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2007 Arizona Wildcats

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Arizona Wildcats Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 Arizona Wildcats

Recap: That hump Arizona’s been trying to get over since Mike Stoops came on board doesn’t appear to be getting any smaller.  The Wildcats got hot in November, winning 3-of-4, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a sluggish first half of the season, or an inability to close out games.  The season did showcase a change in philosophy for the Arizona offense, which opened up the passing attack for QB Willie Tuitama, who responded by setting school records for touchdown passes, completions, and attempts.

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Mike Thomas

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Spencer Larsen

Biggest Surprise: Had Oregon QB Dennis Dixon played more than a quarter, the outcome likely would have been different, but don’t expect the ‘Cats to give back their Nov. 15 upset of the nation’s second-ranked team.  Arizona exploded for 21 unanswered points in the second quarter, getting a pair of touchdowns from CB Antoine Cason, starting Oregon’s season-ending three-game slide into obscurity.  

Biggest Disappointment: Losing at home to Stanford, 21-20, on Oct. 20.  The Wildcats fell one win short of that elusive bowl eligibility, making a loss to one of the Pac-10’s lightweights that much harder to digest.       

Looking Ahead: With their quarterback and all of their skill position players back in 2008, the Wildcat offense will be even better in the second year in Sonny Dykes’ system.  However, if a defense that was built for success in 2007 can’t replace the likes of Cason and Larsen, the ‘Cats will hover around .500 again next year.   

- 2007 Arizona Preview
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2006 Arizona Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
5-7
2007 Record:
5-7

Sept. 1 at BYU L 20-7
Sept. 8 No Arizona W 45-24
Sept. 15 New Mexico L 29-27
Sept. 22 at California L 45-27
Sept. 29 Wash St W 48-30
Oct. 6 at Oregon St L 31-16
Oct. 13 at USC L 20-13
Oct. 20
Stanford L 21-20
Oct. 27 at Wash. W 48-41
Nov. 3 UCLA W 34-27
Nov. 15
Oregon W 34-24
Dec 1 at Arizona St L 20-17

Dec. 1
Arizona State 20 ... Arizona 17
Arizona State got by with a Rudy Carpenter flip pass for a touchdown to Tyrice Thompson and a 20-yard Michael Jones scoring grab, and two short Thomas Weber field goals, while the defense kept the Wildcat offense under wraps. Arizona scored first on a one-yard Rob Gronkowski catch, but couldn't get back in the end zone until there were 26 seconds left. ASU only finished with 344 yards of total offense, but Arizona only gained 316.
Player of the game: Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter completed 20 of 37 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 20-37, 247 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Dimitri Nance, 22-58. Receiving: Chris McGaha, 6-83
Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 28-52, 272 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Mike Thomas, 1-37. Receiving:
Mike Thomas, 9-98
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The offense, when it's not quite clicking, can be painfully inept. For all the throw and all the attempt to mix things up with the passing game against Arizona State, the Wildcats didn't get anything going down field, struggled in pass protection, and wasn't even close to getting the ground game on track. Worse yet, the defense was one of the only ones on the ASU schedule that couldn't consistently get to Rudy Carpenter. This game was a microcosm of the Wildcat season with inconsistencies mixed in with moments of greatness. LB Spencer Larsen had a whale of a game.

