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2007 Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 Tulsa Golden Hurricane Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Recap: Losing Steve Kragthorpe to Louisville doesn’t look like such a bad deal for Tulsa after all.  While Kragthorpe’s Cardinals were becoming one of the most disappointing teams of 2007, the Todd Graham-led Hurricane was flourishing in its new hurry-up, no-huddle offense.  Tulsa led the country in total offense, offsetting the play of a suspect defense, to win 10 games, while providing the backdrop for record-setting QB Paul Smith to account for an amazing 60 touchdowns and 5,184 yards.           

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Paul Smith

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Chris Chamberlain

Biggest Surprise: The offensive line.  For a unit that was completely gutted by graduations, the Hurricane offensive line did a surprisingly good job of protecting Smith and paving the way for Tarrion Adams to run for 1,225 yards on just 219 carries.  Led by Justin Morsey and Rodrick Thomas on the right side, the line returns four starters, and should be even more effective next fall.

Biggest Disappointment: Although it had two chances, Tulsa just couldn’t solve UCF and RB Kevin Smith, allowing 44 points and chunks of rushing yards in each game.  By getting blown out in each meeting, including the league title game, the Hurricane lost an opportunity to upgrade its bowl destination from the GMAC Bowl to the Liberty Bowl.   

Looking Ahead: Even though Smith is out of eligibility, this is an exciting time for the Tulsa program.  If his likely successor, David Johnson, is up to the challenge, the offense will roll again in 2008, especially with such an abundance of skill position players back at Skelly Stadium.

- 2007 Tulsa Preview
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2006 Tulsa Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
9-3
2007 Results: 10-
4

Aug. 30 at UL Monroe W 35-17
Sept. 15 BYU W 55-47
Sept. 21 Oklahoma L 62-21
Sept. 29
UAB W 38-30
Oct. 6 at UTEP L 48-47
Oct. 13 Marshall W 38-31
Oct. 20 at UCF L 44-23
Oct. 27
SMU W 29-23
Nov. 3 at Tulane W 49-25
Nov. 10 Houston W 56-7
Nov. 17 at Army W 49-39
Nov. 24 at Rice W 48-43
Conference USA Championship
Dec. 1 UCF L 44-25
GMAC Bowl
Jan. 6 Bowling Green W 63-7

Jan. 6
2008 GMAC Bowl
Tulsa 63 ... Bowling Green 7
Bowling Green lost four fumbles in the first half and Tulsa was happy to take advantage on the way to a 35-0 first half lead and a 42-0 start before the Falcons finally got on the board. With a few trick plays and the passing of Paul Smith, the Golden Hurricane rolled at will with five Smith scoring passes, including two to Trae Johnson, and a touchdown catch, run, and throw from RB Tarrion Adams. The normally high-powered Bowling Green offense was held to just 229 yards with the lone score coming on a kickoff return after a 14-yard Johnson catch. This was the biggest blowout in bowl history.
Offensive Player of the Game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith completed 27 of 45 passes for 312 yards and five touchdowns, and ran nine times for 46 yards and a score.
Defensive P
layer of the Game: Tulsa LB Chris Chamberlain made 17 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble
Stat Leaders: Bowling Green - Passing: Tyler Sheehan, 14-19, 141 yds
Rushing: Tyler Sheehan, 7-21. Receiving: Anthony Turner, 6-33
Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 27-45, 312 yds, 5 TD
Rushing:
Tarrion Adams, 17-112, 1 TD. Receiving:
Charles Clay, 11-69, 1 TD
Thoughts & Notes ... Paul Smith set an NCAA record with his 14th straight 300-yard passing game ... Bowling Green QB Tyler Sheehan was knocked out in the first half with an ankle injury. He still finished as the team's leading rusher. ... This has to be considered among the ugliest bowl games of all-time. Tulsa's normally porous defense didn't let Bowling Green have any sort of a shot by getting into the backfield time and again. The Falcon turnovers made it a laugher, while Todd Graham and the Golden Hurricane coaching staff showed just how prepared they were. All the gadgets, the execution, the defensive pressure; it all worked.

