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2007 UNLV Rebels

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 UNLV Rebels Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 UNLV Rebels

Recap: While it wasn’t evident in the program’s 2-10 record, the Rebels made some strides in Mike Sanford’s third season in Las Vegas, nearly upsetting Wisconsin in Week 2 and rarely being overmatched in the trenches.  Still, an eight-game losing streak to close out the year and a third straight two-win season is no way to ensure job security for a coach that was supposed to elevate this team to the top half of the Mountain West.  While UNLV mined a gem from the JUCO ranks in RB Frank Summers, the rest of the offense struggled with a lack experience, especially behind center.           

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Frank Summers

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Beau Bell

Biggest Surprise: Sanford picked up his first signature win with the Rebels on Sept. 22, handing former employer Utah its first shutout in 14 years.  UNLV got 190 yards and three touchdowns from Summers, reaching .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2003.   

Biggest Disappointment: In the year of the improbable, UNLV nearly delivered a whopper of an upset on Sept. 8, taking No. 5 Wisconsin to the wire before relinquishing the lead with two minutes remaining.  Even as four-touchdown underdogs, the Rebels wanted nothing to do with moral victories after failing to close this game out.

Looking Ahead: All of Sanford’s hard work, aggressive recruiting, and commitment to youth should culminate in a breakthrough season for UNLV in 2008.  If not, the coach and his staff will likely be out of work this time next year.

- 2007 UNLV Preview
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2006 UNLV Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
3-9
2007 Record: 2-10

Aug. 30 at Utah State W 23-16
Sept. 8 Wisconsin L 20-13
Sept. 15 Hawaii L 49-14
Sept. 22 Utah W 27-0
Sept. 29 at Nevada L 27-20
Oct. 6
at Air Force L 31-24
Oct. 13 BYU L 24-14
Oct. 20
Colorado St L 48-23
Oct. 27 at Wyoming L 29-24
Nov. 10 SDSU L 38-30
Nov. 17 at TCU L 34-10
Nov. 24 at New Mexico L 24-6

Nov. 24
New Mexico 27 ... UNLV 6
New Mexico overcame four turnovers and 11 penalties with a great defensive performance holding UNLV to just two first half field goals. The Lobo offense overcame a 6-3 deficit with a 63-yard Marcus Smith touchdown catch, a 26-yard Travis Brown scoring dash and a one-yard Rodney Ferguson run as part of a 24-0 scoring run to close out the game. The two teams combined for 21 penalties. Beau Bell made 15 tackles and forced a fumble for the Rebels.
Player of the game: New Mexico WR Marcus Smith caught eight passes for 130 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 14-38, 135 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Frank Summers, 17-48. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 7-68
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 18-32, 199 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 24-117, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 8-130, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense simply didn't improve a lick over the second half of the season. The offensive line's struggles led to a lousy game against New Mexico, and not enough of a passing threat allowed the Lobo D to load up against the run. The key to the offseason will be getting the quarterback situation settled. Someone has to step up and be consistent of 2008 won't be any better. LB Beau Bell is a terror. He put on a highlight reel for the NFL scouts against the Lobos.

Nov. 17
TCU 34 ... UNLV 10
TCU held UNLV to 12 rushing yards and only allowed a 32-yard Frank Summers touchdown catch in the second quarter and a 28-yard Sergio Aguayo field goal. The Horned Frogs got out to a 28-0 first half lead on two three-yard runs from Andy Dalton and short runs from Joseph Turner and Aaron Brown. Chris Manfredini added two second half field goals.
Player of the game: TCU S Stephen Hodge made 11 tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss
Stat Leaders: UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 13-21, 183 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Frank Summers, 7-15. Receiving: Casey Flair, 6-67
TCU - Passing: Andy Dalton, 6-12, 73 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Andy Dalton, 10-73, 2 TD. Receiving: Derek Moore, 3-33

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's late November. There's no reason the UNLV offense, at this point in the year, should only be gaining 12 rushing yards. TCU's defense might be great, but the spread should dictate the action, not the other way around. Travis Dixon failed to stretch things out with the passing game, while the offensive line never got a push. With seven straight losses, this has been another disastrous season with a trip to New Mexico to close things out. There needs to be some hope for next year coming out of the trip to Albuquerque.

