2007 San Diego State Season

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 San Diego State Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 San Diego State Aztecs

Recap: While the Aztecs took baby steps in 2007, Chuck Long's second season on the Mesa, they remain a long way from being competitive in the Mountain West.  Sure, the program was mathematically alive for a postseason game in November, but digging a little deeper reveals that San Diego State went 0-5 versus the league's bowl teams, losing by an average of 17 points.  While the offense had some bite with Kevin O'Connell under center, the defense was the program's undoing, finishing last in the league in total defense and points allowed.    

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Kevin O'Connell

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Russell Allen

Biggest Surprise: At a time when 5-2 Wyoming was still a player in the conference race, San Diego State upset the Cowboys, 27-24, to improve its own postseason profile.  The Aztecs overcame a 21-point deficit, winning on an O'Connell to Vincent Brown scoring strike with a little over a minute left in the game. 

Biggest Disappointment: The final three games.  At 3-2 in the conference, and coming off back-to-back wins over Wyoming and UNLV, the Aztecs started feeling as if they were finally turning the corner.  Season-ending losses to Air Force, TCU, and BYU by an average score of 49-28, however, put the program right back in the lane to mediocrity.

Looking Ahead: Without O'Connell, top receiver Brett Swain, and most of the line, the offense is going to regress in 2008.  That means the maligned defense must somehow pick up the slack if San Diego State has any chance of reaching .500 for the first time since 2003.

- 2007 SDSU Preview
2006 SDSU Offense

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 at Wash St L 45-17
Sept. 15 at Arizona St L 34-13
Sept. 22
Portland State W 52-17
Sept. 29 Cincinnati L 52-23
Oct. 6 at Col St W 24-20
Oct. 13 at Utah L 23-7
Oct. 20 New Mexico L 20-13
Nov. 3
Wyoming W 27-24
Nov. 10 at UNLV W 38-30
Nov. 17 at Air Force L 55-23
Nov. 24 TCU L 45-33
Dec. 1 BYU L 38-27

Dec. 1
BYU 48 ... San Diego State 27
BYU cranked out 538 yards of total offense, but it wasn't until the second half until it finally pulled away. Harvey Unga ran touchdowns from one, seven and three yards away, and started off the scoring with an eight-yard catch on the opening drive. The Aztecs stayed alive thanks to Kevin O'Connell, who ran for two touchdown and threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Lynell Hamilton. But the BYU offense proved to be too much with 28 second half points.
Player of the game: BYU RB Harvey Unga ran 12 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns, and caught three passes for 29 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 33-55, 288 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Kevin O'Connell, 17-61, 2 TD. Receiving: Brett Swain, 10-98
BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 19-26, 227 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Harvey Unga, 12-161, 3 TD. Receiving: Dennis Pitta, 4-47, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Kevin O'Connell is one of the great Mountain West talents, but he never had any help around him. He tried to do it all against BYU with 288 passing yards and 61 on the ground, and he tried to carry the offense all season long, but the defense wasn't there and the running backs didn't do nearly enough. The team is going to have to find a new franchise player to build around this offseason, and it'll need to find a way to diversify the offense. O'Connell was great, but the team relied too much on him as the year went on.

Nov. 24
TCU 45 ... San Diego State 33
San Diego State got up 17-0 in the first quarter helped by a 97-yard Chaz Schilens catch for a score, but TCU roared back with 21 points in the second and third quarters highlighted by four Joseph Turner touchdown runs scoring from five, nine, 14 and 41 yards out. The Aztecs were able to stay close for a while on a six-yard Brett Swain scoring grab and a 35-yard Garrett Palmer field goal, but the TCU running game proved to be too much. TCU ran for 376 yards and cranked out 694 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: TCU RB Joseph Turner ran 33 times for 226 yards and four touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: TCU - Passing: Andy Dalton, 23-39, 298 yds
Rushing: Joseph Turner, 33-226, 4 TD. Receiving: Walter Bryant, 7-79
San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 26-51, 366 yds, 2 TD
Kevin O'Connell, 11-58, 1 TD. Receiving: Chaz Schilens, 6-174, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Kevin O'Connell was once again a one man gang able keep the Aztecs alive against TCU, but the run defense proved to be the downfall yet again. Getting help from someone in the backfield is a must as there's almost no running game outside of O'Connell, and while that's partly due to getting down so early, it'll be important to try to establish a running attack early against BYU. The Cougars don't have anything to play for, and SDSU has to take advantage of that right away.