Dec. 1
Conference USA Championship
UCF 44 ... Tulsa 25

UCF RB Kevin Smith ran wild with 284 yards and scores from three, 46, four and 74 yards out, Michael Torres hit three field goals and Joe Burnett returned a punt 83 yards for a score in the wild shootout. Tulsa kept pace with three Paul Smith touchdown passes, with a 27-yard play to Trae Johnson and a 22 yarder to Charley Clay, but the offense didn't get on the board in the second half with the only points coming on a safety. Tanks to Smith, the Knights outgained the Golden Hurricane 308 yards to 32 on the ground, but Tulsa threw for 438 yards.
Player of the game: UCF RB Kevin Smith ran 39 times for 284 yards and four touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 28-55, 426 yds, 3 TD, 3 INT
Rushing:
Tarrion Adams, 18-41. Receiving: Brennan Marion, 7-96
UCF - Passing: Kyle Israel, 6-13, 128 yds
Rushing:
Kevin Smith, 39-284, 4 TD. Receiving: Rocky Ross, 3-63
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Everyone knew the defense was going to have major problems with Kevin Smith and the UCF offense, and everyone knew this was going to be a shootout, but the shocker was how the offense stopped moving in the second half. UCF's defense had a lot to do with that, especially in the secondary, but this Tulsa offense was moving the ball on everyone all year long without much of a problem. The lack of a consistent running game became a problem once the passing game started to sputter. Over the course of the bowl preparations, the coaching staff had better figure out something with the run defense or Bowling Green's high-octane attack will go ballistic.

Nov. 24
Tulsa 48 ... Rice 43
Rice cranked out 700 yards of total offense with QB Chase Clement setting a Conference USA record with 601 yards of total offense, and lost. Tulsa clinched the West title helped by five touchdown passes from Paul Smith with strikes to Brennan Marion from 49 and 31 yards out in the first quarter and a 19-yard play to Trae Johnson midway through the fourth for a little breathing room. After a Clement pass to Chance Talbert for a 24-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game, Rice never led the rest of the way.
Player of the game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith completed 22 of 39 passes for 441 yards and five touchdowns with an interception, and ran six times for four yards and a score, and Rice QB Chase Clement completed 40 of 66 passes for 541 yards and three touchdowns with an interception and ran 17 times for 60 yards
Stat Leaders: Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 22-39, 441 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Tarrion Adams, 24-146. Receiving: Brennan Marion, 7-244, 2 TD
Rice - Passing: Chase Clement, 40-66, 541 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Chase Clement, 17-60. Receiving: James Casey, 11-110
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's a good thing Paul Smith and the offense are unstoppable because the defense isn't even close. Because Smith always came through and because the attack is so explosive, Tulsa was able to get by lousy teams like Army and Rice in firefights to close out with a five-game winning streak and six wins in the final seven games. The one loss came to UCF, and to win the rematch in the Conference USA title game, there can't be any offensive mistakes. Kevin Smith and company will hang a monster number on the board.