Nov. 15
Arizona 34 ... Oregon 24
Arizona jumped out to a 31-14 halftime lead on Mike Thomas touchdown catches from 34 and 46 yards out along with an Antoine Cason 42-yard interception return or a touchdown and a 56-yard punt return for a score. Oregon scored on its first drive on a 39-yard Dennis Dixon touchdown run, but he later injured his knee and was lost for the rest of the game. With Brady Leaf under center for the Ducks, Arizona blitzed time and again and forced plenty of mistakes, but Oregon got within seven points late in the fourth on a 17-play, 71-yard drive finishing up with a two-yard Andre Crenshaw touchdown run. Arizona was able to all but put the game away by answering with a 46-yard field goal, but needed help from the replay booth as QB Willie Tuitama was ruled down before he fumbled the ball away to Oregon. Oregon outgained Arizona 463 yards to 322.
Player of the game: Arizona CB Antoine Cason made seven tackles, broke up five passes, returned an interception 42 yards for a score, and returned three punts for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Brady Leaf, 22-46, 162 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 28-131. Receiving: Jaison Williams, 8-120
Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 21-39. 266 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Nicholas Grigsby, 20-53. Receiving: Mike Thomas, 6-125, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Arizona's gameplan against Oregon appeared to do a 180-degree change after Dennis Dixon got hurt. Led by a brilliant day from Spencer Larsen and a great push from Yaniv Barnett, the defense got to Brady Leaf early and often and forced several misfired and several near-interceptions. However, when things got tight, and the Wildcat offense started to sputter, the defense started to have problems with the Duck power game. Arizona took its foot off the gas and played not to lose in the second half, and almost lost. Of course, the Cats won, and now has a chance to become bowl eligible with a win at Arizona State in two weeks.

Nov. 3
Arizona 34 ... UCLA 27
UCLA took an early lead with 100-yard kickoff return for a score from Matt Slater following a 39-yard Jason Bondzio field goal, and then Willie Tuitama and the Arizona passing game took over with Chris Jennings taking a pass 55 yards for a score and Rob Gronkoswki scoring from 27 yard out as part of a 24-point run. UCLA despite losing QB Pat Cowan to a collapsed lung, came back with Kai Forbath field goals from 35 and 61 yards out, and a one-yard Chane Moline touchdown run, but the Wildcats were able to run out the clock late. Arizona outgained UCLA 469 yards to 288.
Player of the game: Arizona QB Willie Tuitama completed 21 of 36 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: Osaar Rasshan, 3-10, 78 yds
Rushing: Chane Moline, 15-62, 1 TD. Receiving: Dominique Johnson, 4-74
Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 21-36, 341 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Nicholas Grigsby, 20-124, 1 TD. Receiving: Rob Gronkowski, 6-94, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's amazing how winning gives a team confidence for more wins. Arizona is playing well over the last two weeks, albeit against offensively challenged teams in Washington and UCLA, and now the real season begins. With dates against heavyweights Oregon and Arizona State, if Willie Tuitama and the passing game can keep bombing away effectively, the Cats have a chance at bowl eligibility. Not to be overlooked is Nicholas Grigsby, who bounced back from a lousy game against Washington to rumble on UCLA for 124 yards and a score.

Oct. 27
Arizona 48 .. Washington 41
Willie Tuitama bombed away for 510 yards and five touchdowns including three scoring passes to Mike Thomas, connecting from 66, two, and 27 yards out. The first touchdown pass started off the scoring, while the last two tied it, and then gave the Wildcats the lead in a wild fourth quarter. Down 41-26, Tuitama threw a 33-yard touchdown pass To Terrell Turner, and then UW started to screw up. Jake Locker, who had a huge game with 336 passing yards and 157 on the ground, lost a fumble leading to the second Thomas score. After Arizona took the lead with just over two minutes to play, Washington got to the Wildcat 42 before Locker was picked off by Antoine Cason. The two teams combined for 1,107 total yards.
Player of the game: Arizona QB Willie Tuitama completed 38 of 51 passes for 510 yards and five touchdowns with an interception, and ran five times for seven yards
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 38-51, 510 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Nicholas Grigsby, 13-24. Receiving: Michael Thomas, 10-165, 3 TD
Washington - Passing: Jake Locker, 17-30, 336 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Jake Locker, 23-157 yds, 2 TD. Receiving: Marcel Reese, 5-166, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Arizona offense is equal part exhilarating and frustrating. Willie Tuitama has shown flashes of brilliance before, but he just can't come up with a consistent performance from one week to the next. Beating Washington was a huge step for the program, showing off the offensive brilliance of Tuitama, Mike Thomas and the passing game, but now the team can't go back in the tank and lose to home against UCLA. A little more defense along the way would be nice.