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
Rushing:
Frank Summers, 26-187. Receiving: Casey Flair, 8-88, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... In a strange game, UNLV controlled the game and the clock against San Diego State by running the spread effectively, and getting a huge day from Frank Summers, but an interception return for a score and a kickoff return for a touchdown proved to be too much to overcome. It was like a basketball game when UNLV seemed to expend so much energy to make a comeback that it didn't have enough in the end. On a six-game losing streak, now things get even tougher with road trips to TCU and New Mexico.

Oct. 27
Wyoming 29 ... UNLV 24
Wyoming got a three-yard Wade Betschart touchdown catch with just under six minutes to play for the lead, and then hung on as UNLV had two more drives that stalled. With three Billy Vinnedge field goals in the first quarter, the Cowboys got up, but failed to put the Rebels away. A 22-yard Casey Flair touchdown catch and an 11-yard Beau Bell interception return for a score gave UNLV the lead, but the Cowboys bounced back with a 21-yard David Leonard touchdown catch and a one-yard Devin Moore run before the Rebels took the lead back on a one-yard Omar Clayton run.
Player of the game: Wyoming LB Ward Dobbs made 15 tackles
Stat Leaders: UNLV - Passing: Omar Clayton, 21-39, 223 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Frank Summers, 21-58. Receiving: Casey Flair, 10-121, 1 TD
Wyoming - Passing: Karsten Sween, 8-17, 92 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Devin Moore, 24-86, 1 TD. Receiving: Michael Ford, 3-51

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... From the lack of a running game to 14 penalties for 113 yards, UNLV didn't have an even game against Wyoming, but it stayed alive until the end. Omar Clayton threw the ball well and Casey Flair was unstoppable, but for the Rebel offense to be at its best. Frank Summers needs to be cranking out yards in chunks. LB Beau Bell cemented his place on the All-Mountain West team with yet another great game. On a five-game losing streak, next week's home game against San Diego State is a must to salvage something of another lost season.

Oct. 20
Colorado State 48 ... UNLV 23
In a strange game with a big wind storm wreaking havoc, Colorado State broke its 13-game losing streak with an early 24-3 lead and a big day from Gartrell Johnson, who ran for 162 yards and touchdowns from 34 and four yards out. The defense got into the act with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown from Darryl Williams and a 99-yard pick six from Zac Bryson. UNLV cranked out 559 yards of total offense, but turned it over five times. Frank Summers ran for second half scores from 56 and six yards out, and Ryan Wolfe caught a seven-yard touchdown pass in the final minute.
Player of the game: Colorado State RB Gartrell Johnson ran 25 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a pass for 15 yards
Stat Leaders: Colorado State - Passing: Caleb Hanie, 13-19, 218 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Gartrell Johnson, 25-162, 2 TD. Receiving: Damon Morton, 3-124, 1 TD
UNLV - Passing: Omar Clayton, 23-36, 304 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
Rushing:
Omar Clayton, 19-135. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 11-135, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Losing at home to a team like Colorado State on a 13-game losing streak is hardly a positive, but the play of QB Omar Clayton certainly gives reason for future hope. He made a couple of back-breaking mistakes, but he also accounted for 439 yards of total offense taking over for an ineffective Travis Dixon. On a four-game losing streak, the Rebels need more than just signs of life over the next few weeks.

Oct. 13
BYU 24 ... UNLV 14
It wasn't pretty, but BYU overcame four turnovers by outrushing UNLV 227 yards to 96 with Harvey Unga tearing off 177 yards with a five-yard run, and Manase Tonga running for a three yards score to get by the Rebels. Sergio Aguayo hit two field goals, but the Rebels didn't get into the end zone until the final 1:11 on a five-yard pass from Omar Clayton to Rodelin Anthony.
Player of the game: BYU RB Harvey Unga ran 25 times for 177 yards and a touchdown, and caught five passes for 44 yards.
Stat Leaders: BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 21-33, 214 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Harvey Unga, 25-177, 1 TD. Receiving: Dennis Pitta, 7-97
UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 11-21, 78 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Frank Summers, 13-50. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 5-50

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
For the second straight week, UNLV got ripped apart on the ground. Air Force had few problems two weeks ago, and this week, BYU did whatever it wanted to. Up next is a winless Colorado State and its power rushing attack. The Rebels have to take advantage of a down team, get more long, sustained drives, start controlling the clock. Travis Dixon has to start doing more for the passing game.