Nov. 17
Tulsa 49 ... Army 39
Tulsa's offense was humming all cylinders with 622 yards, but the outcome was in doubt until Paul Smith ran for a one-yard score with 1:33 to play. Smith added touchdown passes from 50 yards out to Brennan Marion, with ten seconds to play in the first half, and from 15 yards out to Trae Johnson in the fourth quarter to keep up with the Army passing attack. Carson Williams threw for a career-high 328 yards with three touchdown passes including two to Jeremy Trimble. A nine-yard Tony Dace run pulled the Black Knights within three, but Army lost a fumble on a late drive leading to the Smith score. Caleb Campbell made 16 tackles for Army, while Alain Karatepeyan led the way with 15 stops for the Golden Hurricane.
Player of the game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith completed 22 of 32 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score.
Stat Leaders: Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 22-32, 390 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Tarrion Adams, 17-118, 2 TD. Receiving: Trae Johnson, 9-119, 1 TD
Army - Passing: Carson Williams, 26-38, 328 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Tony Dace, 14-69, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Trimble, 11-167, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... A week after the defense was so dominant in the win over Houston, it couldn't slow down the anemic Army offense and needs a late score to finally put the game away. The offense keeps on humming with QB Paul Smith dialed in and playing as well as he ever has in his great career, while Tarrion Adams added good balance with 118 yards after not getting much work last week. Now Tulsa needs to get by Rice to play for the Conference USA championship, and with the way the team is playing on both sides of the ball, it'll be yet another mega-shootout.

Nov. 10
Tulsa 56 ... Houston 7
Tulsa got out to a 35-0 halftime lead on four of Paul Smith's five touchdown passes, with strikes from 53 and 32 yards out to Brennan Marion, and a one-yard Smith run. The Golden Hurricane kept on rolling with a 56-0 lead late into the fourth with touchdown runs from Tarrion Adams and Jamad Williams in the second half before Houston finally got on the board with a five-yard Terrance Ganaway run with 2:25 to play. The Cougars turned the ball over five times and were outgained 515 yards to 324. Tulsa's Chris Chamberlain made 20 tackles.
Player of the game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith completed 15 of 28 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns, and he ran seven times for 32 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Houston - Passing: Case Keenum, 12-15, 81 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Terrance Ganaway, 8-39, 1 TD. Receiving: Mark Hafner, 6-47
Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 15-28, 313 yds, 5 TD
Rushing:
Jamad Williams, 16-56, 1 TD. Receiving: Charles Clay, 5-97, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Tulsa certainly made its statement in the Conference USA title race by blasting Houston with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball. Paul Smith wasn't always sharp, but with the way he hit on all his deep balls, he didn't have to be. The defense came up with its best game of the year with five turnovers and holding down the high-powered Cougar attack to 324 yards. There's still work to be done needing to beat Rice in two weeks, but this was a huge step towards a title.

Nov. 3
Tulsa 49 ... Tulane 25
Tulsa blew open a tight game with 28 second half points on a one-yard Paul Smith touchdown run and two scoring passes, highlighted by a 37-yard play to Trae Johnson, and an A.J. Whitmore 56-yard touchdown dash. Tulane got a touchdown pass and a scoring run from QB Anthony Scelfo, but star RB Matt Forte was held to 103 yards. The defense gave up 600 yards of Tulsa offense along with a 92-yard Roy Roberts kickoff return for a score after the Green Wave offense got a 44-yard Brian King touchdown catch. Smith finished with two rushing touchdowns and threw for three scores.

Stat Leaders: Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 18-27, 319 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamad Williams, 31-153. Receiving: Trae Johnson, 4-49, 1 TD
Tulane - Passing: Anthony Scelfo, 17-28, 237 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Matt Forte, 26-103. Receiving: Jeremy Williams, 6-76

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense cranked out 600 yards with nearly perfect balance and a brilliant day from Paul Smith, but the win over Tulane, for the first time all year, belongs just as much to the defense. The Green Wave got 401 yards of offense, but star RB Matt Forte struggled to get going and the passing game wasn't effective enough. If Jamad Williams can continue to run like he did this week, Smith won't have to do everything by himself.