Oct. 20
Stanford 21 ... Arizona 20
Stanford rallied late in the fourth quarter with Jeremy Stewart closing off a 53-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run, and then held on two final Arizona drives. The Wildcats got a 21-yard Mike Thomas touchdown run, a three-yard A.J. Simmons scoring catch, and two Jason Bondzio field goals, but Stanford stayed alive with a 33-yard Richard Sherman touchdown catch and a two-yard Jason Evans scoring run in the second quarter.
Player of the game: Stanford S Nick Sanchez made nine tackles, one tackle for loss, forced a fumble and picked off a pass
Stat Leaders: Stanford - Passing: Tavita Pritchard, 19-27, 181 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jason Evans, 21-78, 1 TD. Receiving: Richard Sherman, 6-69, 1 TD
Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 28-41, 238 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Nicholas Grigsby, 24-126. Receiving: Delashaun Dean, 8-51

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... And thanks for playing Mike Stoops; it's been fun. You can't lose to Stanford at home. Yes, USC did it, but Arizona isn't USC. The Wildcats are now on a three-game losing streak with a road trip to Washington next week followed up by dates against UCLA, Oregon and Arizona State. The passing game just isn't working as well as it needs to be, and while Nicholas Grigsby ran well against the Cardinal, the O needs to do more. The Cats had the ball for just 4:13 in the fourth quarter, and the defense paid for it.

Oct. 13
USC 20 ... Arizona 13
USC needed to battle for a full sixty minutes to put away a pesky Arizona team. Sparked by a big 45-yard punt return from Joe McKnight, USC took the lead for good late in the fourth on a 25-yard Fred David touchdown catch. Chauncey Washington started out the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown run and David Buehler hit the first of two field goals on a 27-yard strike for a 10-0 Trojan lead, but Arizona got two Jason Bondzio field goals and a one-yard Willie Tuitama touchdown run for a 13-10 lead. The offense wouldn't threaten again, as USC's banged up defense ended up holding the Wildcats to 255 yards and 22 rushing yards.
Player of the game: USC RB Joe McKnight ran 13 times for 75 yards, caught two passes for four yards, and returned two punts for 49 yards
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 30-44, 233 yds
Rushing: Chris Jennings, 7-16, 1 TD. Receiving: Mike Thomas, 12-83
USC - Passing: Mark Sanchez, 19-31, 130 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Joe McKnight, 13-75. Receiving: Fred Davis, 6-63, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The USC game was there for the taking, but there just wasn't enough from the top playmakers to make it happen. The running game was nowhere to be found, and Willie Tuitama didn't pick up the slack with his passing with just 233 yards on 30 completions. Defensively, Spencer Larson had a whale of a game, but as good as the D was, that was mostly due to the general ineffectiveness of the USC offense. This could've been a springboard game with Stanford and Washington up next, but now there's no room left for any mistakes. The Wildcats have to run the table for a winning season.

Oct. 6
Oregon State 31 ... Arizona 16
Oregon State got two first quarter touchdown runs from Yvenson Bernard, with the second run, from nine yards out, followed up by a 49-yard interception return for a score from Joey LaRocque 15 seconds later. A Bernard six-yard scoring catch early in the second made it 31-3, and the Beavers cruised from there. The Wildcats finally got in the end zone on a 60-yard Antoine Cason interception return for a score, but only managed 231 yards of total offense and got three Jason Bondzio field goals.
Player of the game: Oregon State RB Yvenson Bernard rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries, and added five catches for 24 yards and another score.
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 18-38, 222 yds, 3 INTs
Rushing: Nick Grigsby, 16-61. Receiving: Anthony Johnson, 6-80
Oregon State - Passing: Sean Canfield, 17-30, 139 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing:
Yvenson Bernard, 32-140 2 TDs. Receiving: Yvenson Bernard, 5-24, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... A week after ripping apart Washington State, the Arizona offense went into the tank against Oregon State, regressing in the running game and getting an awful performance from Willie Tuitama. Blame the offensive line. Tuitama didn't get rid of the ball quickly enough on several plays, but he never had a chance on most others, getting sacked eight times and needing to rush several throws. The running game was fine, with Nick Grigsby doing a good job again, but after a disastrous first half, the Wildcats needed to start chucking. Now they get a ticked off USC.