Oct. 6
Air Force 31 ... UNLV 14
Air Force rumbled for 309 rushing yards, with Chad Hall scoring two times, highlighted by a 52-yard run. Shaun Carney added a 71-yard scoring dash late in the third quarter to go up 21-7, but UNLV answered with its best drive of the day, going 80 yards in 11 plays, finishing up with a four-yard Frank Summers touchdown to get within seven. But Air Force was helped by a seven-yard punt, leading to an easy field goal, and got a long drive, helped by the running of Hall, who finished with a one-yard score, to put it away.
Player of the game: Air Force RB Chad Hall ran 18 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns, and caught four passes for 44 yards.
Stat Leaders: UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 23-37, 274 yds
Rushing: Frank Summers, 25-100, 1 TD. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 10-164
Air Force - Passing: Shaun Carney, 9-14, 123 yds
Rushing:
Chad Hall, 18-169, 2 TD. Receiving:
Chad Hall, 4-44
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UNLV played well against Air Force, but couldn't get a key defensive stop and failed to convert all the yards into points. Travis Dixon was able to move the ball through the air, Frank Summers once again showed what a rushing threat he can be, and Ryan Wolfe was unstoppable, but there weren't enough good drives in the second half, and there weren't the big home runs that Air Force got. Even with the problems, this is still an improving team that's looking far better than last year.

Sept. 29
Nevada 27 ... UNLV 20
Nevada got a 43-yard touchdown pass from Nick Graziano to Kyle Sammons with just 27 seconds left to play to finally put away the Rebels. Travis Dixon tied it at 20 with just over a minute to play on a 30-yard scoring pass to Ryan Wolfe, but the Pack was able to go 65 yards in just 35 seconds to get in range for the game-winning pass. In the first quarter, Graziano connected with Mike McCoy for a 9-yard touchdown, and hit Adam Bishop for a 15-yard score in the fourth. Nevada only outgained Vegas by four yards, 458 to 454.
Player of the game: Nevada QB Nick Graziano threw for 330 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 20-of-38 passing, while running for 18 yards on six carries.
Stat Leaders: UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 17-37, 249 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Frank Summers, 24-120, 1 TD. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 6-92, 1 TD
Nevada - Passing: Nick Graziano, 20-38, 330 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
Luke Lippincott, 15-61. Receiving: Brandon Fragger, 4-27

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UNLV might have lost to Nevada, but it was another good step for the program that's been looking for a big turnaround. Now the team is at least competitive, which is a far cry from where it's been the past few seasons. Frank Summers appears to be the every game answer at running back, and while Travis Dixon is going to be erratic, he appears to be on the verge of making the offense explosive. This was a good game; UNLV simply got beaten by a decent team.

Sept. 22
UNLV 27 ... Utah 0
Frank Summers scored on a 29-yard pass play, and ran for fourth quarter touchdowns from four and 36 yards out as UNLV stunned Utah. The defense forced four Ute turnovers and held the offense to just 300 yards, while the offense was able to take advantage of the opportunities, going less than 40 yards on three scoring drives. Sergio Aguayo hit field goals from 28 and 20 yards out.
Player of the game: UNLV RB Frank Summer ran 29 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a pass for a 29-yard score.
Stat Leaders: UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 12-27, 144 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Frank Summers, 29-190 yds, 2 TD. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 3-50
Utah - Passing: Tommy Grady, 11-21, 117 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Darrell Mack, 21-89. Receiving: Brandon Godfrey, 6-62

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It might not have been the prettiest offensive performance against Utah, but the runnig of Frank Summers got the job done, while the defense played a whale of a game in the shutout. LB Beau Bell cleaned up everything against the run, and Mil'von James broke up almost every pass that came his way as the defense showed that the good performance against Wisconsin a few weeks ago wasn't a fluke. The passing of Travis Dixon wasn't there, but with the way Summers ran made up for it. Yes, UNLV is in first place in the Mountain West.

Sept. 15
Hawaii 49 ... UNLV 14
UNLV scored on its opening drive of the game, going 79 yards in 13 plays, capped off with a six-yard Frank Summers touchdown run. And then Hawaii's offense took the field. 42 points later, helped by a 40-yard Ryan Mouton interception return for a score, the third quarter was over. Colt Brennan ran or three scores and threw touchdown passes to Ryan Grice-Mullen and Jason Rivers before giving way to backup Tyler Graunke. UNLV got back on the board with a 31-yard Omar Clayton run in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Hawaii QB Colt Brennan completed 26 of 32 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns and ran nine times for 19 yards and three scores
Stat Leaders: Hawaii - Passing: Colt Brennan, 26-32, 298 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Kealoha Pilares, 11-62. Receiving: C.J. Hawthorne, 9-104
UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 19-37, 193 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Frank Summers, 12-43. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 7-47

