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2007 Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Recap: Although the Scarlet Knights didn’t win the Big East title that they crave, eight wins and a second straight bowl victory were still building blocks for a program that’s just a couple years removed from being a laughingstock.  Rutgers was tough to get a read on all year, finishing fifth in a league of nine teams, yet beating South Florida when it was No. 2 in the country, and thrashing Ball State in the International Bowl.  RB Ray Rice solidified his spot as one of the greatest players in school history, rushing for 2,012 yards and scoring 25 touchdowns to top an outstanding sophomore season.         

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Ray Rice

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Eric Foster

Biggest Surprise: It’s hard to imagine today, but South Florida looked borderline invincible when it descended upon New Jersey on Oct. 18.  The Scarlet Knights ended the Bulls’ brief plans for a national championship with a second-half rally and some gutsy play-calling from Greg Schiano.

Biggest Disappointment: Back-to-back home losses to Maryland and Cincinnati following a cushy non-conference got Rutgers booted from the Top 25, drastically changing expectations for the program.  Losing to the Terps was especially difficult because the Knights got manhandled by a school that played most of the game with a backup quarterback.       

Looking Ahead: Whether Rutgers is a contender for a BCS bowl game or another second-tier postseason game depends on Rice’s decision about his future.  If he declares early for the NFL Draft, the 2008 team belongs to QB Mike Teel, who made strides as a junior and will be welcoming back 1,000-yard receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood.

- 2007 Rutgers Preview
- 2006 Rutgers Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 10-2
2007 Record: 8-5

Aug. 30 Buffalo W 38-3
Sept. 7 Navy W 41-24
Sept. 15 Norfolk State W 59-0
Sept. 29 Maryland L 34-24
Oct. 6 Cincinnati L 28-23
Oct. 13 at Syracuse W 38-14
Oct. 18 South Florida W 30-27
Oct. 27 West Virginia L 31-3
Nov. 3 at Connecticut L 38-19
Nov. 9 at Army W 41-6
Nov. 17 Pitt W 20-16
Nov. 29 at Louisville L 41-38
International Bowl
Jan. 5 Ball State W 52-30

Jan. 5
2008 International Bowl
Rutgers 52 ... Ball State 30

Ray Rice ran for 280 yards and four scores highlighted by a 90-yard scoring dash on the third play in the second half to give Rutgers a 31-9 lead. Ball State kept the pressure on with Nate Davis and the passing game, with two fourth quarter touchdown passes to Darius Hill and a ten-yard scoring toss to Dante Love, but balanced Scarlet Knight offense proved to be too much to overcome. Along with the big dash, Rice also scored three times for one yard out, but it was the passing attack that made it a blowout with Mike Teel starting off the game with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Tim Brown on the opening drive, and putting it away with a 47-yard strike to Kenny Britt late in the fourth. Rutgers rolled up 595 yards of total offense, 292 on the ground and 303 through the air, while Ball State amassed 460 total yards.
Offensive Player of the Game: Rutgers RB Ray Rice ran 35 times for 280 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Game: Rutgers S Courtney Greene made ten tackles and broke up a pass
Stat Leaders: Ball State
- Passing: Nate Davis, 25-49, 291 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Chris Clancy, 12-98. Receiving: Dante Love, 13-169, 1 TD
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 16-25, 303 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Ray Rice, 35-280, 4 TD. Receiving: Kenny Britt, 6-125, 1 TD

Thoughts & Notes ...
It was a more entertaining game than it'll be remembered for. Ray Rice made a great final statement showing he belongs in the 2008 NFL Draft, while Nate Davis had a fantastic day throwing the ball under tremendous pressure throughout. Even though Rutgers had command from the beginning, there was a moment or two in the second half when it looked like the Cardinals had a shot to turn it around. ... Rice was the star of the game, but Mike Teel was terrific. He was on the mark most of the day, and he threw a beautiful, perfect ball to Kenny Britt to seal the win. ... Rutgers came up with six sacks, Ball State one. The Cardinals didn't have the defensive line to hold up against the solid Rutgers offensive front. ... The Scarlet Knights appeared to care from the beginning. This was an overmatched Ball State team, but Rutgers never played like it.

