't connect on a fourth down pass to keep the final drive going, and USF was able to run out the clock. The two teams combined for ten turnovers.
Player of the game ... South Florida LB Ben Moffitt made eight tackles, two tackles for loss, broke up a pass, and picked off two passes, taking one for a touchdown
Stat Leaders: West Virginia - Passing: Jarrett Brown, 11-20, 149 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Steve Slaton, 13-54  Receiving: Dorrell Jalloh, 5-87
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 9-17, 120 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Jamar Taylor, 15-58, 1 TD  Receiving: Benjamin Williams, 3-23

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... All the college football world will be talking about South Florida, but lost in the discussion will be just how close West Virginia was to pulling off a big comeback. The offense wasn't working, but the defense, outside of a big pass play and the opening drive of the second half, was fine. With everything going against them, the Mountaineers found a way to stay alive, thanks to a possible breakthrough performance from Jarrett Brown. Everyone already knew he could play, but the way he kept the game alive showed just how special he could be. It's a long Big East season. The national title dream is gone, but WVU wins out, it'll end up playing in the BCS.

Sept. 22
West Virginia 48 ... East Carolina 7
West Virginia rolled to 48 straight points before ECU finally got on the board with a two-yard Chris Johnson touchdown run in the final minute. Pat White ran for a 13-yard score and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Darius Reynaud, and Steve Slaton ran for a one-yard score, on the way to a 27-0 halftime lead. White and Reynaud hooked up again in the third quarter to a 14-yard touchdown, and then White ran for a four-yard score. East Carolina managed just 160 yards of total offense.
Player of the game ... West Virginia QB Pat White completed 18 of 20 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns, and ran nine times for 44 yards and two scores
Stat Leaders: East Carolina - Passing: Pat Pinkney, 7-14, 43 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Chris Johnson, 14-75, 1 TD  Receiving: Chris Johnson, 14-75, 1 TD
West Virginia - Passing: Patrick White, 18-20, 181 yds, 2 TD
Steve Slaton, 18-108, 1 TD  Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 5-54, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Oh sure, everyone knows about the WVU offense, but now the defense is crushing and killing. No, East Carolina doesn't have much of an offense, but the Mountaineers did what they're supposed to do in a game like this and shut things down. Pat White, again, was beyond brilliant, hitting every throw needed to keep thing moving early on, and being efficient with his running. If the lines play this well next week, the Mountaineers won't have a problem with South Florida.

Sept. 13
West Virginia 31 ... Maryland 14
West Virginia rolled for 353 rushing yards and broke open a 7-7 game with a 24-point run on three Steve Slaton touchdown runs and a 32-yard Pat McAfee field goal. The Mountaineers started off the scoring with a 22-yard Pat White touchdown, but Maryland answered with a long drive culminating in a four-yard Keon Lattimore scoring run. The Terps added a 22-yard Danny Oquendo touchdown catch late in the fourth.
Player of the game ... West Virginia RB/WR Noel Devine ran five times for 136 yards and returned two kickoffs for 52 yards
Stat Leaders: Maryland - Passing: Jordan Steffy, 16-23, 180 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Keon Lattimore, 21-80, 1 TD  Receiving: Keon Lattimore, 4-17
West Virginia - Passing: Patrick White, 8-13, 95 yds
Steve Slaton, 26-137, 3 TD  Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 4-55

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... America, welcome to Noel Devine. As if the Mountaineers didn't have enough big playmakers in Steve Slaton, Pat White and Darius Reynaud, now defenses will have to worry about Devine, who showed next-level quickness and breakaway ability against Maryland. To make it happen, the offensive line opened up mile-wide holes for the speedsters to blow through. The line had its best game of the year, and the running game worked exactly like it was supposed to against a speedy, athletic defense like Maryland's.

Sept. 8
West Virginia 48 ... Marshall 23
West Virginia was shut down in the first half as Marshall held a 13-6 lead helped by a 38-yard Darius Passmore touchdown catch, and then the Mountaineer offense turned things up a notch. Darius Reynaud caught his second touchdown pass of the day on a 23-yard play, Pat White ran for a 20-yard score, and Steve Slaton and Noel Devine each ran for two scores in a 42 point second half. Marshall  stayed alive on a 42-yard Cody Slate touchdown catch, but a 21-0 Mountaineer run in the fourth quarter put it away.
Player of the game ... West Virginia QB Pat White completed 13 of 18 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns and ran 18 times for 125 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Marshall - Passing: Bernard Morris, 19-29, 256 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Darius Marshall, 11-81  Receiving: Cody Slate, 5-82, 1 TD
West Virginia - Passing: Patrick White, 13-18, 149 yds, 2 TD
Steve Slaton, 24-146, 2 TD  Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 8-126, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Much will be made about how West Virginia has started slowly over the last two weeks against two mediocre teams. Western Michigan stopped the Mountaineer running game cold in the first quarter, and Marshall stuffed the attack for a half. Both games were blowouts. Give credit to the coaching staff for not panicking, making the proper adjustments, and letting the talent work itself out. Remember, USC has made a living off of roaring in the second half, and it appears this Mountaineer team will work the same way.