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... With teams all across the country cranking out yards and points in chunks using the spread offense, shouldn't it be time for UNLV's attack to finally work? After all head coach Mike Sanford was brought in to make the offense fly, and it was supposed to be built to keep up in shootouts like the one against Hawaii, but it sputtered and coughed all game long with no running game and a painfully inconsistent passing attack. The defense couldn't handle anything the Warriors wanted to do, but that was to be expected. Now, Travis Dixon has to start showing signs that he can be the quarterback to turn things around.
Sept. 8
Wisconsin 20 ... UNLV 13
Wisconsin avoided the monumental upset thanks to a Tyler Donovan 29-yard bootleg run, capped off with a dive into the end zone, for a lead in the final two minutes. UNLV had one last shot, but turned the ball over on downs after a tough performance. The Rebels started off the scoring with a five-yard Casey Flair touchdown catch, and Sergio Aguayo nailed two field goals, with his 35-yarder giving them the lead midway through the fourth. But the Badgers would rally with a pounding ten-play, 61-yard drive finishing with the Donovan dash. UW's other touchdown came on a three-yard Garrett Graham catch in the second quarter, but the extra point attempt was bobbled. UW PK Taylor Mehlhaff made up for it by adding field goals from 27 and 51 yards out.
Player of the game ... Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill ran 30 times for 147 yards and caught two passes for ten yards
Stat Leaders: UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 23-36, 258 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Frank Summer, 8-25  Receiving: Casey Flair, 10-126, 1 TD
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 14-26, 138 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
P.J. Hill, 30-147  Receiving: Travis Beckum, 6-66
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... While a win over Wisconsin would've finally jump-started the Mike Sanford era, this was still an important performance against a top team. QB Travis Dixon made a few rookie mistakes, especially on his interception that led to a key Badger field goal, and there was no running game, but the offense was better than Wisconsin's until the final five minutes. Defensively, Beau Bell, with ten tackles and a sack, had a whale of a game. Now he and the Rebel pass defense will have to gear it up with Hawaii coming to town.

Aug. 30
UNLV 23 ... Utah State 16
Frank Summer ran for an 11-yard score with just over a minute to play to get the Rebels by Utah State. Any hope for an Aggie miracle was fumbled away on the ensuing kickoff. Utah State was up 10-3 at halftime thanks to a two-yard Aaron Lesue touchdown run and a 38-yard Peter Caldwell field goal, but UNLV was able to get back in it with two of Sergio Aguayo's three field goals and a 16-yard Travis Dixon scoring run. Leon Jackson tied it with a one-yard touchdown, but the Aggies only managed 89 yards in the second half and never threatened again.
Player of the game: UNLV QB Travis Dixon completed 12 of 20 passes for 141 yards and ran 22 times for 129 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 13-19, 137 yds
Rushing: Curtis Marsh, 13-50. Receiving: Kevin Robinson, 5-62
UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 12-20, 141 yds
Rushing:
Travis Dixon, 22-129, 1 TD. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 6-65
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Yeesh. While UNLV pulled off a win against Utah State it wouldn't have gotten a year ago, showing great toughness on defense in the second half and just enough on offense to get by, there's a lot, a lot, to be concerned about. Travis Dixon ran well in his first game as the starter, but his passing wasn't anything fantastic and he didn't make his receivers shine. To have a chance against Wisconsin next week, Dixon can't be the only offensive option, and the penalties, 12 for 101 yards, have to stop.

Aug. 30 – at Utah State
Offense: The offense did next to nothing last season scoring fewer than 14 points seven times and finishing averaging 10.83 points and 254 yards per game. The offensive line isn't bad and the starting receivers, led by Kevin Robinson, are solid, but the quarterback situation isn't settled with Riley Nelson out on a church mission, and there's no experience whatsoever at running back after Marcus Cross transferred. Basically, the attack needs to find one thing it can do well.
Defense:
If experience counts for anything, the Aggies should be far better with 11 returning starters and a ton of veteran backups ready to fill in. Now the defense has to stop someone after getting ripped apart by just about everyone. How bad did things get? The Aggies allowed an average of 48.8 points per game over the final five games. Ben Calderwood leads an undersized line that has to do more to get into the backfield. The corners are way too small, the linebackers are way too small, and the tackles are way too small. If the overall team quickness isn't accounting for big plays, there will be problems.