Sept. 29
Arizona 48 ... Washington State 20
Arizona exploded for 568 yards of total offense with Willie Tuitama throwing five touchdown passes and running for another, and Mike Thomas scoring from 27 and 20 yards out to help pull away. The Cougars tied it up at 20 in the third quarter on Alex Brink's third touchdown pass of the game, a 14-yarder to Brandon Gibson, and then the Wildcats made it a laugher with 28 unanswered points, highlighted by a 57-yard scoring pass play to tight end Rob Gronkowski. Arizona freshman RB Nicholas Grigsby tore off 186 yards.
Player of the game: Arizona QB Willie Tuitama completed 22 of 21 passes for 346 yards and five touchdowns, and ran four times for five yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 22-31, 346 yds, 5 TD
Rushing: Nicholas Grigsby, 30-186. Receiving: Nicholas Grigsby, 9-76, 1 TD
Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 35-56, 347 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Dwight Tardy, 12-66. Receiving: Brandon Gibson, 11-127, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Now that's how it's supposed to work. After completely dismissing the passing game over several games, the Wildcats ran well with freshman Nicholas Grigsby, who had a phenomenal game against the porous Washington State defense. Of course, the win was all about the play of Willie Tuitama, who ran and threw well with no mistakes and five touchdown passes. The defense wasn't a rock, and struggled against the Cougar passing game, but if the offense plays like this against USC next week, things could be very interesting.

Sept. 22
California 45 ... Arizona 27
Cal was cruising to an apparently easy win, as Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best each ran for short scores, LaVelle Hawkins caught an 18-yard touchdown pass, and Tyson Alualu recovered a fumble for a touchdown as part of a 28-point first quarter. The Bears were up 38-10 early in the third, but Arizona came back with 17 straight points to pull within 11 with 13 minutes to play. Playing with a banged up thigh, Forsett came off the bench to lead the way on a game-clinching drive, finishing up with a three-yard touchdown run.
Player of the game: Cal RB Justin Forsett rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 42-61, 309 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Nicholas Grigsby, 13-42, 1 TD. Receiving: Mike Thomas, 12-105, 1 TD
Cal - Passing: Nate Longshore, 16-30, 235 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Justin Forsett, 23-117, 2 TDs. Receiving: Lavelle Hawkins, 6-95, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Arizona can't completely abandon the running game. It had to after the first quarter against Cal, getting down 28-3, but the offense simply doesn't appear to be strong enough to throw the ball 61 times every game and win. The defense didn't generate enough pressure in the Cal backfield, and it took too long to get the offense going. Now the Washington State game is critical to avoid a brutally ugly start. Road trips to Oregon State and USC follow.

Sept. 15
New Mexico 29 ... Arizona 27
In a weird and wild game, New Mexico and Arizona combined for 773 passing yards with three different Wildcat receivers going over the 100-yard mark and the Lobos getting 100-yad days from Marcus Smith and Travis Brown. Arizona held a 13-7 lead late in the first half, when Brown made a 38-yard touchdown grab with three seconds to play, sparking a 21-point run that ended late in the third quarter on a 23-yard Smith scoring grab. The Wildcats kept it close in the fourth on two Mike Thomas touchdown catches to pull within two, but a final chance was snuffed out by an interception. Arizona last two fumbles in the end zone, with both recovered by O.J. Swift.
Player of the game: New Mexico WR Marcus Smith caught 11 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 30-53, 446 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Chris Jennings, 11-41. Receiving: Michael Thomas, 7-127, 2 TD
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 29-41, 327 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Rodney Ferguson, 26-94. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 11-164, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
It wasn't like Arizona didn't have a bunch of chances against New Mexico, but three turnovers, no running game, and a shockingly lousy day from the secondary contributed to yet another loss under Mike Stoops with a trip to California ahead. On the plus side, Willie Tuitama was terrific after it became obvious that the running game wasn't going to work. Somehow, the Cats lost with 446 passing yards, and now Tuitama might have to bomb away again and again and again if the defense is going to continue to struggle.