Sept. 1
West Virginia 62 ... Western Michigan 24
Western Michigan shut down the West Virginia running game was shut down ... in the first quarter. The Mountaineers only gained 16 on the ground in the first frame, but still had a 14-7 lead as Pat White threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Dorrell Jalloh and combined with Steve Slaton on a 50-yard score. Eventually, everything worked as usual for the Mountaineers, who finished with 316 rushing yards and turned the jets on with White tearing off a brilliant 38-yard run and Slaton scoring on two one-yard runs to go along with a 58-yard dash. Western Michigan stayed around for a half on the first of two Jamarko Simmons touchdown catches and a two-yard Tim Hiller run, but the defense couldn't slow down the WVU machine.
Player of the game ... West Virginia RB Steve Slaton ran 16 times for 109 yards and three touchdowns and caught two passes for 61 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Western Michigan- Passing: Tim Hiller, 16-25, 160 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing: Glenis Thompson, 8-23  Receiving: Jamarko Simmons, 14-144-2
West Virginia - Passing: Patrick White, 10-18, 192 yds, 2 TDs
Steve Slaton, 16-109, 3 TDs  Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 5-92

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Let the first quarter of the blowout over Western Michigan serve notice. You can put everyone and the waterboy on the line to stop the Mountaineer running game, and it'll work. However, Pat White will make the plays through the air to rip apart your secondary. White and Slaton were White and Slaton against the Broncos, showing why they're two of the elite players in America with big play after big play. The defense was fine against a good WMU offensive attack, but the real test will come two games down the line against Maryland. By then, everything should be in place.

Sept. 1 - Western Michigan
Offense: The parts are there, and now the production has to come. The offensive line, led by center Robbie Krutilla and three other starters, will be one of the best in the MAC, and it should give the quarterback all the time in the world. Now the question is who that'll be. Thomas Peregrin and Tim Hiller will each likely see time this year, and either one can be a star. The receiving corps will be serviceable, and it needs tight end Branden Ledbetter to grow into an even more prominent target, and has to hope several speedy newcomers can play right away, for more pop. Mark Bonds is a steady 1,000-yard back who'll combine with Brandon West for a nice 1-2 punch. Everything's in place. There's no excuse for the attack to be as average as it was last year.
Offense: It's not a big D, but it's very quick, very disruptive, and very good. After a big year, the MAC's number one defense gets eight starters back. The line will get in the backfield early and often with the return of Zach Davidson and big-play tackles Nick Varcadipane and Cory Flom. The secondary is loaded with speed and experience with all four starters returning after helping the D pick off 24 passes. The big concern is at outside linebacker after losing Ameer Ismail and Paul Tithof, but Austin Pritchard is a rising star and Dustin Duclo is good in the middle.

Sept. 8 – at Marshall

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

Sept. 13 – at Maryland
Offense: It's all there for the Terps to be steady, explosive and very, very productive as long as everyone plays as well as they should. This will be one of the four best offenses in the league as long as injuries don't strike up front. The line is full of veterans and should be a rock, but there's no depth. The receiving corps might be the fastest in the ACC and Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore form a tremendous 1-2 rushing punch. It's all there for a big season, but that's what everyone said last year and the Terps were merely average.
The defense didn't exactly work last season, but it didn't seem to matter. No one stopped the run, the secondary was average, there weren't enough takeaways, and the 3-4 that was supposed to generate a serious pass rush wasn't even close. The Terps still won nine games helped be the defense coming through when it absolutely had to. This year's group won't be so fortunate and has to be better. The defensive line should be better with end Jeremy Navarre and tackle Dre Moore good enough to hope for All-ACC honors. Erin Henderson leads an athletic linebacking corps that needs experience, but should be good in time. The secondary is a concern, especially the corners hoping for Isaiah Gardner to become a shut-down defender after returning from a shoulder injury.

Sept. 22 - East Carolina
Offense: Skip Holtz likes to spread the field out and turn his quarterback loose, but with the battery of James Pinkney and Aundrae Allison gone, the Pirates will put more emphasis on the ground game.  That means extra carries this year for versatile senior Chris Johnson and his young understudies, Dominique Lindsay and Norman Whitley.  While strong-armed sophomore Rob Kass will replace Pinkney behind center, an adequate replacement for Allison will be much tougher to find.  Look for the quarterback to utilize a group of tight ends that has the potential to be as good as any in Conference USA.  For ECU to improve on last season's weak offensive output, the veteran line needs to give Kass an extra second or two in the pocket and create more daylight for the backs.        
Defense: If the Pirate defensive line doesn't outright dominate at times this season, heads will roll at the end of the year.  There's way too much talent and depth on this unit for it not to make a quantum leap from 2006.  Junior end Marcus Hands, in particular, has the size and quickness to be special after underachieving last fall.  Penetration up front figures to help a secondary that's easily the weak link of this defense.  Three starters, including both corners, need to be replaced from a group that was one of the underrated team strengths for the past two seasons.

