2007 NC State Wolfpack

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 NC State Wolfpack Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

NC State Wolfpack

Recap: The grim news was that the Wolfpack opened the season 1-5, and closed it with lopsided losses to Wake Forest and Maryland with bowl eligibility at stake.  The good news was that the program battled back from the anemic start and a mess of injuries to carve out a four-game winning streak that changed the climate around Raleigh in head coach Tom O'Brien's debut on the sidelines.  The need to elevate the talent level at NC State is no more pronounced than at quarterback, where Daniel Evans, Harrison Beck, and Justin Burke combined to throw 23 interceptions and just 14 touchdown passes.     

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Jamelle Eugene

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Willie Young

Biggest Surprise: Upsetting No. 21 Virginia, 29-24, on Oct. 27.  Considering the state of both schools at the time, knocking off the 7-1 Cavaliers was completely unexpected.  Evans had a career day, throwing for 347 yards and three scores, putting the Wolfpack in the improbable position of contending for a bowl invitation in November.   

Biggest Disappointment: Getting bombed, 37-0, at home by Maryland in the regular season finale.  In a winner-take-all bowl elimination game with the Terps, the Wolfpack reverted back to their early season form, never contending and failing to score in a game for the first time since 1995.      

Looking Ahead: It took time for O'Brien to turn things around at Boston College, so fans should be patient with his blueprint for success at NC State.  There'll be no shortage of quality backs to power the coach's running attack, with Eugene being joined by Toney Baker and Andre Brown, both of whom missed big chunks of the 2007 season with injuries.    

- 2007 NC St Preview
2006 NC St Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 5-7

Sept. 1 UCF L 25-23
Sept. 8 at Boston Coll L 37-17
Sept. 15
Wofford W 38-17
Sept. 22 Clemson L 42-20
Sept. 29 Louisville  L 29-10
Oct. 6 at Florida State L 27-10
Oct. 20
at East Carolina W 34-20
Oct. 27 Virginia W 29-24
Nov. 3 at Miami W 19-16 OT
Nov. 10
North Carolina W 31-27
Nov. 17 at Wake Forest L 38-18
Nov. 24 Maryland L 37-0

Nov. 24
Maryland 37 ... NC State 0
Maryland thoroughly dominated on both sides of the ball holding NC State to ten rushing yards while the offense got two touchdown runs from Lance Ball in the second quarter, two short scoring dashes from Keon Lattimore, and field goals from 30, 34 and 30 yards out from Obi Egekeze. The NC State offense went nowhere all game long converting one of 13 third down chances, holding on to the ball for a mere 22:05, and getting outgained 466 yards to 250.
Player of the game: Maryland LB Dave Philistin made ten tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception
Stat Leaders: NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 18-29, 168 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Andre Brown, 3-9. Receiving: Darrell Blackman, 5-98
Maryland - Passing: Chris Turner, 19-24, 206 yds
Da'Rel Scott, 8-89 Receiving: Darrius Heyward-Bey, 6-47

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... What the heck was that? After building all season long for a big finish with solid, efficient play, nice defense and just enough from the offense, the State attack went into the tank at the worst time possible. Maryland's defense stuffed the Pack running game from the start, and Daniel Evans, and later Harrison Beck, failed to get the offense moving despite completing plenty of passes. As crazy as this might sound, for the future of NC State football, this might have been a good thing. Going to a bowl would be nice, but motivation in the offseason for the young team in year two of the Tom O'Brien era won't be a problem. It might be a step back to potentially be a big leap forward.