Sept. 8
Arizona 45 ... Northern Arizona 24
Willie Tuitama threw five touchdowns to five different receivers and Antoine Cason returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown as Arizona coasted until the fourth quarter. The Wildcats got out to a 38-10 lead, but NAU fought back with a two-yard touchdown run from Lance Kriesien and a 13-yard run from Lionel Scott to pull within 14, but Tuitama led the offense on an 80-yard touchdown drive to end the drama. NAU committed 15 penalties for 152 yards.
Player of the game ... Arizona QB Willie Tuitama completed 23 of 44 passes for 283 yards and five touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 23-44, 283 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mike Thomas, 4-80  Receiving: Terrell Turner, 6-67, 1 TD
Northern Arizona - Passing: Lance Kriesien, 22-39, 187 yds
Rushing:
Lionel Scott, 8-44, 1 TD  Receiving: Alex Watson, 10-47
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
It wasn't a plus how the Wildcats allowed Northern Arizona to make it interesting in the fourth quarter, and the offense wasn't able to run as well as it might have liked to without using a few quirky plays, but Willie Tuitama got hot and was great at using all his receivers. Mike Thomas needs the ball in his hands as much as possible; he proved again to be the team's most dangerous playmaker.

Sept. 1
BYU 20 ... Arizona 7
BYU's defense stole the show, keeping Arizona off the board until a seven-yard Earl Mitchell touchdown catch in the final minute of the game. The Cougars got two first half touchdown passes from Max Hall, and Harvey Unga scored twice on a 27-yard catch and an 11-yard run on the way to a 20-0 lead. The Wildcats only managed 30 rushing yards.
Player of the game ... BYU HB Harvey Unga had 15 carries for 67 yards and one touchdown, while leading the team with nine receptions for 127 yards and another score.
Stat Leaders: Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 26-36, 216 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Chris Jennings, 14-41  Receiving: Chris Jennings, 9-27
BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 26-39, 288 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing:
Harvey Unga, 15-67, 1 TD  Receiving: Harvey Unga, 9-127, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Another year, another average Arizona offense. The Wildcats didn't do anything against a good, but not great BYU defense, and it certainly isn't a D that should hold anyone to just 30 rushing yards. The Arizona defense was fine, but it didn't get any help and it failed to come up with any big-time game-changing plays to turn things around. If Willie Tuitama and Chris Jennings don't get things going against Northern Arizona next week, it'll truly be panic time. This can't be another inconsistent season.

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


Sept. 8 – Northern Arizona

Sept. 15 - 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.

Sept. 22 – at California
Offense: With Jeff Tedford at the controls, this is basically a pro-style offense that mixes the run and the pass evenly, and puts up points as quickly as any program in the country.  The head coach will be calling plays again after a one-year hiatus, meaning trick plays will be more frequent than a year ago.  The job of distributing the ball to an array of speedy skill position players belongs to quarterback Nate Longshore, a strong-armed junior that threw 24 touchdown passes in 2006 and a few too many picks.  Although he has plenty of receivers to choose from, none is more lethal than DeSean Jackson, a field-stretcher and legit Heisman candidate.  Super sub Justin Forsett takes over for Marshawn Lynch at running back, where he’ll be running behind an outstanding veteran line.  Center Alex Mack is on the All-American doorstep after earning first team All-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore.
Defense: There’s plenty of work to be done for a Cal defense that begins a new era without its signature all-conference player at each of the three defensive units.  Outstanding recruiting by Jeff Tedford and his staff in recent years ensures that the cupboard is far from empty, but there’ll be a learning curve early on in 2007.  Of greatest concern is a pass defense that gets modest support up front and will be relying on a slew of green cornerbacks.  Sophomore Syd’Quan Thompson and redshirt freshman Darian Hagan look the part, but need to deliver once Pac-10 plays begins.  Junior Zack Follett is the budding star of a linebacker unit that has the potential to be the next best thing to USC in the conference.      

Sept. 29 - 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.