Sept. 29 – at South Florida
Offense: This is Matt Grothe's offense, but unlike last season, he shouldn't have to do everything short of crafting the weekly gameplan in order to make the unit hum.  Although he led the offense in passing, rushing and scoring, the program realizes it needs to protect its most important commodity and give him more support.  Can freshman Mike Ford live up to the hype?  Plenty is expected from a back that should ignite a rushing attack that did little in 2006 when Grothe wasn't slithering through opposing defenses.  Originally headed to Tuscaloosa, he's the highest-profile recruit to ever sign with USF.  The Bull receivers are a dynamic bunch that's loaded with size, speed and underachievers that need to get their act together.
Defense: Like all teams from Florida, the USF defense pursues well and is built on speed.  Wally Burnham's unit is well-coached, prevents the big play and is vastly underappreciated and unnoticed on a national level.  That could change if the Bulls crack the top 10 in total defense in 2007, a distinct possibility.  Next level corners Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins allow the defense to sell out on occasion, and the front four, led by sophomore rush end George Selvie, returns seven linemen that started games in 2006.  Importing defensive line coach Dan McCarney and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie from Iowa State were coups that'll pay immediate dividends.

Oct. 6 – at Syracuse

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

Oct. 20 - Mississippi State
Offense: It might not be saying much, but this should be the best offense yet under Sylvester Croom. The line gets four starters back, with the fifth spot occupied by Mike Brown, a starter late in the year and the best blocker up front. The receiving corps is easily the deepest area on the offense with good talent and a world of upside, but QB Michael Henig has to stay healthy and get them the ball consistently. Anthony Dixon is an All-SEC caliber running back, and true freshman Robert Elliott should become a fantastic backup. The overall depth is lacking, so injury problems could be disastrous.
Defense: The whole will be better than the parts. The Bulldogs couldn't hold down the better offensive teams last year, and things might not be better right off the bat with tremendous concerns all over the place after losing six key starters. There's plenty of speed and athleticism, but this is a young, inexperienced defense that'll have to force more turnovers and do a much better job of getting to the quarterback. End Titus Brown and defensive back Derek Pegues are All-SEC talents who have to be disruptive forces from day one. The line needs more pass rushers, the linebacking corps has to do more against the pass, and the secondary is relying on green corners so Pegues can play safety.

Oct. 27 – at Rutgers
Offense: Although Rutgers is more than content to pound the ball between the tackles 30 times a game with All-America running back Ray Rice, it wouldn't mind a little more offensive balance this year.  Whether that happens depends on the development of junior quarterback Mike Teel who struggled badly last year, but did play his best ball at the end of the year and has a speedy group of receivers needed to author a rebound.  While question marks exist on the interior of the offensive line, the tackle tandem of seniors Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah is one of the best in the country.
Defense: For Greg Schiano and his Rutgers defense, it's all about creating pressure and turnovers with a variety of different looks to confuse opposing offenses.  Everything came together last year for a unit that had 31 takeaways and allowed just 252 yards and 14 points a game, but five starters need to be replaced.  Senior defensive tackle Eric Foster is a ticking time bomb that exploded on quarterbacks in 2006, en route to All-America recognition.  He's the physical and spiritual leader of a front seven that's noticeably less experienced than last year.  Provided sophomore Devin McCourty can handle the corner spot opposite twin brother Jason, the secondary will rock with the return of all-league safeties, Courtney Greene and Ron Girault.

Nov. 8 - 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.

Nov. 17 – 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. 24 - Connecticut
Offense: For two years running, the Husky offense has been painfully inept, particularly in the passing game.  Tyler Lorenzen was recruited from the ranks of the junior colleges to specifically address that vertical shortcoming.  His arrival pushed D.J. Hernandez to slot receiver and set up a heated competition with sophomore Dennis Brown that'll resume in August.  While quarterback is a question mark, running back is not.  Sophomore Donald Brown exploded on to the scene in 2006 with almost 700 yards and five scores in a torrid five-game stretch to finish the season.  With a bunch of linemen back, he's poised for a monster season in an offense that still uses the run to set up the pass.
Defense: The bend-but-don't-break Huskies snapped like a toothpick in 2006.  The main culprit was a run defense that couldn't slow down anyone not named Rhode Island.  Things don't get any easier this year, as the unit will be looking for ways to replace both of last year's starting tackles.  Uh-oh.  Led by senior linebacker Danny Lansanah and junior corner Darius Butler, the back seven will be picking up a lot of the slack on Saturdays.  Expect the pass rush that produced only 11 sacks in the final eight games to get a spark from the returns of junior Cody Brown and sophomore Lindsey Witten, disruptive ends that'll be on the line together for the first time in September.

Dec. 1 - 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.


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