Oct. 20
UCF 44 ... Tulsa 23
Kevin Smith ran for scores from 13, 15, four and 44 yards out as UCF cruised comfortably to the win after the second quarter. Tulsa took a 14-10 lead early on thanks to two of Paul Smith's three touchdown passes, but the Golden Knight defense took over just as Kevin Smith started to heat up. The Golden Hurricane only gained 379 yards of total offense and got down 41-17 before getting back on the board with a nine-yard Cameron Clemons catch.
Player of the game: UCF RB Kevin Smith ran 33 times for 170 yards an three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: UCF - Passing: Kyle Israel, 21-29, 224 yds,1 TD
Rushing: Kevin Smith, 33-170, 3 TD. Receiving: Sergio Joachim, 9-98
Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 34-56, 316 yds, 3 TD, 4 INT
Rushing:
Tarrion Adams, 10-47. Receiving: Dion Toliver, 8-56

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense isn't getting any better. UCF's Kevin Smith is going to run on everyone, but for the Golden Hurricane to struggle so much against Kyle Israel and the passing game shows just how bad things are. If the offense isn't humming, the results will be disastrous. Winning out is a must to have any hopes of navigating through the traffic and win the West, and to do that, the D has to come up with at least one stop at some point. Just one.

Oct. 13
Tulsa 38 ... Marshall 31
Tulsa rolled up 578 yards of total offense with Paul Smith running for a one-yard score and throwing three touchdown passes, taking the lead for good on a 73-yard play to Brennan Marion with just over five minutes to play. Cody Slate caught a two-yard touchdown pass with 1:18 to play to get the Herd within seven, but Tulsa recovered the onside kick and held on. Tarrion Adams scored twice for the Golden Hurricane in the first half, but Marshall stayed alive with two Chubb Small touchdown runs and a four-yard Shawn Lauzon scoring grab.
Player of the game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith completed 24 of 39 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a score.
Stat Leaders: Marshall - Passing: Bernard Morris, 21-37, 260 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Darius Marshall 13-63. Receiving: Cody Slate, 6-102, 1 TD
Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 24-39, 385 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Tarrion Adams, 15-134, 1 TD. Receiving: Tarrion Adams, 6-35, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Tulsa is at it again. The offense keeps putting up numbers in bunches, but the defense is giving up stats and points just as quickly. While the defensive problems cost the Golden Hurricane against Tulsa, the offense was able to get up enough to hang on against Marshall. What's going to happen when the real teams start to kick in? If Tulsa can't handle Marshall, it's going to have a world of problems with UCF next week and Houston down the road.

Oct. 6
UTEP 48 ... Tulsa 47
In a wild games with 1,218 yards of total offense, UTEP came through with a 14-yard Joe West touchdown catch with 58 seconds to play to tie it, and then Jose Martinez hit the extra point to take the lead. It wasn't over. Tulsa got a big kickoff return from Trae Johnson, who later caught a 14-yard pass on fourth and one, to set up a 53-yard field goal attempt, but Jarod Tracy missed wide left to give UTEP the win. Marcus Thomas ran for three touchdowns for the Miners, scoring from three, 11 and 38 yards out, while Tulsa got a huge day from Paul Smith, who threw two touchdown passes to Johnson, and ran for two more.
Player of the game: UTEP RB Marcus Thomas ran 27 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 26-43, 383 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Charles Clay, 11-112, 1 TD. Receiving: Trae Johnson, 8-127, 2 TD
UTEP - Passing: Trevor Vittatoe, 21-27, 319 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Marcus Thomas, 27-134, 3 TD. Receiving:
Jeff Moturi, 7-174, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense keeps working, but the defense isn't coming close to stopping anyone. Paul Smith and the high-octane attack were able to overcome the problems in earlier games, but this time, against UTEP, it didn't work, as the Miners moved too easily and too quickly when they had to. Even so, the Golden Hurricane was a missed field goal away from pulling this off and still being the main team in the Conference USA race, and now it has to take advantage of a favorable next month to overcome this loss and stay in the hunt.