Nov. 29
Louisville 41 ... Rutgers 38
Louisville scored 17 unanswered points over the final 13 minutes of the game, capped off by a 33-yard Art Carmody field goal with 20 seconds to play. Brock Bolen ran for two short scores in the second half, and Bilal Powell ran for an 18-yard touchdown to storm back after the Scarlet Knights appeared to be cruising to the win. Ray Rice scored from ten, 14 and six yards out, and Kenny Britt caught touchdown passes from 35 and 39 yards out. But Brian Brohm, who was sacked five times, connected with Patrick Carter on a 52-yard pass play with just 11 seconds left in the first half, and he ran for a six-yard score, to keep his Cardinals alive, and then he was led the team on every key drive in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Louisville QB Brian Brohm completed 12 of 22 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown, and ran for a score
Stat Leaders: Louisville - Passing: Brian Brohm, 12-22, 237 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Brock Bolen, 13-117, 2 TD. Receiving: Gary Barnidge, 6-65
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 21-32, 265 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Ray Rice, 30-120, 3 TD. Receiving:
Kenny Britt, 12-173, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Rutgers got 120 yards and three scores against Louisville, a great day from Mike Teel, and the defense his Brian Brohm early and often. It still lost. No, don't blame this at all on complacency after accepting the International Bowl bid earlier in the day. The Scarlet Knights had this won after three quarters and got beat by the resiliency of Brohm. In the end, this give Greg Schiano and the coaching staff a nice chance to rail on the team for a few weeks to get them ready for the bowl.

Nov. 17
Rutgers 20 ... Pitt 16
Rutgers got a 30-yard Jeremy Ito field goal, his second of the game, midway through the fourth quarter, and it turned out to make all the different as Pitt had a chance late, but Pat Bostick was picked off by Devin McCourty in the end zone. Mike Teel connected with Kenny Britt for a 53-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and Ray Rice ran for a 28-yard score in the second for 17-10 Rutgers lead with Pitt only managing two of Conor Lee's three field goals in the second half. The two teams combined for eight sacks.
Player of the game: In the loss, Pitt LB Scott McKillop made 16 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2. 5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, an interception and two broken up passes.
Stat Leaders: Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 3-9, 98 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Ray Rice, 26-112, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenny Britt, 3-82, 1 TD
Pitt - Passing: Kevan Smith, 7-11, 81 yds
Rushing:
LeSean McCoy, 22-60. Receiving:
T.J. Porter, 4-44
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The win over Pitt isn't exactly one that'll be saved for the vault. Mike Teel was obviously banged up as he completed just three of nine passes with two interceptions. Ray Rice was the offense yet again, and the defense was terrific, but Rutgers isn't going to win too many games when it gained just 219 yards of total offense and converts two of 11 passes. Getting five sacks certainly helped, and another good defensive performance should lead to a win over Louisville, but Teel, or another option under center, has to be stronger.

Nov. 9
Rutgers 41 ... Army 6
Ray Rice set a school-record with 243 rushing yards, with touchdown runs from 18 and three yards out, and QB Jabu Lovelace ran for scores from three and two yards out, in an easy win for the Scarlet Knights. Lovelace score his first touchdown on Rutgers' opening drive, but Army was able to come back quickly when Mike Teel, who stepped in for Lovelace despite having an injured thumb, threw the ball to Josh Mitchell who returned the pick 65 yards for a touchdown. That would be all the fun the Black Knights would have, as Adam DeMarco missed the extra point, Rutgers' Colin McEvoy returned a blocked punt for a score, and the rout was on. Army turned it over five times with four fumbles.
Player of the game: Rutgers RB Ray Rice ran 34 times for 243 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Rutgers - Passing: Jabu Lovelace, 2-8, 28 yds
Rushing: Ray Rice, 34-243, 2 TD. Receiving: Kenny Britt, 2-30
Army - Passing: Carlton Williams, 5-16, 44 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Ian Smith, 3-53. Receiving: Jeremy Trimble, 3-32

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Why was Ray Rice playing into the fourth quarter against Army? Yeah, he set the school-record for rushing yards, and the passing game was abysmal, with Jabu Lovelace and Mike Teel combining to complete three of 12 passes for 42 yards and an interception, but the defense had the game well in hand early on, and Rice will be needed for Pitt and Louisville. All turned out fine, Rutgers won a laugher, and now it's bowl eligible.

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? ...
Where's the defensive line? It's not doing anything against the run over the last several weeks, and while West Virginia and Connecticut can certainly run on anyone, the Scarlet Knight front needs to be far stronger. Considering the issues on defense, the offense did a relatively good job in the comeback, but for all the yards and the good play from Mike Teel, the offense couldn't close. Four Jeremy Ito field goals aren't a good thing in a game like this. Had two of those been touchdowns, it would've been a vastly different finish.