Nov. 17
Wake Forest 38 ... NC State 18
Wake Forest took control of the game in the second half with a 62-yard touchdown catch from Jordan Williams followed by a 37-yard Sam Swank field goal and a sealing 57-yard interception return for a score from Aaron Curry. NC State pulled within three in the third quarter on a Jamelle Eugene one-yard touchdown run, but four turnovers an 11 penalties proved to be too costly. DeAngelo Bryant scored on a one-yard run and a five-yard pass in the first half on the way to a 21-10 Demon Deacon lead.
Player of the game: Wake Forest QB Riley Skinner completed 20 of 29 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 24-56, 286 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Jamelle Eugene, 18-56, 1 TD. Receiving: Darrell Blackman, 7-114
Wake Forest - Passing: Riley Skinner, 20-29, 208 yds, 2 TD
Josh Adams, 24-84, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenneth Moore, 8-83

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... State isn't good enough to lose the turnover battle and commit 11 penalties against a tight team like Wake Forest and expect to win. The running game wasn't used enough with a mere 21 attempts for 57 yards, putting the game in the hands of Daniel Evans after the Pack got down. Evans is better when he doesn't have to do everything by himself; State isn't going to win too many games when it's throwing the ball 56 times. Now the Maryland game is a must-win to become bowl eligible, and at the very least to prevent a two-game slide to close out a nice second half of the year.

Nov. 10
NC State 31 ... North Carolina 27
Jamelle Eugene ran for his third touchdown with 1:41 to play, taking it in from one-yard out, and the defense held as NC State survived a late rally. The Wolfpack got up 17-0 early and appeared on the verge of a blowout, when Charles Scott took a Daniel Evans pass 92 yards for a touchdown. Down 24-10 in the second half, UNC got a 50-yard touchdown catch from Brandon Tate, a 27-yard field goal, and a 76-yard Kendrick Burton interception return for a score to take a 27-24 lead. But an interception from DeMario Pressley set up the Wolfpack on the Tar Heel 25 to set up the final score. UNC LB Durrell Mapp made 23 tackles.
Player of the game: NC State RB Jamelle Eugene ran 32 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns, and caught six passes for 33 yards. In a losing cause, North Carolina LB Durrell Mapp made 23 tackles and a sack
Stat Leaders: North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 22-42, 241 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Anthony Elzy, 4-10. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 5-56
NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 26-42, 229 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Jamelle Eugene, 32-159, 3 TD. Receiving: Marcus Stone, 6-68, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The team appears to be playing with tremendous confidence, pulling out close game after close game on the way to a four-game winning streak and in range of a bowl game. Last week it was the defense that held on against Miami. This week is was Jamelle Eugene and the running game taking over against North Carolina. Against Wake Forest and Maryland, the team needs to tighten up overall to get a sixth win. It can't make any big mistakes like it did this week, losing two key interceptions, but if it's tight late, this team will find a way to make it happen.

Nov. 3
NC State 19 ... Miami 16 OT
In overtime, Miami's Daren Daly missed a 27-yard field goal, and NC State's Steven Hauschka connected on a 42-yarder for the Wolfpack win. Hauschka hit three fourth quarter field goals to give the Pack a three-point lead, but Daly was able to force overtime with a 27-yard field goal with :19 to play. Miami's Kirby Freeman only completed one of 14 passes, but it was for an 84-yard touchdown to Kirby Freeman in the second quarter. NC State got its only touchdown on a one-yard Daniel Evans run in the second. Miami ran for 314 yards, but lost three turnovers, all Freeman interceptions.

Player of the game: NC State PK Steven Hauschka hit four field goals from 31, 35, 47 and 42 yards
Stat Leaders: Miami - Passing: Kirby Freeman, 1-14, 84 rds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Jarvarris James, 16-103. Receiving: Darnell Jenkins, 1-84, 1 TD
NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 19-40, 207 yds
Jamelle Eugene, 27-89. Receiving:
Darrell Blackman, 2-69
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... NC State isn't playing any run defense, got an average day out of the offense, but it came up with a big win at Miami and now, after a brutal start, is in a great position to get to a bowl game needing to win two of the final three against North Carolina, at Wake Forest and Maryland. Wolfpack football might not be pretty, but it's getting the job done over the last three weeks by keeping the mistakes to a minimum and capitalizing on everyone else's screwups. Daniel Evans had a more effective day throwing the ball than his 19-40 stats would indicate.