Oct. 6 – at Oregon State
Offense: While the Beavers regularly skip using a fullback in favor of a third receiver, they’re a balanced offense that’ll run it as much as they throw.  When you’ve got a back as talented as senior Yvenson Bernard, that’s called using your resources wisely.  Bernard has run for more than 1,300 yards in each of the last two seasons behind a nasty, no-nonsense line that welcomes back all but one starter.  Senior split end Sammie Stroughter is an open field dynamo coming off a monster season in 2006.  What he can do for an encore depends in large part on how well one of two sophomore quarterbacks adapts to a full-time gig.  Hard-throwing lefty Sean Canfield is the acknowledged favorite to supplant Matt Moore, but Lyle Moevao sent a message this spring that he won’t go away quietly.             
Defense: Much of the unit that led the Pac-10 in takeaways and sacks is back in Corvallis for 2007.  The front seven, in particular, is rock solid and made up entirely of seniors.  The best of the bunch is outside linebacker Derrick Doggett, who has the range and long stride to literally make plays anywhere on the field.  After bagging a team-high nine sacks as a reserve in 2006, end Dorian Smith is a sleeper with a chance to shed his anonymity this fall.  Whether the Beaver D can get from really good to impervious in 2007 depends on the development of a suspect secondary that allowed 223 yards a game a year ago.  Junior corners Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes are moving in the right direction, but you don’t get better by losing long-time patrolman Sabby Piscitelli.                                     

Oct. 13 – at USC
Offense: Does anyone in the country reload faster than the Trojans?  While there’ll be new faces on the line, at wide receiver, and at offensive coordinator, the high-powered results that have become commonplace in the Pete Carroll era aren’t about to change.  Of course, it helps to have at the controls strong-armed senior John David Booty, one of the early favorites to add a fourth Heisman Trophy to Heritage Hall in the last six years.  He’ll be surrounded by an absolutely decadent amount of skill position talent, but most of the receivers lack experience at this level.  In this case, talent will overcome inexperience in a rout.  At 6-5 and 220 pounds, junior receiver Patrick Turner has the imposing size and sticky fingers to conjure up images of Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, and have a breakout year.  Although the line is going to miss the presence of center Ryan Kalil, returning two-time All-American Sam Baker to protect Booty’s blindside will help cushion the blow.    
Defense: The Trojan offense is good.  The Trojan defense is scary good.  Backed by a Who’s Who of future first-day NFL Draft choices, USC is ready to unleash the nastiest and stingiest unit of the Pete Carroll era.  Led by Sedrick Ellis at the nose, Keith Rivers at middle linebacker, and Terrell Thomas at cornerback, the Trojans boast seven players capable of making a run at All-America honors in 2007.  Yeah, a few more sacks and takeaways would be nice, but this is as close to a flawless unit that there is in the country.  From front to back, they’re aggressive, experienced and fast enough to create a swarming effect on the ball carrier.  Although the Trojans will give up yards to teams playing from behind, scoring meaningful points on them in the first three quarters is going to be a year-long nightmare.   

Oct. 20 - Stanford
Offense: Jim Harbaugh wants to attack defenses with an up tempo offense that’ll feature lots of pre-snap motion and a ball control element that harkens back to the Bill Walsh days of the West Coast offense.  It worked swimmingly at the University of San Diego for the past couple of years, but this is Stanford where ten points and less than 250 yards a game was the norm last year.  The Cardinal is experienced everywhere and pretty deep at the skill positions, but none of that will matter unless the offensive line does a complete 180 off last year’s atrocious performance. 
Defense: New defensive coordinator Scott Shafer is scrapping the 3-4 this year in favor of an attacking 4-3 that is designed to create more turnovers and more plays for negative yards.  The Cardinal is open to suggestions after finishing last in the Pac-10 in just about every defensive category in 2006.  There are holes, to be sure, but Shafer will also inherit some exciting young talent at each unit, such as sophomore tackle Ekom Udofia, sophomore linebacker Clinton Snyder and junior cornerback Wopamo Osaisai.  Above all else, the defense has to find some answers against the run after being humiliated for more than 2,500 yards and nearly five yards a carry a year ago.