Nov. 17
Air Force 55 ... San Diego State 23
Air Force tore off 569 rushing yards led by 163 yards and scoring runs from 54 and 31 yards out from Jim Ollis. Ty Paffett ran for scores from 54, 73 and four yards out on the way to a 42-17 lead, and then Shaun Carney and Chad Hall, who ran for two scores, made it a laugher with long scoring runs. San Diego State bombed away for 384 passing yards, with Kevin O'Connell running for a one-yard score and hitting Brett Swain for a nine-yard touchdown pass, but it wasn't nearly enough.
Player of the game: The Air Force offensive line for paving the way for 569 yards of rushing offense and eight touchdowns
Stat Leaders: San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 27-43, 384 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brandon Sullivan, 11-30. Receiving: Chaz Schilens, 8-214
Air Force - Passing: Shaun Carney, 8-14, 101 yds, 1 INT
Jim Ollis, 15-163, 2 TD. Receiving: Travis Dekker, 3-62
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The run defense is simply non-existent at the moment, at least against spread attacks. The Aztec offense was fine against Air Force, but Kevin O'Connell and the boys didn't have a prayer with the way the defense was getting gouged time and again. With two other heavyweights, TCU and BYU, still to play, it'll be vital to generate a few key stops early to stay in the game for a few quarters. O'Connell has been great, but he'll have to be flawless and more is needed from the running backs.

Nov. 10
San Diego State 38 ... UNLV 30
UNLV outgained San Diego State 482 yards to 318, but couldn't survive a fourth quarter Aztec rally with Mekell Wesley returning a kickoff for a touchdown, Garrett Palmer hitting a 22-yard field goal, and Martrell Fantroy picking off a pass for a 55-yard score. The Rebels made a comeback of their own after getting down 21-0 on two Kevin O'Connell touchdown passes and a 15-yard Brandon Bornes run, helped by two of Travis Dixon's three touchdown passes, but it wasn't enough.
Player of the game: San Diego State QB Kevin O'Connell completed 17 of 23 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, and ran ten times for 31 yards
Stat Leaders: San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 17-23, 196 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brandon Sullivan, 10-70. Receiving: Brandon Sullivan, 6-68
UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 13-22, 185 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Frank Summers, 26-187. Receiving: Casey Flair, 8-88, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Aztecs blew a 21-point lead to UNLV, couldn't stop the run, couldn't control the clock, and couldn't get the offense going, but it cruised its way to the win thanks to a nice day from Kevin O'Connell again, and big plays from the defense and special teams. This might not be a complete team, or an efficient one, but with two straight wins, the program finally has a little bit of momentum in the Chuck Long era.

Nov. 3
San Diego State 27 ... Wyoming 24
San Diego State's Kevin O'Connell connected with Vincent Brown for a 27-yard score with 1:06 to play, and the defense held on for the win. O'Connell connected with Chaz Schilens for a five-yard touchdown to start a comeback after the Cowboys got up 21-0 in the first half on two Michael Ford touchdown catches and an 80-yard Quincy Rogers interception return for a score, O'Connell ran for a 29-yard score, but the extra point was blocked and Brandon Sullivan tore off a six-yard touchdown run to pull the Aztecs within one. Wyoming's only second half points came on a 44-yard Billy Vinnedge field goal to take the lead early in the fourth. The Cowboys controlled the ball for 36 minutes.
Player of the game: San Diego State QB Kevin O-Connell completed 20 of 44 passes for 249 yards and two scores with two interceptions, and ran 14 times for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Wyoming - Passing: Karsten Sween, 22-30, 159 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Devin Moore, 20-57. Receiving: Wynel Seldon, 5-2
San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 20-44, 249 yds, 2 TD
Kevin O'Connell, 14-41, 1 TD. Receiving: Brett Swain, 6-95