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 three short Steve Slaton touchdown runs 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
Rushing:
Ray Rice, 20-142. Receiving:
Tiquan Underwood, 7-59
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Just how hurt is Mike Teel? All week long there was a question about how healthy he'd be, and while the Rutgers' loss to West Virginia was more than just quarterback issues, it didn't help. Ray Rice got his yards, but the offensive line didn't exactly dominate the Mountaineer defensive front. The D line did a decent job against the high-powered Mountaineer rushing attack, but there weren't nearly enough big stops to turn the momentum around. Now things continue to stay tough with a trip to Connecticut next week, and the season-ender at Louisville still ahead.

Oct. 18
Rutgers 30 ... South Florida 27
Rutgers got 181 yards from Ray Rice, two touchdown catches from Tiquan Underwood, including a catch-and-run from 69 yards out, and a fake field goal for a perfectly placed pass from Andrew DePaola to Kevin Brock from 15 yards out to get ahead, but it was a 51-yard Jeremy Ito field goal, and an aggressive defensive stand that sealed it. Rutgers fought back in the fourth quarter with a 70-yard drive culminating in a one-yard Mike Ford touchdown run, and down three, got great field position for a chance to score late, but a sack, and later an offensive pass interference call on a 32-yard pass on fourth and 22 set up a game-sealing interception for the Scarlet Knights. Matt Grothe ran for a one-yard score and threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jessie Hester for the Bulls.
Player of the game: Rutgers RB Ray Rice ran 39 times for 181 yards
Stat Leaders: South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 17-34, 247 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Matt Grothe, 18-58, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcus Edwards, 4-50
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 11-29, 179 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Ray Rice, 39-181. Receiving:
Tiquan Underwood, 5-114, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Rutgers lines showed up again. After having problems against Maryland and Cincinnati, the men in the trenches had a nice game against Syracuse, and then dominated South Florida. George Selvie and the Bull front four was shoved around, while the Scarlet Knight defense was pressuring Matt Grothe all game long. While the Big East season has been saved, to beat West Virginia next week, Mike Teel will have to play like he did over the first half of the year. He struggled way too much against USF, and was bailed out by great plays from Tiquan Underwood and the running of Ray Rice.

Oct. 13
Rutgers 38 ... Syracuse 14
Rutgers gained 538 yards of total offense, but it took a little while to get rolling. Syracuse scored the first 14 points of the game on a 16-yard Mike Williams touchdown catch and a 15-yard Curtis Brinkley run, and then it was all Rutgers, scoring 38 unanswered points with Ray Rice scoring three short touchdowns and Mike Teel connecting with Kenny Britt from 42 yards out and Kevin Brock from 32 yards away.
Player of the game: Rutgers RB Ray Rice ran 36 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns, and caught four passes for 29 yards
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 15-32, 158 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Curtis Brinkley, 16-98, 1 TD. Receiving: Jawad Nesheiwai, 4-81
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 20-29, 310 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Ray Rice, 36-196, 3 TD. Receiving: Kenny Britt, 6-176, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
After two straight losses, the first quarter against Syracuse was a nightmare. And then Rutgers went back to being Rutgers, getting the running game rolling and getting Ray Rice into a groove. The defense finally stiffened, while Mike Teel threw the ball extremely well as a perfect compliment to Rice. Now it all has to come together over the next two weeks against South Florida and West Virginia. Win those two, and the BCS spot will be there for the taking.

Oct. 6
Cincinnati 28 ... Rutgers 23
Cincinnati came up with three interceptions, with a pick by Ryan Manalac snuffing out a final Rutgers drive to seal the win. The Bearcat offense got three Ben Mauk touchdown passes, including a 27-yarder to Marshawn Gilyard late in the third quarter to pull ahead for good. Rutgers got a one-yard Ray Rice touchdown run, three Jeremy Ito field goals, and started off the scoring with a 36-yard interception return for a score, but couldn't get the running game, and was hurt by all four turnovers.
Player of the game: Cincinnati LB Ryan Manalac made 11 tackles and sealed the win with an interception
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 20-37, 257 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Greg Moore, 14-60. Receiving: Marcus Barnett, 6-74, 1 TD
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 22-38, 334 yds, 3 INT
Rushing:
Ray Rice, 34-94, 1 TD. Receiving: Tim Brown, 7-127
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... What happened to the offensive line and the running game? Maryland and Cincinnati keyed on stopping Ray Rice, and while the carries were there, there weren't enough long runs in grinding efforts. Mike Teel has thrown for a ton of yards, doing a decent job of moving the ball, but for the second straight week, a late turnover screwed things up. Things aren't as bad as they may seem, and everything should turnaround with a date at Syracuse. Beat South Florida and beat West Virginia, and Rutgers will be right back in the race.

