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2007 Washington State Cougars

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Washington State Cougars Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 Washington State Cougars

Recap: Once San Diego State and Idaho went in the rear view mirror, the Cougars got exposed as a second-tier Pac-10 team that could only get so far with the league’s most prolific passing game.  An 0-4 start to the conference schedule ended any hope of a postseason run, fueling speculation that head coach Bill Doba wouldn’t be back for a sixth season.  He won’t.  The Wazzu veteran got canned shortly after his kids came from behind to beat Washington, 42-35, for the Apple Cup.            

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Alex Brink

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Andy Mattingly

Biggest Surprise: The Cougars didn’t just beat UCLA on Oct. 13, they obliterated the Bruins, scoring the final 27 points, while outgaining the visitors 545 to 267.  In an up-and-down season for Washington State, everything clicked, including the troubled running game, which got 214 yards and a couple of scores from RB Dwight Tardy. 

Biggest Disappointment: Maybe the season would have been extended by a game if Washington State could have held off unbeaten Arizona State on Oct. 6.  The Cougars thoroughly outplayed the Sun Devils in Pullman, and had enough chances to win in the final quarter, but fell short when K Thomas Weber booted the clincher with 50 seconds left. 

Looking Ahead: To replace Doba, Wazzu has hired former player Paul Wulff, who’s coming off a successful stint as the head coach at Eastern Washington.  A supporter of the no-huddle, spread offense, one of his first initiatives will be to find a replacement at quarterback for Brink, the school’s all-time leading passer.       

- 2007 Wazzu Preview
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2006 Wazzu Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2007 Record:
5-7

Sept. 1 at Wisconsin L 42-21
Sept. 8
San Diego St W 45-17
Sept. 15 Idaho W 45-28
Sept. 22 at USC L 47-14
Sept. 29
at Arizona L 48-20
Oct. 6 Arizona State L 23-20
Oct. 13 at Oregon L 53-7
Oct. 27 UCLA W 27-7
Nov. 3 at California L 20-17
Nov. 10
Stanford W 33-17
Nov. 17 Oregon State L 52-17
Nov. 24 at Wash. W 42-35

Nov. 24
Washington State 42 ... Washington 35
Alex Brink bombed away for 399 yards and five touchdowns with two to Brandon Gibson including a 35-yarder with 31 seconds to play for the win. The Huskies started off with a bang with Louis Ranking returning the opening kickoff for a score, and the fireworks continued throughout with Jake Locker running for two scores and connecting with Marcel Reece for a 63-yard touchdown and the Cougars keeping pace with Brink hitting Devin Frischknecht for touchdowns from 41 and 19 yards out and Joshua Anderson from 28 yards away. A final UW Hail Mary pass was picked off by Alfonso Jackson.
Player of the game: Washington State QB Alex Brink completed 27 of 40 passes for 399 yards and five touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 27-40, 399 yds, 5 TD
Rushing: Chris Ivory, 14-114, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon Gibson, 6-137, 2 TD
Washington - Passing: Jake Locker, 13-35, 224 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Jake Locker, 14-103, 2 TD. Receiving: Anthony Russo, 5-101
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The season might have been a disappointment with yet another campaign without a bowl, but closing out with an Apple Cup win showed just how good Alex Brink and the offense could be when everything was working. The defense struggled yet again and it took a big comeback to pull off the win, but Brink never let up and the big plays kept on coming. This is a program known for high-powered passing games, so whatever happens with the coaching situation must first figure out how to keep the offense flowing while getting nastier on D.