Oct. 27
NC State 29 ... Virginia 24
NC State shocked Virginia with three touchdown passes from Daniel Evans, starting off the scoring with a 40-yard grab, and ending it with a 30-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Virginia had a final shot, but backup quarterback Peter Lalich was sacked on fourth down on the Cavalier 19. The Cavaliers got two touchdowns from Mikell Simpson, and two scoring passes from Jameel Sewell, but he left the game with a leg injury. Mikell Simpson scored twice for the Cavs.
Player of the game: NC State QB Daniel Evans completed 26 of 46 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and WR Donald Bowens caught 11 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Jameel Sewell, 24-43, 260 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Mikell Simpson, 21-81, 1 TD. Receiving: Jonathan Stupar, 5-40
NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 26-46, 347 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jamelle Eugene, 23-112. Receiving: Donald Bowens, 11-202, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Daniel Evans has established himself as the passer to build the offense around, throwing for 335 yards against East Carolina, and 347 against Virginia. Most importantly, he led the way to wins against both teams. So how did things turn around after such a rotten start? The emergence of WR Donald Bowens is a big help, but the team is coming up with ways to get the job done on both sides of the ball, helped by a defense that got into the backfield early and often. If the Pack can beat Miami in the Orange Bowl, then the home date against North Carolina would be to get to .500.

Oct. 20
NC State 34 ... East Carolina 20
NC State got up 21-0 on two Daniel Evans touchdown passes and a blocked punt return for a score from J.C. Neal, and then the Pirate roared back with a 20-point run starting with a one-yard Chris Johnson touchdown run, and an 18-yard Jamar Bryant scoring catch with 23 seconds to play in the first half. NC State fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and the Pirates got a 47-yard Ben Hartman field goal with no time left on the clock. NC State withstood the storm and scored the final 13 points of the game highlighted by a 15-yard Jamelle Eugene scoring grab.
Player of the game: NC State QB Daniel Evans completed 29 of 44 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: East Carolina - Passing: Rob Kass, 28-50, 254 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Chris Johnson, 19-63, 1 TD. Receiving: Phillip Henry, 7-64
NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 29-44, 335 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jamelle Eugene, 22-63. Receiving: Donald Bowens, 5-93
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Beating East Carolina might not seem like that big a deal but for a Wolfpack team looking for its first win over a FBS opponent, it was huge. It was also huge for the region; the last thing State needs it for ECU is to establish some sort of bragging rights. Daniel Evans had one of his best days throwing the ball, and most importantly, he and the team overcame a bit of adversity. Things could've gone into the tank after blowing an early lead, but the O responded to pull away.

Oct. 6
Florida State 27 ... NC State 10
The Seminoles got a two-yard touchdown run from Xavier Lee and a 40-yard scoring pass to Greg Carr, but the game turned around early in the second half on a Michael Ray Garvin interception for a touchdown. The Wolfpack held a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter with a 23-yard field goal and a two-yard John Dunlap touchdown catch, and then FSU scored the final 20 points. NC State turned it over four times and gave up six sacks.
Player of the game: Florida State QB Xavier Lee threw for 257 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-28 passing, while rushing 12 times for 14 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 19-32, 172 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs
Rushing: Jamelle Eugene, 14-101. Receiving: Jamelle Eugene, 5-30
Florida State - Passing: Xavier Lee, 16-28, 257 yds, 1 TD
Antone Smith, 17-55. Receiving: Preston Parker, 6-61

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offensive line has to start playing better to get the offense going. Jamelle Eugene had a great day running the ball on Florida State, and Daniel Evans wasn't too bad, outside of the three interceptions, but the line allowed way too many sacks (six). This isn't a good enough group of skill players to operate when under constant pressure. With the season quickly slipping into an ugly abyss, a win over East Carolina next week means everything.