Sept. 8 - Wisconsin
Offense: The offense wasn't always pretty, but it produced. Now it welcomes back nine starters, led by power runner P.J. Hill working behind a deep and talented offensive line. The receiving corps is loaded with deep threats with Paul Hubbard, Luke Swan, and top pass-catching tight end Travis Beckum returning. It's all there to have a huge season as long as the quarterback situation is settled. Tyler Donovan and Allan Evridge are each good enough to start, but one has to break free and take the job by the horns. While this is one of the deepest Badger offenses in a long time, most of the top reserves are untested. That isn't going to be an issue for the line or the backfield, but it could be a problem if injuries hit the receiving corps.
Defense: Seven starters return to the Big Ten's best defense that finished fifth in the country. The corners will be terrific with Jack Ikegwuonu and Allen Langford back on the nation's second best pass defense (and first in pass efficiency defense), but the safeties have to be replaced. Shane Carter is a future star at free safety, but strong safety is a question mark. The front seven might not have any sure-thing stars, but it'll be terrific as long as Elijah Hodge plays up to his potential in the middle. The overall depth is talented, even though it's young and relatively untested.


Sept. 15 - Hawaii
Offense: Everything worked last year as Colt Brennan and the offense exploded for a nation-leading 559 yards and 46.86 points per game. While Brennan is back, after flirting with the idea of turning pro early, along with star receivers Davone Bess, Jason Rivers and Ryan Grice-Mullen, the line isn't remotely as good as last year's and the running game will desperately miss Nate Ilaoa. David Farmer has to add the run to the run and shoot, or else Brennan won't be nearly as effective. Even so, expect video game numbers out of the nation's best passing attack.
Defense:
With defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville gone, Greg McMackin will change the D from a 3-4 to a 4-3, even though the one weak spot, at least early on, is experience on the line. The linebackers will be excellent with good depth behind top tacklers Adam Leonard and Solomon Elimimian, and they won't have to do  as much compared to last year with a more conservative, though not that much, overall defensive approach. Three starters return to a secondary that needs to be far tighter and far more clutch in big situations.

Sept. 22 – 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.


Sept. 29 – at Nevada
Offense: The offense is going to be a work in progress and should be far better midseason than it will be to start. The biggest question marks are on the offensive line, particularly at tackle, after Charles Manu moved to guard and Dominic Green move to center. The receiving corps is big, faster than last year, and should make more big plays with big-armed Nick Graziano taking over at quarterback. The running backs need Brandon Fragger to be healthy to add a speed option along with Luke Lippencott. The Pistol offense will likely use a little more fullback this year, and will try to push the passing game deeper.
Defense: There will be some new defensive coaches taking over with coordinator Ken Wilson keeping the 3-4 scheme to take advantage of the great linebackers. Ezra Butler, Jeremy Engstrom, and Joshua Mauga are as good as any trio in the WAC, and will be the team's strength. The line is solid, helped by the emergence of nose tackle Matt Hines as a top all-around playmaker. The secondary is fine, but nothing special; the better WAC passing games won't have a problem against it.

Oct. 6 – 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.
Defense:
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.


Oct. 13 - 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.


Oct. 20 - 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.
Defense:
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. 27 – at 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 - San Diego State
Offense: Could everyone please stay healthy so we can see what the offense can do? Eight starters return, along with many others with starting experience, but it'll be the ones who weren't a part of the mix throughout all of last year, QB Kevin O'Connell and RB Lynell Hamilton, who'll need to make the offense sing after it finished averaging a woeful 14.17 points per game. Even if they don't backup quarterback Kevin Craft and a host of running backs are good enough to bring more production. The receivers are big and fast, the combination of running backs are big and fast, and O'Connell is big and fast. The line should be fine with plenty of returning experience, so now there has to be real, live production.
Defense: Uh oh. Four starters return from a defense that struggled with its consistency throughout the year and did nothing to get into the backfield. That was with Antwan Applewhite, who left a year early. The outside linebackers, Russell Allen and Brett Martin, are the strength of the defense, Ray Bass is a solid, veteran safety, while Nick Osborn is a good, versatile lineman who'll start out at tackle after playing last year at end. That's about it for the sure-things. The corner situation is a mess, there's no pass rusher to count on, and the overall depth will be an issue.

Nov. 17 – at 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.
Defense:
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.

Nov. 24 – at 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.

 

  

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