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... After a few weeks off, unfortunately due to the fires in the area, the Aztecs came out with a clunker against Wyoming getting down 21-0. But the offense started to chip away, and Kevin O'Connell came up with a terrific comeback with a last minute touchdown to pull off the big win to keep bowl eligibility hopes alive. After losing to New Mexico in soul-crushing fashion, the team needed a win like this to get a little bit of swagger going into a winnable date at UNLV.

Oct. 20
New Mexico 20 ... San Diego State 17
San Diego State appeared to be on the way to the win after QB Kevin O'Connell scrambled for a first down, but he fumbled, and the Lobos took advantage. Down four, they marched 65 yards in eight plays with Rodney Ferguson scoring on a six-yard run with 15 seconds to play to get the win. O'Connell ran for scored from one yard and 23 yards out, while the Lobos got in the end zone on a 25-yard Travis Brown catch with 11 seconds to play in the first half.
Player of the game: New Mexico WR Travis Brown caught seven passes for 119 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 18-26, 133 yds
Rushing: Kevin O'Connell, 11-82, 2 TD. Receiving: Vincent Brown, 9-58
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 18-35, 239 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rodney Ferguson, 24-78, 1 TD. Receiving: Travis Brown, 7-119, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Crushing. Kevin O'Connell was having a strong game, the Aztecs had New Mexico beaten, and then came the late fumble and a lack of a defensive stop to lose for the third time in four games. There still isn't much help for O'Connell, who had to be a one-man gang at times. There isn't nearly enough pop to the passing game, but at least this week, O'Connell was relatively accurate and efficient. Now comes BYU, and to have a shot, the run defense has to play as well as it did in keeping Rodney Ferguson and the New Mexico ground game in check.

Oct. 13
Utah 23 ... San Diego State 7
Utah ran for 282 yards, but didn't pull away until the second half when Jeremy Brooks caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from RB Louis Corbin, and Darrell Mack caught a seven-yard touchdown pass. The Utes could only manage three Louie Sakoda field goals in the first half, while the Aztecs stayed alive on a five-yard Brandon Sullivan touchdown run. But the SDSU offense sputtered in the second half and ended up being outgained 514 yards to 211.
Player of the game: Utah QB Brian Johnson completed 21 of 28 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran for three yards.
Stat Leaders: Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 21-28, 208 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Darrell Mack, 22-131. Receiving: Bradon Godfrey, 5-59
San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 14-31, 114 yds, 1 INT
Kevin O'Connell, 14-24. Receiving: Brett Swain, 5-56

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Russell Allen came up with a whale of a game against Utah, making 22 tackles and a sack, but while the defense made a ton of stops and did it's part in bending, but rarely breaking, the offense didn't help out. Kevin O'Connell was the only real ball-carrier, with Brandon Bornes getting the second most carries with five, and O'Connell even making the one big catch on a 35-yard play. To have any prayer against New Mexico and BYU over the next two weeks, the offense has to find something that works outside of just O'Connell.

Oct. 6
San Diego State 24 ... Colorado State 20
Kevin O'Connell ran for three touchdowns, including a 16-yarder early in the fourth, and a one-yarder with 43 seconds to play to beat Colorado State. The Rams got a one-yard touchdown run from QB Caleb Hanie in the third quarter, and a 40-yard Damon Morton scoring catch to take the lead with 2:29 to play, but O'Connell led the way on a seven-play, 80-yard drive on the way to the win. The Rams sacked O'Connell seven times.
Player of the game: San Diego State QB Kevin O'Connell threw for 184 yards on 13-of-26 passing, rushing 16 times for 41 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 13-26, 184 yds
Rushing: Atiyah Henderson, 10-46. Receiving: Brett Swain, 4-111
Colorado State - Passing: Caleb Hanie, 14-26, 188 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Kyle Bell, 19-76. Receiving: Dion Morton, 4-41
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Sooner or later, Kevin O'Connell was going to take over a game, and he picked a great time to do it, getting just enough yards against Colorado State to overcome the slew of sacks he ended up taking. now there needs to be more from the rest of the offense. Brett Swain and Vincent Brown came up with a few big catches, and Atiyyeh Henderson popped a good run, but for the most part, as O'Connell went, so did the Aztec offense. The defense bounced back nicely from the loss to Cincinnati.