Sept. 29
Louisville 29 ... NC State 10
Louisville took a 16-3 lead into halftime on three Art Carmody field goals and a seven-yard Anthony Allen touchdown run, but NC State appeared on the verge of a comeback, with Daniel Evans, in for an injured Harrison Beck, connecting with Ced Hickman on a two-yard touchdown pass, but the Pack fell short, seeing a late drive halted by a fumble, leading to an 18-yard George Stripling touchdown catch. In all, State turned it over five times.
Player of the game: Louisville RB Brock Bolen ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Stat Leaders: Louisville - Passing: Brian Brohm, 20-33, 251 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brock Bolen, 18-112, 1 TD. Receiving: Mario Urrutia, 5-49
NC State - Passing: Harrison Beck, 17-28, 181 yds, 2 INTs
Andre Brown, 16-92. Receiving: Andre Brown, 5-38

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's not like State didn't have its chances against Louisville to make a comeback, but three fumbles and the inability to come up with a big defensive stop in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference. Now the offense will likely be back in the hands of Daniel Evans, who stepped in for an injured Harrison Beck, and he's going to have to jumps-start a passing game that got yards against the Cardinals, but not enough meaningful ones. It's got to be killing head coach Tom O'Brien to see all the mistakes that keep killing good efforts

Sept. 22
Clemson 42 ... NC State 20
C.J. Spiller caught an 11-yard scoring pass and tore off a 44-yard touchdown run in the first quarter on the way to a 17-7 lead, and then James Davis took over with a three-yard touchdown catch and a one-yard run. The Tigers rolled up 608 yards of total offense, including 340 on the ground, while the defense held the Wolfpack to 202 yards and didn't allow an offensive touchdown until Darrell Blackman caught a nine-yard pass in the fourth quarter. Even that was bittersweet for the Pack, as the point after was returned by Clemson for two points. The other State touchdown came on a 99-yard kickoff return for a score from Blackman after Spiller's first score.
Player of the game: Clemson RB tandem of C.J. Spiller and James Davis combined for 280 yards and two touchdowns on 45 carries, and caught seven passes for 47 yards and two scores.
Stat Leaders: NC State - Passing: Daniel Evans, 16-25, 123 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Andre Brown, 19-66, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcus Stone, 5-37
Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 25-39, 268 yds, 2 TD
James Davis, 24-166, 1 TD. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 8-95
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Was the quarterback situated settled against Clemson? No, even with a knee injury to Harrison Beck. Daniel Evans didn't do much to keep the offense moving once the rout was on, and the running game didn't do nearly enough to slow down the momentum. The defense didn't get any help, but it also couldn't get Clemson off the field, with the Pack only having the ball for 23:11. Now comes the real test for the offense; can it do anything against a Louisville defense that hasn't come close to slowing down anyone. If Syracuse and Middle Tennessee can crank out big plays against the Cardinals, then State had better follow suit, or it's never going to happen this year.

Sept. 15
NC State 38 ... Wofford 17
NC State got its first win in the Tom O'Brien era as Andre Brown scored on two short touchdown runs and Thomas Barnes returned a fumble for a score on the way to a 31-3 lead. Wofford finally got on the board with a 61-yard touchdown catch from Andy Strickland, who also added a 14-yard score in the final minutes. The two teams combined to commit 26 penalties for 217 yards.
Player of the game: NC State RB Andre Brown ran for 133 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, adding a catch for yards.
Stat Leaders: Wofford - Passing: Ben Widmyer, 10-22, 128 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Kevious Johnson, 11-49. Receiving: Andy Strickland, 4-90, 2 TDs
NC State - Passing: Harrison Beck, 16-32, 113 yds
Andre Brown, 21-133, 3 TDs. Receiving: John Dunlap, 6-31
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It might not have been the prettiest of performances in the win over Wofford, but the team needed to get something positive going under Tom O'Brien and the new coaching staff. There were way too many penalties (11), but Wofford committed more (15), and there wasn't much of a downfield passing game, basically because there didn't need to be. There's still a major concern about Harrison Beck's accuracy, and considering Wofford ran for 211 yards, there should be a huge worry about facing Clemson's ground game next week.