Sept. 29
Tulsa 38 ... UAB 30
It took Tulsa a little while to get going, and then it got a big game from Paul Smith, who threw touchdown passes from 24 yards to Cameron Clemons, and two to Marion Brennan from 35 and 52 yards out. It wasn't until Smith ran for a one-yard score that Tulsa could breathe easily as UAB kept the heat on with two fourth quarter touchdown passes from Sam Hunt. Tulsa finished with 695 yards of total offense, while UAB cranked out 403.
Player of the game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith threw for 333 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, running for 47 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Stat Leaders: UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 13-26, 152 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Joseph Webb, 18-81. Receiving: Mario Wright, 5-51, 1 TD
Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 19-37, 333 yds, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing:
Tarrion Adams, 24-183, 1 TD. Receiving: Dion Tolliver, 5-88

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Tulsa's offense, when it's working, is as dangerous as any of the mid-majors. UAB was powerless to handle the balance, with the Golden Hurricane rumbling for 362 yards on the ground and throwing for 333. The defense continues to be a major question mark, giving up way too many yards and points for the third game in a row, but as long as Paul Smith is playing at such a high level, the offense will simply outbomb just about everyone left on the schedule.

Sept. 21
Oklahoma 62 ... Tulsa 21
Oklahoma's offense exploded with Sam Bradford connecting with Juaquin Iglesias for two or his three touchdown passes and Allen Patrick rushing for two scores and DeMarco Murray running for a touchdown and taking a punt for a score. Tulsa's offense moved the ball well, and even scored first with a 15-yard Jesse Meyer touchdown catch, but the defense couldn't handle the Sooner offensive balance. The Sooners jumped ahead 21-7 highlighted by a 46-yard Iglesias touchdown, and blew it open with a 35-14 halftime lead on a one-yard Patrick run. The Golden Hurricane made it interesting with a Paul Smith rushing touchdown on its opening drive of the second half, but OU scored 27 unanswered points, helped by a 40-yard Iglesias score.
Player of the game: Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford completed 15 of 21 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 22-32, 350 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Tarrion Adams, 9-44. Receiving: Jesse Meyer, 7-114, 1 TD
Oklahoma - Passing: Sam Bradford, 16-22, 244 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Allen Patrick, 19-145, 2 TD. Receiving: Juaquin Iglesias, 7-141, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Much will be made of OU's issues on defense against Tulsa, but the Golden Hurricane attack is going to roll up yards on everyone. Chalk it up to the Sooners taking a while to adjust and get on track, but even so, after this game, past defensive issues (a certain Fiesta Bowl comes to mind) might make the voters take notice. Hopefully, they'll also have noticed Curtis Lofton, who was all over the field and seemingly in on every play with 14 tackles. And then there's the offense, which continues to be unstoppable with a frightening balance and yet another brilliant performance from Sam Bradford. Once again, the O line was incredible.

Sept. 15
Tulsa 55 ... BYU 47
In a wild shootout with the two teams combining for 1,027 passing yards, it was two false start penalties to ruin a final BYU chance, and Tulsa's defense snuffing out long drives with four takeaways. Paul Smith threw five touchdown passes with three to Charles Clay, but BYU always had an answer in the see-saw game. Max Hall threw for 547 yards and four touchdowns, and Manase Tonga ran for two touchdowns. Tulsa's defense got in the big play act with a 49-yard interception return for a score from Ray Roberts, but this was all about the haymakers. In one tremendous second quarter sequence, Hall his Austin Collie for a 45-yard touchdown, and Smith answered ten second later by connecting with Brennan Marion for a 75-yard touchdown pass. BYU responded in four plays with a 13-yard Dennis Pitta scoring grab, and the scoring went on and one, with the two teams combining for 44 points in the quarter. In all the two teams cranked out 1,289 yards of total offense and 59 first downs.
Player of the game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith completed 21 of 35 passes for 454 yards and five touchdowns
Stat Leaders: BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 35-57, 537 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Harvey Unga, 21-100, 1 TD. Receiving: Michael Reed, 8-132, 1 TD
Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 21-35, 454 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Tarrion Adams, 18-79, 1 TD. Receiving: Trae Johnson, 5-95, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Todd Graham era certainly is exciting. The win over BYU will go down as one of the biggest in the program's recent history, because it showed how the offense can hang with anyone in a firefight, and it showed good toughness in not screwing up late, while the Cougars imploded. QB Paul Smith was out of this world, bombing away, putting the ball where it had to be for his receivers to take off, and making enough good decisions to constantly keep up even when the defense was breaking down. He'll have to do more of the same if the Golden Hurricane is going to have any shot against Oklahoma.