Sept. 29
Maryland 34 ... Rutgers 24
Maryland cranked out 239 rushing yards with Lance Ball running for scores from 19 and 14 yards out and Keon Lattimore tearing off a two-yard scoring run to stun the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers took a 17-14 lead going into halftime on a seven-yard Tiquan Underwood touchdown pass with six seconds to play, but Maryland owned the second half with two Obi Egekeze field goals and two of the rushing touchdowns. Rutgers pulled within three on a one-yard Ray Rice run, but on its next drive, lost a fumble on its own 20-yard line on a sack, and the Terps put it away on the ensuing play on the 14-yard Ball run.
Player of the game: Maryland RB Keon Lattimore rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries.
Stat Leaders: Maryland - Passing: Chris Turner, 14-20, 149 yds
Rushing: Keon Lattimore, 34-124, 1 TD. Receiving: Darrius Heyward-Bey, 5-61, 1 TD
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 25-44, 310 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
Ray Rice, 21-97, 1 TD. Receiving: Tiquan Underwood, 8-101, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Now it has to be asked; did the breather start to the season, and the two-week layoff affect the team before losing to Maryland? That might not be giving enough credit to the Terps, but Rutgers certainly didn't play as well as it thinks it probably should've. The lines got whipped, with problems getting the running game rolling and little production against the Terp ground game. Mike Teel had yet another good game throwing the ball, but the offense failed to execute in the second half outside of the one long scoring drive. It'll be important to remember that this game doesn't really matter too much, considering it's really all about the Big East race. Beating Cincinnati next week would all but erase this loss.

Sept. 15
Rutgers 59 ... Norfolk State 0
Norfolk State hung tough for a quarter, only allowing a 30-yard Jeremy Ito field goal, and then the second quarter started. Rutgers cranked out 42 second quarter points, with Mike Teel connecting with Kenny Britt on touchdown passes from 42 and 34 yards out, Tiquan Underwood caught a 28-yard scoring pass, and Ray Rice scored three times. With the starters pulled, Jabu Lovelace was the main man in the second half for the Scarlet Knights with two 16-yard touchdown runs.
Player of the game: Rutgers RB Ray Rice ran 12 times for 72 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Norfolk State - Passing: Casey Hansen, 12-26, 108 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Daryl Jones, 12-38. Receiving: Rashad Howard, 3-13
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 8-15, 269 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Jabu Lovelace, 8-78, 2 TD. Receiving: Tiquan Underwood,  4-148, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Finally, finally, Rutgers will actually play a team with a pulse when Maryland comes to town next week. Norfolk State wasn't even a light scrimmage, as it only gained 122 yards of total offense, committed 16 penalties, and didn't have a prayer once the Scarlet Knight offense got rolling. Ray Rice was Ray Rice in his limited time on the field, while Mike Teel had another nice passing game. None of it matters outside of the team's ability to maintain its focus. Now the season actually begins.

Sept. 7
Rutgers 41 ... Navy 24
Ray Rice became Rutgers' all-time leading rusher as he ripped off 175 yards to go along with three touchdowns in a tough fight with the Midshipmen. Navy stayed alive into the fourth quarter, but misfired on two key chances with an interception thrown into the end zone and a stuffed drive when it had a shot to change the momentum. Navy got a short touchdown run and a scoring pass from QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, but Rice always kept Rutgers ahead. The Heisman candidate ran for a four-yard score in the first quarter, scored on a 22-yard pass play in the second, and finally put things out of reach with a two-yard run in the fourth.
Player of the game: Rutgers RB Ray Rice ran 37 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 40 yards and a core
Stat Leaders: Navy - Passing: Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, 5-12, 35 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Eric Kettani, 9-48. Receiving: Greg Sudderth, 2-20
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 14-19, 266 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Ray Rice, 37-175, 2 TD. Receiving: Tiquan Underwood,  6-104
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Rutgers got a second straight Heisman-caliber game out of Ray Rice, but most importantly as the season goes on, it got another balanced offensive performance with QB Mike Teel throwing three touchdown passes and only throwing one interception. While Navy hung tough throughout, give Rutgers credit for getting ahead and being just comfortable enough to not have to press. Next up is Norfolk State to continue to work on Teel and the passing game and to get Rice some rest. After 40 touches this week, he has to be kept fresh for the bigger days ahead.