Sept. 8
Boston College 37 ... NC State 17
Tom O'Brien didn't have much success in his return to BC as his NC State team turned it over seven times to ruin a good offensive day. Andre Callender broke things open for BC touchdown runs from four and 69 yards in the fourth quarter, While Jolonn Dunbar took a Harrison Beck interception 14 yards for a score and L.V. Whitworth scored from a yard out. NC State had a 10-7 lead early, helped by a two-yard Beck run, but didn't get back into the end zone until the final few moments on an 18-yard John Dunlap catch.
Player of the game: Boston College RB Andre Callender ran 18 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns, and added a pair of receptions for 30 yards.
Stat Leaders: NC State
- Passing: Harrison Beck, 26-50, 321 yds, 5 INTs
Rushing: Andre Brown, 13-63. Receiving: Andre Brown, 7-77
Boston College
- Passing: Matt Ryan, 15-34, 142 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Andre Callender, 18-158, 2 TDs. Receiving: Rich Gunnell, 3-25

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
How ironic that Tom O'Brien's return to BC, where he put together smart, tough teams that didn't make a whole bunch of mistakes, was marred by his NC State team that got shoved around and made a whole slew of mistakes. There aren't any offensive playmakers at the moment, and there's even a major deficiency at quarterback where Harrison Beck made way too many errors, despite throwing for 321 yards. The offense desperately needs to tune up against Wofford before facing Clemson and Louisville in what could be ugly bloodbaths.

Sept. 1
UCF 25 ... NC State 23
Kevin Smith tore off an 80-yard touchdown run on UCF's first play from scrimmage, and ran for an eight-yard touchdown on the way to a stunning 25-3 halftime lead. Michael Torres added three field goals, with his 19-yarder at the end of the half being the team's last points. And then the Golden Knights had to hold on as NC State scored the final 20 points of the game with Harrison Beck throwing two fourth quarter touchdown passes to make it close. He misfired on the two-point conversion attempt with 8:33 to play, and NC State failed to get close again, only getting to the UCF 41 in the final seconds before Joe Burnett ended things with an interception.
Player of the game ... UCF RB Kevin Smith ran for 217 yards and two scores on 35 carries, adding a pair of receptions for 11 yards.
Stat Leaders: UCF - Passing: Kyle Israel, 12-24, 93 yds
Rushing: Kevin Smith, 35-217, 2 TDs  Receiving: A.J. Guyton, 5-21
NC State - Passing: Harrison Beck, 17-28, 207 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Andre Brown, 14-73, 1 TD  Receiving: John Dunlap, 6-65
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Tom O'Brien teams aren't supposed to come out flat, and they're supposed to execute far better than NC State did against UCF until it was almost too late. Harrison Beck did a nice job of stepping in and getting the offense moving, but the running game was stunningly non-existent against a mediocre UCF defensive front and the run defense struggled early against Kevin Smith. The offense has to be far, far more consistent to have any shot of beating Boston College next week.

Sept. 1 - 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.

Sept. 8 – at Boston College
Offense: It's Matt Ryan's offense and everyone is just playing in it. The new coaching staff will install a new zone blocking scheme, putting a premium on quick, flashy runners, but the line might not be suited for the system. The receiving corps is decent, but nothing special, and the tight ends are promising. It all comes down to Ryan, who'll have more control in the attack, able to change things up a bit on the fly, and he should be tremendous now that he's healthy. He was the best quarterback in the ACC last year, and that was with a broken foot.
Defense: Is it time to start giving the BC defense a little love? It allowed 17 points per game in 2004, 15.92 in 2005, and 15.69 last year. With defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani back, it should be even better with nine starters returning including the entire front seven if linebacker Brian Toal is back from a shoulder problem. The monster tackles, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, will gum up everything inside, while the deep linebacking corps will quietly be among the ACC's best. DeJuan Tribble is one of the league's best shutdown corners, and Jamie Silva is a top free safety. The problem? There isn't a reliable second corner, and strong safety is a question mark.