Aug. 30

Tulsa 35 ... UL Monroe 17
Tulsa overcame a rocky first half to score 21 unanswered points in the second on two Paul Smith touchdown passes and a four-yard Chris Chamberlain run. The 41-yard scoring play to Trae Johnson in the third quarter finally gave Tulsa a comfortable lead, and then the defense did the rest against a ULM passing game that struggled outside of a ten-yard LaGregory Sapp touchdown catch. ULM's other score came on a 46-yard Matt Freeman fumble return after Smith failed to fall on the ball. Calvin Dawson ran for 150 yards for the WarHawks.
Player of the game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith completed 22 of 31 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 22-31, 307 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Tarrion Adams, 28-129, 1 TD. Receiving: Charles Clay, 8-92
UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 7-21, 66 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Calvin Dawson, 24-150. Receiving: LaGregory Sapp, 3-23, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Todd Graham offense didn't exactly light up UL Monroe, but it was extremely effective with Paul Smith running it. There were a few bumps in the road, and a bad play by the veteran quarterback on a ULM fumble return for a score, but Smith used his receivers well and Tarrion Adams had a nice day running the ball. For things to work like Graham might like, the pace of the attack has to be even quicker, and a star receiver needs to emerge. One big concern could be the placekicking with Jarod Tracy missing from 34 and 36 yards out.

Aug. 30 – at UL Monroe
Offense: The best offense in the Sun Belt gets 11 starters back led by RB Calvin Dawson working behind a terrific line with several all-star candidates. QB Kinsmon Lancaster has a year of starting experience under his belt, and he has all his top targets to get the ball to including LaGregory Sapp and tight end Zeek Zacharie. While the attack will spread it out and allow Lancaster to use his mobility and big-time arm to find the right receiver, it'll be Dawson who carries the workload when things get tight.
Defense: The same problems ULM had last year appear to be the same issues going into this year with a questionable run defense and no proven pass rush, but the strength, the secondary, will be the same even without Kevin Payne and Chaz Williams. The 4-2-5 did its job against mediocre offenses, but got ripped apart by any offense with a pulse. Unless the line is better, the Warhawks will be pounded on by everyone in the Sun Belt.


Sept. 15 - BYU
Offense: While the offense won't crank out the big numbers last year's attack did (finishing fourth in the nation in total offense and fifth in scoring), it'll be fantastic starting with a great line that has more talent and depth (though unproven) than the program has seen in a long time. The receivers have to step up with the top targets of last year gone, and new starting quarterback Max Hall has to be efficient from day one. The 1-2 rushing punch of Manase Tonga and Fui Vakapuna will carry things when it needs to with an interesting blend of speed and power.
Defense This won't be the best defense in the Mountain West, but it'll be good enough to win with. The 3-3-5 was replaced by the 3-4 last year with tremendous results. Now the production should be there again with a big front three, led by end Jan Jorgensen, and a good linebacking corps that needs Kelly Poppinga to be the main man in the middle in place of Cameron Jensen. The safeties, Dustin Gabriel and Quinn Gooch, are as good as any in the conference, but the corners are nothing special.