Sept. 29
Cincinnati 52 ... San Diego State 23
Cincinnati rolled up 547 yards of total offense, and held on to the ball for almost 35 minutes, in the blowout win. Marcus Barnett and Dominick Goodman each caught two of Ben Mauk's four first half touchdown passes, and Brad Glatthaar ran for a one-yard score on the way to a 35-10 first half lead. A Greg Moore 21-yard touchdown run made it 42-10 before the Aztecs finally got back on the board with a 35-yard Vonnie Holmes interception return for a score. The Bearcats got a pick six of its own late in the fourth on a 58-yard Aaron Webster interception.
Player of the game: Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk completed 17 of 23 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns, and ran three times for 36 yards.
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 17-23, 257 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Greg Moore, 12-84, 1 TD. Receiving: Dominick Goodman, 7-101, 2 TD
San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 20-27, 253 yds, 1 TD
Atiyyah Henderson, 3-23. Receiving: Darren Mougey, 8-90
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Cincinnati is dominating everyone right now, but to get blasted so badly at home isn't a good sign. Kevin O'Connell did a great job with the passing game, but the defense didn't help out the cause. There needs to be more help from the running backs, and O'Connell can't be asked to carry the entire offense by himself. After struggling so far against the decent teams on the schedule, now the Aztecs get a proper test at Colorado State. If they get blown out in Fort Collins, then there will truly be a reason to worry about the progress under Chuck Long.

Sept. 22
San Diego State 52 ... Portland State 17
Kevin O'Connell threw five touchdown passes with Brett Swain scoring from 30, 53, and 75 yards out in the first half, and Brandon Bornes pitching in with a seven-yard scoring run. PSU broke things up with two one-yard
Olaniyi Sobomehin touchdown runs, but the Aztec passing game was too much to overcome. O'Connell connected with Vincent Brown for a 62-yard pass play early in the fourth to put things well out of reach.
Player of the game: San Diego State QB Kevin O'Connell went 19-of-31 for 443 yards and five touchdown passes.
Stat Leaders: Portland State - Passing: Brian White, 36-53, 408 yds, 3 INTs

Rushing: Olaniyi Sobomehin, 7-26, 2 TDs. Receiving: Reggie Joseph, 7-85
San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 19-31, 443 yds, 5 TDs
Brandon Bornes, 18-39, 1 TD. Receiving: Brett Swain, 6-224, 3 TDs

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Finally, after not getting much pop in the first two weeks, Kevin O'Connell and the passing game broke out in the win over Portland State. Brett Swain had the kind of massive game everyone was expecting of him as a number one target, and now he'll be the main focus of Cincinnati. O'Connell will have to be just as sharp next week against Cincinnati, and the offense even more explosive with the Aztec defense not showing much in the way of pass defense, allowing 445 yards.

Sept. 15
Arizona State 34 ... San Diego State 13
Rudy Carpenter threw two touchdown passes and Keegan Herring scored twice as Arizona State had few problems with the Aztecs. Carpenter connected with Kyle Williams from 19 yards out on the opening drive of the game, and hit Rudy Burgess for a 30-yard score at the end of the first half. Herring tore off a 46-yard scoring run in the first quarter, and put the game well out of reach with a one-yard run in the third. San Diego State got two Garrett Palmer field goals and a three-yard Kevin O'Connell touchdown run.
Player of the game ... Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter completed 19 of 37 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns with an interception
Player of the game: Arizona State RB Keegan Herring ran 19 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 24 yards
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 15-21, 200 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Keegan Herring, 19-161, 2 TD. Receiving: Rudy Burgess, 3-52, 1 TD
San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 22-38, 180 yds, 1 INT
Brandon Bornes, 12-73. Receiving: Brett Swain, 6-66