Sept. 15 - Wofford

Sept. 22 - Clemson
Offense: Clemson had the ACC's best offense last season, but it didn't get nearly enough from the passing game. Expect more of the same. The 1-2 rushing punch of James Davis and C.J. Spiller is among the best in the country, and while the line loses four starters, there's enough experience and talent up front to pave the way for a big rushing year. The receiving corps has potential, but a quarterback has to emerge to consistently produce. Cullen Harper has the job to start the year, but superstar recruit Willy Korn will likely take over at the first opportunity. No matter who's under center, and despite all the bells, whistles and formations of the Rob Spence offense, it'll be all about the running game.
Defense: As long as the corners are fine, this will be one of the nation's best defenses. The line, even without Gaines Adams, will be amazing, thanks to the emergence of Ricky Sapp and a great rotation of tackles. Assuming Tramaine Billie (broken ankle) and Antonio Clay (family tragedy) are back, the linebacking corps will fly around and make plays all over the filed. The safety situation is one of the ACC's best with Chris Clemons, Michael Hamlin (broken foot and all) and DeAndre McDaniel all potential all-stars, and the corners should be decent, at worst.

Sept. 29 - Louisville
Offense: The coaching staff is new, but the results won't differ much from last season when Louisville rung up 37 points and 475 yards a game.  The Cardinals will spread the field and ask future first round draft choice Brian Brohm to distribute the ball to his plethora of playmakers.  Brohm's embarrassment of riches at receiver includes senior Harry Douglas, junior Mario Urrutia and senior Gary Barnidge, who combined for 159 receptions and 16 touchdowns in 2006.  Head coach Steve Kragthorpe and offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs love leaning on the tight end, so Barnidge could be particularly busy this fall.  Even without Michael Bush the running game is in good shape with the returns of Anthony Allen and George Stripling, a thunder and lightning combo that had 20 touchdowns a year ago.  If Kragthorpe was able to supercharge the Tulsa offense, just imagine what he'll do with all the resources they have in Louisville.
Defense: Not unlike the offense, the Cardinal D is aggressive, unpredictable and built on speed.  They'll attack regularly which often means sacks, turnovers and the occasional busted play that goes for 65 yards.  The latter could happen a little more frequently in 2007, as the secondary adjusts to three new starters and uncertainty at cornerback.  Even without All-American tackle Amobi Okoye, the defensive line figures to be among the best in the Big East.  Sophomore end Peanut Whitehead and junior tackle Earl Heyman aren't household names today, but both have the explosiveness to change that by November.  Senior linebacker Malik Jackson is a disruptive force with enough range to wreak havoc all over the field.

Oct. 6 – at Florida State
Offense: After a dreadful two seasons, the offense is under new leadership with new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher coming in to breathe life into the nation's 70th ranked attack. Step one is to find some semblance of a running game, and that starts with talented junior Antone Smith getting more carries. The offensive line, problem one over the last few years, gets a big upgrade with the addition of line coach Rick Trickett from West Virginia. He's immediately pushed everyone to get into better shape and to get a lot tougher. The passing game won't be forgotten about, with Fisher wanting to bomb away down the field to Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg. Now a steady quarterback has to emerge between Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee.
Defense: The defense came up with a better year than it got credit for, but it gave up too many points. Now the potential is there for this to be a Florida State defense again with tremendous speed and talent in the secondary and a good enough front seven to come up with a big year. There are question marks. Everette Brown is a good-looking pass rushing end, but he needs help from the other side. The linebacking corps will be special as long as Derek Nicholson and Marcus Ball can quickly return from torn ACLs, otherwise it'll be an undersized group with no depth. As always, there's a slew of NFL talent to work around, highlighted by tackle Andre Fluellen and safety Myron Rolle.