Nov. 17
Oregon State 52 ... Washington State 17
Oregon State came up with seven interceptions including six of Alex Brink on the way to a blowout win. The Beavers got up 21-0 early on touchdown runs from Lyle Moevao, Yvenson Bernard, and James Rogers before the Cougars finally got on the scoreboard with a  field goal. The Beavers coasted from there getting a second Bernard touchdown run and a 56-yards Clinton Polk scoring dash. Wazzu was able to get into the end zone on two Kevin McCall runs, but they were hardly enough to make up for all the offensive mistakes.
Player of the game: Oregon State LB Derrick Doggett made four tackles, a tackle for loss, and two interceptions
Stat Leaders: Oregon State - Passing: Lyle Moevao, 15-28, 202 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Yvenson Bernard, 17-74, 2 TD. Receiving: James Rodgers, 5-65
Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 21-45, 314 yds, 6 INT
Rushing:
Kevin McCall, 14-62, 2 TD. Receiving: Michael Bumpus, 6-46

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
A week after chucking it around for 449 yards in a big win over Stanford, Alex Brink couldn't stop giving the ball to Beavers with interception after interception killing any hope for a win over Oregon State. He was under a little bit of pressure, but it's not like OSU was hitting him on every play. The running game failed to pick up the slack even though Kevin McCall ran well in stretches. Now the bowl dream is gone and head coach Bill Doba might have coached his final home game for the Cougars.

Nov. 10
Washington State 33 ... Stanford 17
Alex Brink bombed away for 439 yards with a touchdown pass to Alex Brink, but it took four
Romeen Abdollmohammadi field goals and a 55-yard Husain Abdullah interception return for a score to put the game away. The Cardinal hunt tough, pulling within three late in the third quarter on a four-yard Jeremy Stewart run, but couldn't get closer after the Cougars took over in the fourth. Abdullah came up with 14 tackles and two broken up passes along with the interception.
Player of the game: Washington State QB Alex Brink completed 32 of 47 passes for 449 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Stanford - Passing: Tavita Pritchard, 22-40, 263 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Tyrone McGraw, 19-79, 1 TD. Receiving: Mark Bradford, 12-141
Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 32-47, 449 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Chris Ivory, 15-104. Receiving: Jed Collins, 10-123

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Alex Brink bombed the Cougars back into bowl contention with the win over Stanford, but again, way too many drives ended with field goals instead of touchdowns. As good as Brink was, he struggled to get the offense to come up with the one big play needed here and there to make the game a laugher. Now Wazzu needs to keep the offensive production rolling against Oregon State to make the Apple Cup a battle for a 13th game.

Nov. 3
California 20 ... Washington State 17
Cal got touchdown runs from one and 44 yards from Justin Forsett and two Jordan Kay field goals to plow its way to a tough win. Washington State could only manage three
Romeen Abdollmohammadi field goals before an 18-yard Charles Dillon touchdown catch with 19 seconds to play.
Player of the game: California RB Justin Forsett ran 31 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Cal was able to hang on to the ball for 37:27 by converting 12 of 19 third down chances, and allowing Wazzu to convert just four of 16 tries.
Stat Leaders: Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 20-41, 280 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Kevin McCall, 17-50. Receiving: Brandon Gibson, 4-136
California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 25-36, 205 yds
Rushing:
Justin Forsett, 31-129, 2 TD. Receiving: Lavelle Hawkins, 9-78

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The running game that was so effective against UCLA was nowhere to be found against Cal, but the bigger problem continues to be a lack of explosion. Alex Brink has only thrown one touchdown pass in each of the last three games, and there hasn't been nearly enough pop to the attack. Against the Bears, the bigger problem was an inability to keep the chains moving. The defense couldn't get Cal off the field, and the offense didn't help out with many long drives. Now the Cougars have to win out to be bowl eligible, and fortunately, there aren't any killers left playing Stanford, Oregon State and at Washington State.