Sept. 21 - Oklahoma
Offense: If a quarterback comes through and shines, this could be the nation's most effective offense. If the offensive line isn't the best in college football, it's number two, the running backs are very fast and very talented, and the receiving corps, led by top pro prospect Malcolm Kelly, is very big and very fast. It all comes down to the quarterback battle between junior Joey Halzle and redshirt freshman Sam Bradford. Whichever one can be steady will get the plum gig with a chance to lead the loaded attack in a national title chase.
Defense: It'll be an interesting defense that has the potential to be a killer, but has some major concerns. The secondary should be among the best in America with enough size, speed, and talent to keep the NFL scouts buzzing. DeMarcus Granger is a rising superstar tackle who should combine with Gerald McCoy, Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman to stuff up everything on the inside. If the unknown ends come though with a halfway decent season, and the untested linebacking corps is nearly as good as last year's, look out.

Sept. 29 - UAB
Offense: From the staff and the system to the personnel, the offense will be getting a complete facelift in 2007.  Nothing will look the same which isn’t such a bad thing considering how poorly the unit executed last season.  New coordinator Kim Helton is installing a pro-style attack that sprinkles in some no-huddle and option calls, but realizes he’ll have to tailor the first-year playbook to the talent he inherits.  All eyes in August will be on the continuing quarterback battle between senior Sam Hunt and sophomore Joseph Webb, a potential savior once he gets up to speed.  Whether or not the offense climbs out of the Conference USA cellar will depend heavily on the maturation of a rebuilt line that’s replacing four senior starters. 
Defense: While the back seven of the defense figures to be a strength in 2007, you might not know it unless the defensive line can effectively replace three key starters from last year.  Senior end Brandon Jeffries will be productive, but after him, UAB is feverishly searching for answers to prevent opposing passers from having all day to throw.  Junior college transfer Antonio Forbes is being counted on to deliver right out of the gate at tackle.  The linebackers have a budding star in junior Joe Henderson and senior free safety Will Dunbar is one of just a handful of Blazer defenders with all-league potential.

Oct. 6 – at UTEP
Offense: The offense continued to be one-sided finishing fifth in the nation in passing and 116th in rushing, and now things will make a shift back the other way, although not necessarily for the positive. A battle for the quarterback job will continue until the fall, but the running game should be set with Marcus Thomas ready to break out as on of Conference USA's best backs. However, he needs room to move behind a line that has to be night-and-day better than last year when it struggled to pound away.
Defense:
The Miners melted down over the second half of last season and needs to be far more productive with nine starters returning. Don't expect miracles, but unlike previous years, the D should be better as the season goes on. The defense was miserable last season despite getting a consistent pass rush from the front seven. Now the whole line needs to find replacements while the linebacking corps has to hope for Jeremy Jones to be healthy after a knee injury. The secondary should be a strength after a rough year with safeties Quintin Demps and Braxton Amy potential all-stars, while Josh Ferguson is a solid corner.

Oct. 13 - 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.

Oct. 20 – at UCF
Offense: Quarterback Steven Moffett and premier receiver Mike Walker have graduated, so logic dictates the Knights will lean on junior Kevin Smith for a while.  He’s as good as any back in the league when he’s healthy, and has the luxury of four starting linemen returning.  Don’t expect any drop-off from Moffett to senior Kyle Israel.  In fact, the veteran of 16 games and five starts was so sharp down the stretch in 2006, some around the program feel he could be even better running the pro-style offense if a couple of the young receivers emerge.
Defense: Nothing typified UCF’s collapse in 2006 more than the shoddy play of the defense, which finished 106th nationally and allowed almost 30 points a game.  The secondary was a particular mess, prompting George O’Leary to open up the competition at every spot, despite the return of four starters.  The coach had a chance to take the wrappers off some of his young kids late last year, which will benefit players, such as tackles Torrell Johnson and Travis Timmons and end Jared Kirksey, this season.  More than anything else, the Knights are looking to improve their team speed after looking a step slow throughout the 2006 season.