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Big plays ... SDSU can't come up with any on either side of the ball. Oh sure, there were a few nice stops, Corey Boudreaux had a great game, but the defense didn't have any game-changing moments against Arizona State. The offense was far too often a one-man show with Kevin O'Connell trying to do a little bit of everything. At some point, the offense will have to take a few shots down the field. The receiving corps has to be more involved deep.

Sept. 8
Washington State 45 ... San Diego State 17
Washington State QB Alex Brink set a school record with 38 completions with 469 yards and five touchdown passes, including two to Brandon Gibson, while three different Cougar receivers went over 100 yards in the rout. San Diego State scored first on a 23-yard Garrett Palmer field goal, and was up 10-7 thanks to a 59-yard Brandon Bornes touchdown run, and then the Cougars went nuts going on a 31 point run with three of Brink's touchdown passes and a one-yard Dwight Tardy scoring run before the Aztecs got a 19-yard scoring grab from Darren Mougey.
Player of the game ... Washington State QB Alex Brink completed 38 of 47 passes for 469 yards and five touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: Washington State- Passing: Alex Brink, 38-47, 469 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Dwight Tardy, 16-99, 1 TD  Receiving: Michael Bumpus, 10-118
San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O'Connell, 28-44, 273 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Brandon Bornes, 7-72, 1 TD  Receiving: Steve Schmidt, 7-58
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Aztecs played against Washington State like a team that needed a cupcake of an opener. With 13 penalties, little running game, and no defense, it was a long day in the blowout loss. QB Kevin O'Connell played well, but the Aztecs didn't have the firepower to keep up, and they didn't have the secondary. Now the hope will be that it was simply a case of working some kinks out, or the road trip to Arizona State will be just as bad.

Sept. 1 – at Washington State
Offense: Washington State won't abandon the run by any means, but this is an offense that's traditionally wide-open and run out of three-wide sets.  The engineer of the attack will be fourth-year starting quarterback Alex Brink, who enters his senior season with a real nice complement of receivers, led by all-Pac-10 candidates Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus.  Although the offensive line welcomes back four players that started games a year ago, both tackles will be new, a big concern heading into the season.  If they're overmatched, the ripple effect will reverberate throughout the entire offense.          
Defense: Expect some subtle changes as head coach Bill Doba steps in to coordinate the defense in 2007.  He'd like to utilize more man coverages and blitz packages, both of which could be suicide for a secondary that's been gutted by graduations and is in dire need of a couple of reliable cornerbacks.  The Cougars are going to give up plenty of yards and points, but if they can create turnovers and sack the quarterback, like last year, there's hope that the breakdowns can be managed.  The defense is loaded with big, agile bodies up front, but there's a catch—serious injuries are mounting and could bleed into the start of the season.  While there's no quick fix for the pass defense, junior college transfer Terry Mixon has the potential to be a star from the moment he steps foot in Pullman.

Sept. 15 – at Arizona State
Offense: Arizona State really wasn't Arizona State in 2006, but with ten starters returning, there's reason to believe that the Sun Devils will score in bunches this year.  Dennis Erickson brings a balanced and unpredictable system that'll use multiple formations and plenty of shotgun, yet still lean heavily on the running game.  The success of the unit hinges on the play of quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who looked destined for stardom as a freshman before suffering through a humbling sophomore season marked by turnovers and lapses in confidence.  His supporting cast is headed by Ryan Torain, one of the nation's best backs that no one outside the Pac-10 has seen.  With six seasoned linemen back, he's destined to become the first Sun Devil in over 30 years to go for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.  Although Carpenter's receivers did nothing to help him out of his slump in 2006, they're now awash with the kind of speed and playmaking potential that's customary in Tempe.       
Defense: Six starters return to a defense that improved in 2006, yet still allowed more than 40 points in four of the final ten games.  The Sun Devils will continue to run out of a 4-3 base while asking their linebackers and safeties to freelance and make plays all over the field.  There are building blocks—and question marks—at each unit heading into 2007.  Tackle Michael Marquardt and Dexter Davis have all-league potential, but both are going to need support from a couple of new starters.  Although the linebackers have considerable upside, the man in the middle, Morris Wooten, is a first-year player.  And while safety Josh Barrett and corner Justin Tryon will play on Sundays, the pass defense is in deep trouble if the other cornerback gets routinely exposed.  The net result?  A nice collection of talent that'll still allow plenty of yards to the Pac-10's finer-tuned offenses.