Oct. 27 – at Washington
Offense: All eyes in Seattle will be fixed on the debut of hot-shot rookie quarterback Jake Locker, but if there’s one priority for Tyrone Willingham in 2007, it’s to get more consistent on the ground.  Conservative by Pac-10 doctrine, the third-year coach wants to pound it between the tackles to set up the pass.  Top back Louis Rankin is more of an outside runner, putting the onus on 210-pound sophomore J.R. Hasty to start realizing his vast potential.  While Locker has all the tools for stardom, he’ll spend most of the upcoming season adapting to his new role as the face of the program.  His big-play target will be senior Marcel Reece, a Mike Walker clone poised to make a salary run.
Defense:
Even with a slight improvement in 2006, the Husky pass defense ranked among the nation’s worst for the second straight year.  With no stars and two new starters, expect more of the same in 2007.  The problems in the secondary will again overshadow a sneaky good front seven that features four returning starters on the defensive line and a group of young, dynamic linebackers, including sophomores E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler that could evolve into playmakers.  Defensive ends Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te’o Nesheim are a couple of warriors that combined for two dozen tackles for loss last fall.  At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Gunheim runs like a gazelle, making him a magnet for NFL scouts visiting the Northwest. 

Nov. 3 - UCLA
Offense: Tired of his feeble offense and conservative play calling, Karl Dorrell is turning the unit over to Jay Norvell, a Nebraska import who’ll be calling plays for the first time in his career.  With him comes an up tempo version of the West Coast offense that’ll be rooted in high percentage passes and the occasional use of the shotgun.  Norvell’s triggerman will be lefty Ben Olson, who’s held off the challenge of Patrick Cowan, and is still waiting for a breakthrough season five years after being a ballyhooed BYU recruit.  Although 12 players with extensive starting experience return, only guard Shannon Tevaga and running back Chris Markey can be considered bona fide threats for all-league honors.  To help get Olson where he needs to be, a playmaker or two needs to emerge among a pedestrian receiving corps.
Defense: Kudos to defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who did the improbable in 2006 by whipping a sorry Bruin defense into shape.  Ten starters are back from that unit, which finished No. 2 in the Pac-10 in total defense and tops against the run.  One All-American rush end, Justin Hickman, has departed, but one, Bruce Davis, returns to wreak havoc on league quarterbacks.  Although the linebackers look nothing like the ones across town at USC, they’re fast, instinctive and a nice fit for Walker’s defense.  Middle linebacker Christian Taylor is the definition of a hard-working college athlete that makes a ton of plays, but likely won’t be wearing pads beyond 2007.  The secondary is an enigma that’s loaded with returning talent, yet still vulnerable through the air.  Strong safety Chris Horton laid the groundwork last year for what should be a terrific final season at UCLA.

Nov. 15 - Oregon
Offense: As usual, Oregon gobbled up a ton of yards in 2006, but lacked efficiency most of the year and imploded under the weight of its turnovers in the second half of the season.  So when offensive coordinator Gary Crowton left for LSU, Mike Bellotti turned to New Hampshire’s Chip Kelly to get the offense back on course.  A spread offense guru, Kelly will have a few new bells and whistles in his toolbox, including greater use of the no-huddle and increased reliance on superstar back Jonathan Stewart.  The key for the offense, and probably the entire team, will be the development of senior quarterback Dennis Dixon, who became the poster boy for the Ducks’ collapse late last year.  He’ll get adequate protection from Max Unger and the boys up front, but needs more consistency from a receiving corps that misplayed too many balls in 2006. 
Defense: Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti isn’t shy about bringing pressure with his wave of good athletes, and now has a couple of quality corners to marginalize the risk of selling out.  Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond, Freshman All-Americans in 2006, join standout rover Patrick Chung to give the Ducks their feistiest secondary in years.  The front seven, however, is far less stable.  After finishing ninth in the Pac-10 in run defense, Oregon needs to shore up the middle of its defense and develop an end or two that can consistently create pressure.  Redshirt freshman Brandon Bair is one possibility that has the staff cautiously excited about the defensive end spot.  In a league filled with strong-armed hurlers, that promising secondary will pay the price if opposing passers are given too much time to throw.

Dec. 1 - 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.                                    

 



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