Oct. 27
Washington State 27 ... UCLA 7
The Cougars ran for 247 yards with Dwight Tardy scoring from one yard out in the first quarter and closing things out with a 51-yard touchdown dash in the final minute. The defense held UCLA to 267 yards of total offense, with 50 of them coming three plays into the game on a Kahlil Bell touchdown run. The Bruins were inept the rest of the game, failing to keep the chains moving, while the Cougars held on to the ball for 38 minutes.
Player of the game: Washington State RB Dwight Tardy ran 37 times for 214 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 22 yards.
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: Pat Cowan, 17-36, 167 yds
Rushing: Kahlil Bell, 4-67, 1 TD. Receiving: Terrence Austin, 5-45
Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 28-46, 271 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Dwight Tardy, 37-214, 2 TD. Receiving: Jed Collins, 6-71
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Where did this performance come from? A week after getting blasted by Oregon, the Cougars dominated UCLA on both sides of the ball with its most physical game of the year. Dwight Tardy ran well, setting up Alex Brink and the passing game, and the Bruins didn't have an answer. The defense didn't allow UCLA to do much of anything after a big touchdown run on the opening drive. Now the momentum has to carry over to trip to California. Win in Berkeley against the reeling Bears, and then the season takes a big turn.

Oct. 13
Oregon 53 ... Washington State 7
Oregon pitched a nearly perfect game, cranking out 551 yards of total offense and getting out to a 47-0 lead 32 minutes into the game. Jeremiah Johnson ripped off scoring runs from 42 and 18 yards out, before leaving with an injury, and then Dennis Dixon went to work with a one-yard touchdown run and three scoring passes, highlighted by a 52-yard play to Jaison Williams. Washington State finally broke the run with an eight-yard Michael Bumpus catch, but couldn't do anything else the rest of the way.
Player of the game: Oregon QB Dennis Dixon completed 21 of 28 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for a score
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 21-28, 287 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 13-66. Receiving: Jaison Williams, 4-108, 1 TD
Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 15-33, 251 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Dwight Tardy, 11-34. Receiving: Michael Bumpus, 5-60, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
At this point in the year, the offense should be getting better, not worse, and against Oregon, the attack was stuck in the mud thanks to a lousy day from the offensive line. Alex Brink never got time to get settled, and the running game never had a chance to try anything after getting down so quickly. The Cougars are going to be an up-and-down team the rest of the year, but very soon, there had better be some ups. It's asking a lot to run the table, but that's what the Cougars might have to do.

Oct. 6
Arizona State 23 ... Washington State 20
Arizona State hit its kick; Washington State missed its chance.
Cougar PK Romeen Abdollmohammadi hit a 38-yard field goal to tie it at 20 with less than four minutes to play, only to see Thomas Weber nail a 37-yard field goal to give ASU the lead for good. Abdollmohammadi had one final chance to send it into overtime, but missed on a 45-yarder. The Sun Devil offense sputtered, just getting two Rudy Carpenter touchdown passes, but got help from the defense, with Justin Tryon picking off an Alex Brink pass for a 69-yard score. Wazzu outgained ASU 451 yards to 296, and got two Brink touchdown passes highlighted by a 32-yarder to Brandon Gibson.
Player of the game: Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter went 19-of-27 for 217 yards with two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 19-27, 217 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Ryan Torain, 24-116. Receiving: Kyle Williams, 6-71, 1 TD
Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 27-50, 369 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
Dwight Tardy, 13-32. Receiving: Michael Bumpus, 6-62

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Cougars are going to be kicking themselves for the loss to Arizona State. To win this game, it needs to get pressure on Rudy Carpenter. With seven sacks, check. It needed to get more from the passing game. 369 yards to 217, check. 11 penalties hurt, but the real killer was an interception for a touchdown that put the Sun Devils ahead in the third. The Cougars played well, but it allowed three key drives, and the pick-six, and that was the difference. ASU came through, and Wazzu didn't. This was a game the Cougars had to have with a trip to face a rested Oregon up next.