Sept. 22 – Portland State

Sept. 29 – 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.

Oct. 6 – at Colorado State
Offense: There's no reason for the Ram offense to be far, far better. Nine starters are back, led by the return of power back Kyle Bell from a knee injury to save a ground game that was among the worst in America. Caleb Hanie is a veteran passer with one of the Mountain West's best receiving corps at his disposal. It all comes down to a line that gets the interior back, but has to find consistent tackles who can protect Hanie. Keeping Bell healthy is also vital. There was no rushing production two years ago when he wasn't on, and there was nothing happening last year with him on the sidelines.
A veteran defense returns with everyone back except the two outside linebackers. With all the experience, there has to be more pressure in the backfield and more big plays against the pass after coming up with just 27 sacks and seven interceptions. There aren't any superstars, but there are several very good players who know what they're doing. Undersized tackle Blake Smith might move to end to provide the pass rusher the team desperately needs, and the secondary should benefit.

Oct. 13 – at Utah
Offense: Look out. Utah not only gets just about everyone back with its top six wide receivers, leading rusher Darryl Poston, and four starting offensive linemen, but it also welcomes back its superstar, quarterback Brian Johnson, after taking last year off to recover from a torn ACL. All the problems with inconsistency throughout last season should be gone thanks to all the experience. Expect more explosion, a slew of Mountain West all-stars, and for Johnson to become a national college football name. There's more than enough depth at the skill positions to withstand injuries, but there's no development among the backups on the line.  
Defense: There's a ton of athleticism and loads of potential, but there are also several major concerns on the line and secondary. The linebacking corps will be fine with four starting-caliber players returning led by Joe Jianonni in the middle. Martail Burnett is an all-star waiting to blow up at end, free safety Steve Tate is good for 100 tackles, and Brice McCain has the kind of speed that NFL scouts tend to drool over. Everything else is up in the air with former receiver Sean Smith trying to handle the second corner spot, no experience to count on at strong safety, and unproven new starters at tackle and the second defensive end. In the end, the D will be fine in Mountain West play because of all the talent, but it might not be good enough to win the league title if the offense struggles for a game or two.

Oct. 20 - New Mexico
Offense: The offense is scrapping the Bob Toledo attack and going back to a more basic style that'll pound the ball more with a big line, but won't forget about balancing things out through the air. With one of the Mountain West's best receiving tandems in Travis Brown and Marcus Smith, and a rising superstar in quarterback Donovan Porterie, the passing game should shine, while Rodney Ferguson will be a 1,000-yard back. If injuries are a problem, there will be big troubles with no developed depth among the skills positions and even less to count on up front.
Defense: The 3-3-5 scheme will stay in place, but the Lobo position will be fifth defensive back more than a linebacker. As always, there are plenty of great athletes who can run and fly to the ball. Now there has to be more production against the pass and more big plays in the backfield. The linebacking corps with Cody Kase moving from the outside in, should be stellar, while the cornerback tandem of DeAndre Wright and Glover Quin should be among the best in the league. There's a ton of talent to get excited about, but, unlike last year, will it all come together to form one of the league's better defenses? It's possible.

Oct. 27 - 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.