Oct. 20 – at 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.

Oct. 27 - Virginia
Offense: Until the receivers prove they can play, it'll be run, run and run some more with mobile quarterback Jameel Sewell and decent backs Cedric Peerman and Keith Payne working behind a much improved, veteran line. The tight ends are excellent, but the receiving corps suffered a nasty blow when it lost leading receiver Kevin Ogletree with a knee injury. Now it'll be up to Sewell, a rising star but an inconsistent passer, to make everyone around him better. Don't expect anything flashy for a while.
Defense: Somewhat quietly, the Virginia defense had a terrific year finishing 17th in the nation in total D and 22nd in scoring D. It should be even better with ten starters returning, including top linemen Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald to anchor the front three. All four starting linebackers are back to form a solid group that doesn't make a whole bunch of mistakes. This might not be the most athletic defense, but it's aggressive and is always around the ball.

Nov. 3 – at Miami
Offense: After a miserably inconsistent year finishing 87th in the nation in both total and scoring offense, the attack needs to play up to its talent level. The backfield will be amazing with Javarris James and true freshman Graig Cooper each good enough star for just about anyone in the country. The line has potential with two good tackles in Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood to work around, and now the passing game has to be far better. The Kyle Wright vs. Kirby Freeman quarterback battle will be an ongoing debate, and the receiving corps has to step up and be better. Lance Leggett emerging as a true number one target would be a start.
Defense: The defense finished seventh in the nation last year despite not getting any help from the offense. The starting 11 should be good enough to shut everyone down, but there will be early concerns with the depth on the defensive line and the secondary. Safety Kenny Phillips and end Calais Campbell might be the two best defensive players in the nation, and everything will revolve around them; they must stay healthy. The linebacking corps might not have name stars, but it'll be a rock against the run with a good rotation of talents.

Nov. 10 - North Carolina
Offense: The offense only cranked out 293 yards and 18 points per game with fits of wild inconsistency. Expect a bit more of the same with a young team still trying to figure out who the starters are going to be, but the overall production should be better. Step one is to determine who the quarterback will be to handle the passing game that'll run three and four wide sets. T.J. Yates was the star of spring ball, but he'll have to hold off star freshman Mike Paulus. There are plenty of good, inexperienced running backs to work with, and Hakeem Nicks is a potential star number one receiver. However, there aren't any certainties in the depth chart quite yet. The line will be serviceable, but nothing special.
It might take a year to turn things around after a disastrous 2006, but the young talent is there to get really, really excited. The defensive line has a slew of great prospects to work with, while the back seven has athleticism and quickness by design with a smallish linebacking corps. The return of Trimaine Goddard at safety will be a big help for the secondary, while the hopeful emergence of more pass rushing help for end Hilee Taylor should help the coaching staff implement it's attacking, aggressive style.

Nov. 17 – at Wake Forest
Offense: Wake Forest will never come out and outbomb anyone, but it'll run effectively behind a veteran offensive line, get the timely passes when needed, and won't screw up. The attack only averaged 21.6 points per game and was 96th in the nation in offense, but there were only 15 giveaways. QB Riley Skinner is back after helping the offense lead the ACC in passing efficiency, but everything will revolve around the ground game with several good runners and four starters returning up front. The receiving corps will be an issue needing to move 2006's leading rusher, Kenneth Moore, back to his natural receiver position.
Defense: The D could be even better than last year when it was solid at bending but rarely breaking finishing 12th in the nation in scoring defense. There's not a Jon Abbate to rely on, and a few key defensive backs need to be replaced, but there's plenty of experience everywhere and lots of speed and athleticism in the secondary. There needs to be more pass rush from the defensive front and there could stand to be fewer big plays allowed against the pass, but the overall production should be solid.

Nov. 24 - 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.



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