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? ... Arizona's offense was struggling with its constancy, but the Cougar defense made it look like a juggernaut. The lack of a running game was a problem, with Dwight Tardy failing to ever get loose, but the real issue was a secondary that got roasted way too easily. The Cougars couldn't load up against the run after Willie Tuitama got hot, and the defensive line didn't pick up the slack, getting pushed around too easily. Things aren't going to get any easier over the next several weeks, so Alex Brink might just have to bomb the team's way out of its funk.

Sept. 22
USC 47 ... Washington State 14
USC scored first on a six-yard Fred Davis touchdown catch, and after Washington State answered with a three-yard Jed Collins touchdown catch, the offense kicked into high gear with 27 straight points to put the game away. John David Booty threw four touchdown passes and Stanley Havili and Chauncey Washington added short scoring runs in the Trojan rout. The Cougars came up with a 20-yarrd Michael Bumpus touchdown catch midway through the third, but Booty responded with a 70-yard drive that finished up with a four-yard Allen Bradford touchdown catch, and a nine-play, 91-yard drive culminating with a 20-yard Vidal Hazelton scoring grab.
Player of the game ... USC QB John David Booty completed 28 of 35 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 17-31, 165 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Kevin McCall, 5-35  Receiving: Charles Dillon, 5-25
USC - Passing: John David Booty, 28-35, 279 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Chauncey Washington, 11-84, 1 TD   Receiving:
Fred Davis, 9-124, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Cougar offense was supposedly built to be able to handle shootouts against top teams, but Alex Brink was never able to bomb away against USC, coming up with only a few big plays, and the running game wasn't remotely close to being able to help the cause. There's hardly any shame in losing to USC, but now the Cougars have to make sure there's no letdown against one of the few apparent Pac 10 layups: Arizona. A nasty four-game stretch follows, so it's not overstating things to call next week's trip to Tucson a key to the future of the program. Lose this, and there's likely a new coaching staff in Pullman next year.

Sept. 15
Washington State 45 ... Idaho 28
Idaho scored on its first possession of the game on a 38-yard Max Komar touchdown grab. The Vandals then answered a 21-yard leaping Brandon Gibson touchdown with a nine-yard Maurice Shaw touchdown catch for a 14-7 first quarter lead. And then the Cougars took over with a 24-point second quarter highlighted by two Michael Bumpus scoring grabs. Idaho was able to pull within ten late in the third on a one-yard Nathan Enderle run, but Alex Brinks' fourth touchdown of the game on the ensuing drive put it away.
Player of the game: Washington State QB Alex Brink completed 26 of 36 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns with an interception and ran six times for 17 yards
Stat Leaders: Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 26-36, 307 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Dwight Tardy, 22-108, 2 TD. Receiving: Michael Bumpus, 8-118, 2 TD
Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 17-35, 205 yds, 3 TD, 4 INT
Rushing:
Deonte Jackson, 28-113. Receiving: Max Komar, 5-96, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Chalk up the close battle with Idaho to Vandal head coach Robb Akey's familiarity with his old team. That only lasted so long, and then the Cougar passing game bombed its way out of an upset. The problem was the running game that struggled to establish anything
throughout the game. With USC coming up, the Cougars are going to need as much balance as it can get. Just as important will be to convert more third down chance and generate more pressure into the backfield. Both areas were problems against Idaho.

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
Rushing:
Brandon Bornes, 7-72, 1 TD  Receiving: Steve Schmidt, 7-58
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Alex Brink might turn out to be the Pac 10's most productive quarterback this season, which is saying a ton, if he has the command of the offense like he had in the win over San Diego State. He moved the ball around well to his scary-good trio of receivers, while Dwight Tardy added some nice balance on the ground. The offense hung up 654 yards, and is going to do that often to the average defenses. Now the consistency will have to be there against the good teams. USC is looming in two weeks.