Aug. 30
Rutgers 38 ... Buffalo 3
Ray Rice ran for three scores, but Tiquan Underwood stole the show with ten catches for a school-record 248 yards with two touchdowns in the easy Scarlet Knight win. Rutgers jumped out to a 28-0 first half lead on Underwood scores from 65 and 66 yards out, and Rice closed out the touchdown scoring with a 41-yard dash in the third quarter. A.J. Principle got the only Buffalo points on a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Player of the game: Rutgers WR Tiquan Underwood caught ten passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 19-32, 165
Rushing: Mario Henry, 8-49. Receiving: Brett Hamlin, 4-54
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 16-23, 328 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Ray Rice, 25-184, 3 TD. Receiving: Tiquan Underwood, 10-248, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Did Ray Rice really need 25 carries against Buffalo? Rutgers is more than just Rice, and the passing game showed it can move the ball a bit, but Rice is the franchise and has to be healthy for the long haul. It'll be interesting to note how much work he gets against Navy and Norfolk State over the next few weeks before Maryland and Cincinnati come to town. While Tiquan Underwood had a lot to do with it, Mike Teel was efficient and made some nice throws. If Underwood can keep cranking out big plays, Rice will go ballistic.

Aug. 30 - Buffalo
Offense: The overall offensive production improved from ten points per game to 18.33. Now the attack has to be more consistent and explosive, and that all comes from the offensive line. It's a big, experienced line that has to give the promising skill players a chance to do their thing. UB can win with QB Drew Willy and RB James Starks, but they haven't had any chance to show what they can do with no time or room to work. Naaman Roosevelt has to be used somewhere. If he's not the starting quarterback, he'll provide a boost to a mediocre receiving corps.
Defense: Last year was a big transition year with several young players getting time as the scheme was switched from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3. Size is sacrificed for speed almost everyone, but there are big backups at tackle. Now the production against the run has to be better. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue as UB could be among the MAC's leaders in sacks and tackles for loss led by senior Trevor Scott on the end. The secondary has the potential to be far better if safeties Kareem Byrom and Mike Newton, along with rising corner Kendric Hawkins, can spend all their time trying to make plays against the pass instead of always having to deal with the run.


Sept. 7 - Navy
Offense: Navy led the nation in rushing in 2005, led the nation in rushing in 2006, and will lead the nation in rushing in 2007. What's the difference? The ground game will be terrific as always, but now it'll be truly special with the best combination of backfield talent and experience head coach Paul Johnson has ever had. There won't be any passing game, but it won't matter with a ground attack that can crank out a big run from anywhere on the field. The big concern will be the line with no experience among the backups whatsoever and a shaky starting five if left tackle Josh Meek's injured knee isn't healthy.
Defense:
Uh oh. Wholesale changes need to be made with only three starters and seven lettermen returning. The best defense will be a good offense needing the ground game to crank out long drives to keep this inexperienced, woefully undersized, untested group off the field. Pass rushers need to emerge with the hope for Chris Kuhar-Pitters and Casey Hebert to turn into playmakers around rising star tackle Nate Frazier. Clint Sovie and Irv Spencer will turn into reliable inside linebackers, but outside linebacker will be a question. The secondary will be a work in progress around solid corner Rashawn King.


Sept. 15 – Norfolk State

Sept. 29 – 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.
Defense:
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.


Oct. 6 - 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.

Oct. 13 – 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. 18 - 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. 27 – 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.

Nov. 3 – at 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.

Nov. 9 – at Army
Offense: Last year, Army used a veteran offensive line to work the running game behind while the passing game struggled. Now it has to be the other way around. The backfield, while banged up in spring ball, is solid, the line will be a work in progress. The passing game needs to improve hoping for top-prospect Carson Williams to turn into the leader and playmaker everyone's expecting him to become, or else David Pevoto has to take over the reins and be consistent. No matter who's under center, the interceptions have to slow down. Jeremy Trimble leads a potentially strong receiving corps.
Defense:
The defense has spent most of its time trying to survive. Now it has to start making big plays in all areas after coming up with just 11 sacks, four interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Everyone at every spot can tackle, motor and toughness is never a problem, talent is always the issue. There's good experience and size up front, Caleb Campbell, when he returns from a knee injury, will be one of the nation's most productive safeties leading a decent secondary, and the linebacking corps, in time, will put up plenty of big tackling numbers once new starters Brian Chmura and Frank Scappaticci get comfortable. Overall, the defense has to do a better job of dictating the action instead of letting things happen and trying to make the play.


Nov. 17 - 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.

Nov. 29 – at 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.

 

   

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