Nov. 3 - Wyoming
Offense: The offense wasn't consistent and did nothing against the good teams (averaging 8.5 points against Boise State, New Mexico, TCU and BYU), but there's plenty of hope for a big turnaround with a good pair of backs in powerful Wynel Seldon and speedy Devin Moore, a strong receiving corps with Michael Ford, Hoost Marsh, and emerging deep threat Greg Bolling, and a great quarterback situation with three possible starters led by rising star Karsten Sween. The one issue could be the offensive line that returns just two starters and has question marks at guard.
Defense: The Cowboys had a terrific, unnoticed defensive season finishing ninth in the nation in total defense. However, it struggled at the end of year, for the second straight season, and now it has some holes to fill. The linebacking corps, with four great starters and a slew of good reserves for the 3-4, will be among the best in the league, and while there aren't any returning starters up front, they're big. Corners Julius Stinson and Michael Medina should be excellent, but the star safeties of last year have to be replaced.

Nov. 10 – at UNLV
Offense: The Rebel Shotgun Spread has basically misfired over the first two seasons, but the potential is there for a huge turnaround. QB Rocky Hinds, a disappointment in his first season after coming over from USC, played with a torn ACL almost all season, and now he'll be healthy. He'll have a loaded receiving corps to work with led by Casey Flair and Ryan Wolfe, but all eyes will be on Aaron Straiten on the outside. The star JUCO transfer of last year has million-dollar talent, but now he needs to use it. The emergence of Frank Summers as a powerback should help out the running game, which already has speed -rusher David Peeples, but the offensive line has to do more to pave the way.
Defense: The defense struggled way too much to get a stop early in games, and it forced the offense to press way too often. Now there should be a bit of an improvement with several good returning starters and a fearsome pass rush. The ends should be terrific, and the linebackers can all move, but the emphasis going into the year will be to stop the run. Are the defenders in place to do it? That remains to be seen, but the biggest concern will be with a secondary that didn't make nearly enough plays last year, and now it doesn't have Eric Wright.

Nov. 17 – at Air Force
Offense: For what seems like the 19th year in a row, Air Force is going to make an attempt to be more diversified and add some passing to the mix. This time, under new offensive coordinator Tim Horton, it might actually happen. Slowly. Running the ball will still be the team's bread-and-butter, but there will be some shotgun, some spread, and a mish-mosh of other offenses to try to get thing moving. Shaun Carney is a good, veteran quarterback to handle all the changes, but he doesn't have much to work with. The receiving corps needs work before it can become a threat, the backfield will be fine in the triple-option, but could struggle in a traditional set, and the offensive line needs to undergo major changes.
Air Force hasn't played defense in about three years and it'll take a major overhaul and a fantastic coaching job by new coordinator Tim DeRuyter to change things up. There's no size, not enough speed, and little in the way of experienced reserves. There has to be some semblance of a pass rush, and the hope will be for the speedy outside linebackers in the 3-4 to generate it. Far more has to be done against the pass. Now for the positives. Drew Fowler is one of the Mountain West's best linebackers and safety Bobby Giannini is a tackling machine.

Nov. 24 - TCU
Offense: This won't be the offense of last year that finished second in the Mountain West in yards and scoring, but it won't be bad as long as there isn't a major injury problem among the starters. The line should be the strength with three returning starters and experience to count on at the other spots. Aaron Brown is about to shine now that he doesn't have to split carries. He'll be the do-it-all back who'll be the offense until the passing game, which struggled mightily in spring, comes around. The receiving corps has potential, but it needs Donald Massey to become a number one target, and it needs the quarterback situation to be settled with Marcus Jackson, who'll likely win the job, battling with Andy Dalton.
The Horned Frogs finished second in the nation in total defense, third in scoring defense, and led the Mountain West in several top categories. It'll be a total shock if they weren't even better. The only possible problems will come if injuries strike. Nine starters return, led by all-star ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, who make life easy for everyone else on the defense with the pressure they provide. The 4-2-5 has four good linebackers, an amazing group of safeties, rising stars at corner, and a good, active line. The only potential issue is a lack of raw bulk at tackle, but that's looking for a problem.



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