Sept. 1
Wisconsin 42 ... Washington State 21
Washington State's offense appeared unstoppable on the way to a 14-7 first quarter lead after two 80-yard scoring drives, and then the Badgers took over with 21 straight points to take the lead for good. After a seven-yard Brandon Gibson touchdown catch to pull the Cougars to within seven as the fourth quarter started, Wisconsin rolled for two touchdowns to pull away on P.J. Hill's second touchdown of the game and a one-yard Tyler Donovan sneak. Luke Swan caught touchdown passes from five and 38 yards for the Badgers.
Player of the game ... Wisconsin WR Luke Swan caught eight passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Washington State- Passing: Alex Brink, 17-27, 171 yds, 1 TDs
Rushing: Dwight Tardy, 21-96, 1 TD  Receiving: Brandon Gibson, 6-82, 1 TD
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 19-29, 284 yds, 3 TDs
Rushing:
P.J. Hill, 21-84, 2 TDs  Receiving: Luke Swan, 8-170, 2 TDs
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Washington State simply didn't appear to have enough in the bag to get by an elite Wisconsin team. It held up well for three quarters, but just when it appeared the momentum was turning, the defense couldn't come up with the one big stop or the one big play needed to give the offense a chance. Dwight Tardy had a nice game running the ball and QB Alex Brink had his moments, but this loss is on a defense that seemingly never got the Badgers off the field. UW had the ball for 36:47 and converted 11 of 15 third down chances.

Sept. 1 – at 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. 8 - 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.

Sept. 15 - Idaho
Offense: Same idea, different implementation. The new coaching staff will go with a one-back set using four and five-wide formations, sort of like the old coaching staff did, but there will be an even bigger emphasis on tough running. That's a good thing with the strength in the running back corps with four good players, led by junior Jayson Bird, to carry the offense early on. The quarterback situation will be settled this fall with the likely winner being 6-5 redshirt freshman Nathan Enderle, but the receiving corps is going to be a work in progress well into the season. The starting five up front should be fine due to its experience, but it's nothing special. 
Defense: There's experience and all-star talent to work with, so why was the Vandal defense so miserable last season? The line. The front four has to find tackles that can stop the run, and ends that can get into the backfield. If that happens, there could be a night-and-day improvement as the coaching staff looks to attack, attack, and attack some more. With MLB JoArtis Ratti back and healthy, he should combine with David Vobora to create the WAC's most dangerous linebacking duo. Corner Stanley Franks is an interception machine, and safety Shiloh Keo is an undersized hitter. Now everything has to start working around those four.


Sept. 22 – 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.   

Sept. 29 – at Arizona
Offense: After averaging a 100th place finish in total offense over the last three years, Mike Stoops has handed the unit off to former Texas Tech coordinator Sonny Dykes.  Dykes has learned from the likes of Mike Leach and Hal Mumme over the last decade, so expect to see a rejuvenated Willie Tuitama in the shotgun, putting the ball up a ton more than last season.  The Wildcats’ quest to stretch defenses vertically and horizontally in the spread offense will hinge on their ability to develop dependable receivers other than junior Mike Thomas.  The beleaguered offensive line is a year older, intact and poised to benefit from a system that forces the quarterback to make quick passes and even quicker decisions.  Sophomore Eben Britton is on the brink of becoming a prodigy at right tackle.
Defense: With the return of ten starters and an all-star caliber player at each unit, Arizona should be even stingier than 2006, when it led the Pac-10 in turnover margin and allowed fewer than 20 points a game.  The headliner once again will be senior Antoine Cason, one of the smoothest corners in America and a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award.  Led by underrated senior Spencer Larsen, the linebackers are a no-name crew that just goes out and makes a bunch of tackles every Saturday.  The onus for jump starting the pass rush falls squarely on the shoulders of senior Louis Holmes, a massive talent that underachieved in his first season out of junior college. 

Oct. 6 - 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.                                    


Oct. 13 – at 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.         

Oct. 27 - 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. 3 – 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.      

Nov. 10 - 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. 

Nov. 17 - 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.                                     

Nov. 24 – 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. 


 


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