Oct. 27 - SMU
Offense: In sophomore Justin Willis, SMU has a legitimate franchise quarterback with the physical tools to move an offense and the intangibles to lead a program to victories and eventually bowl games.  He’ll be growing alongside classmate Emmanuel Sanders, who ignited a mediocre receiving corps last year with 46 catches and nine touchdown receptions.  Junior back DeMyron Martin is eyeing the kind of rebound year that’ll refocus his career while giving more balance to the offense.  He’ll have the luxury of running behind a seasoned line that returns four starters.  If, as expected, the Mustangs are playing in shootouts this year, they’ve now got the offensive weapons to keep pace.
Defense: The Mustangs will spend the better part of the year trying to replace three starters from the 2006 defensive line, including standouts Justin Rogers and Adrian Haywood.  If they can solve that complex riddle, look out.  The back seven, led by Butkus Award candidate Reggie Carrington, is very fast and very capable of spurring an improvement from last year’s middling results.  The more likely scenario has the line struggling to create a consistent push and the secondary getting burned by opposing hurlers with way too much time to find their targets.

Nov. 3 – at Tulane
Offense: New head coach Bob Toledo would like to get vertical get the passing game moving, but it's not going to happen at the expense of the ground attack. With a good back in Matt Forte to work with, the Green Wave will try to run the ball to create some semblance of balance, but the offensive line might not be in place to do it. Scott Elliott is the odds-on favorite to win the starting quarterback job in a four-man race, and he has some decent young receivers to work with.
Defense: Tulane hasn't played consistent defense in a few years, and it needs to count on experience, especially up front, to change things around. Eight starters return led by senior tackles Frank Morton and Avery Williams. The secondary needs to be far better after allowing over 250 passing yards a game, but that could be a bit of an issue with two new starting corners being broken in. The new coaching staff will use a variety of formations and schemes to try to get more production, and while the overall defense should be better, there will still be times when it'll get bombed on.


Nov. 10 - Houston
Offense: The graduation of four-year starting quarterback Kevin Kolb signals a new era in Houston, but it doesn’t mean the Cougars will be inept on offense in 2007.  There’s too much explosiveness and veteran leadership for that to happen.  Last year’s backup, sophomore Blake Joseph, is expected to get the nod at quarterback.  He’s got a huge arm and about as much fear as he does experience.  Surrounding Joseph will be a half-dozen players that earned all-league honors last year, headed by senior running back Anthony Alridge, one of the nation’s fastest players.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Alan Weddell’s goal is to bring pressure from every angle and invent ways to get as much speed as possible on the field.  With that in mind, he’ll be installing some elements of a 4-2-5 package in 2007 to periodically get an athletic rover into the mix.  The personnel is deep and reliable, especially with a front seven that includes dynamic junior end Phillip Hunt and a couple of all-league linebackers in junior Cody Lubojasky and senior Trent Allen.  If senior safety Rocky Schwartz is all the way back from knee surgery and the corners hold up, the pieces are in place for this to be Conference USA’s stingiest defense.

Nov. 17 – 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. 24 – at Rice
Offense: Todd Graham and his staff are gone, but the spread attack is alive and well at Rice, good news for an offense that returns its starting quarterback and All-American wide receiver.  Although Chase Clement to Jarett Dillard will be a familiar phrase this fall, the Owls are also developing a bunch of good-looking, young pass-catchers that are ready to contribute.  The quest for offensive balance, however, won’t be so easy now that underappreciated running back Quinton Smith has exhausted his eligibility.  Last year was a painful transition for the offensive line, but with four starters back and a full year in the system, there are no excuses for not being much better in pass protection.   
Defense: In an attempt to bolster a run defense that allowed more than 300 yards to five straight opponents in 2006, Rice is shifting from the 3-3-5 to the 4-2-5.  The move puts another big body in the box, but also puts an enormous burden on a line that lost three of last year’s best linemen to graduation.  The new scheme encourages constant pressure from a back seven that boasts the young athletes, such as junior linebacker Brian Raines and sophomore safety Andrew Sendejo, to create havoc for opposing quarterbacks.  Lost in last year’s statistically awful season was the fact that the opportunistic Owls paced Conference USA in turnovers and sacks.

 


 

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