2007 Florida International Golden Panthers

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 Florida International Golden Panthers Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 FIU Golden Panthers

Recap: In his first season at Florida International, rookie head coach Mario Cristobal found out that the challenge at hand was every bit as daunting as he anticipated.  The Panthers sported the nation's lowest scoring offense and one of its worst defenses, losing by an average score of 39-15 last fall.  The silver lining in Miami, however, is that FIU played its best football in November, even beating North Texas in the finale to halt a 23-game losing streak.    

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Wayne Younger

Defensive Player of the Year: CB Lionell Singleton

Biggest Surprise: The Panthers' upset of North Texas on Dec. 1 was their first victory since the end of the 2005 season, cause for an exhale and quite a celebration from the players.  In his first start behind center, Paul McCall picked apart the Mean Green D for 228 yards and three scores in a 38-19 rout.    

Biggest Disappointment: Had the Panthers' kick coverage team been a little tighter, the losing streak might have ended a month earlier.  Florida International tied Arkansas State with 48 seconds left, but allowed a 60-yard return on the ensuing kick, putting the Indians within range for Josh Arauco to kick the game-winner with two ticks on the clock.

Looking Ahead: Obviously, the Panthers have a long way to go before being competitive in the Sun Belt Conference.  It'll help having a couple of young quarterbacks to build around, as Younger and McCall have both shown a knack for making plays in this league.

- 2007 FIU Preview  
2006 FIU Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 1-

Sept. 1 at Penn State L 59-0
Sept. 8 Maryland L 26-10
Sept. 15 at Miami L 23-9
Sept. 22 at Kansas L 55-3
Sept. 29 at Middle Tenn L 47-6
Oct. 6 Troy L 34-16
Oct. 20 at UL Monroe L 28-14
Oct. 27 at Arkansas L 58-10
Nov. 3 at Arkansas St L 27-24
Nov. 17 UL Lafayette L 38-28
Nov. 24
Florida Atlantic L 55-23
Dec. 1 North Texas W 38-19

Dec. 1
Florida International 38 ... North Texas 19
Audric Adger came up with four sacks and Paul McCall threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to Trenard Turner and a 23-yarder to Jeremy Dickens as FIU broke the nation's longest losing streak. North Texas got one-yard touchdown runs from Jamario Thomas and Micah Mosley in the first half, but FIU responded with a Lionell Singleton kickoff return for a score as part of a 31-7 run to close things out. North Texas outgained FIU 345 yards to 344, but turned it over three times.
Player of the game: Florida International DE Audric Adger made eight tackles and four sacks
Stat Leaders: North Texas - Passing: Giovanni Vizza, 31-54, 253 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Micah Mosley, 9-65, 1 TD. Receiving: Sam Dibrell, 7-60
Florida International - Passing: Paul McCall, 11-19, 228 yds, 3 TD
Amod Ned, 17-74. Receiving: Jeremy Dickens, 4-45, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Finally, the defense came up with a strong performance while the offense didn't screw up. It was hardly an explosive game offensive day against North Texas, but Paul McCall was efficient and effective, and Amod Ned did what was needed to keep things moving. The program needed a win, and now, despite the lousy season, there's something to build on in the young Mario Cristobal era.

Nov. 24
Florida Atlantic 55 ... Florida International 23
Rusty Smith threw four touchdown passes two as part of a wild 28-point second quarter highlighted by a 69-yard scoring play to Cortez Gent and a 68-yard touchdown run from Rob Housler. FIU scored 20 points in the fourth quarter to make the score cosmetically closer, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Owls also put up 20. Amod Ned scored twice for the Golden Panthers with a 32-yard run, and with 35 seconds to play, a three-yard catch. FAU outgained FIU 571 yards to 377.
Player of the game: Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith completed 20 of 30 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns with an interception.
Stat Leaders: Florida Atlantic - Passing: Rusty Smith, 20-30, 330 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Charles Pierre, 11-86. Receiving: Jason Harmon, 5-70
Florida International - Passing: Paul McCall, 23-35, 181 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Amod Ned, 10-68, 1 TD. Receiving: James Rucker, 6-52

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense isn't going to slow anyone down, and it's not going to be able to handle North Texas next week. That's been established, but the offense, for all the team's problems, has made some excellent strides over the last few weeks. It might have been way too little, too late against Florida Atlantic, but at least there was some movement in the fourth quarter with the passing game finally starting to move the ball a bit. In the season finale, the team has come up with something it can build on for next year. A win would obviously be ideal, but a great performance from someone on offense would be vital.

Nov. 17
UL Lafayette 38 ... Florida International 28
Connor Morel stepped in for an injured Michael Desormeaux and threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Deon Wallace, his second score on the day, and Tyrell Fenroy ran for two touchdowns in the win. FIU ran for 264 yards getting a 60-yard dash from Amod Ned and a 32-yard dash from Wayne Younger, but could only manage a four-yard John Ellis scoring catch in the second half. Michael Dominguez made 19 tackles for the Golden Panthers.
Player of the game: UL Lafayette RB Tyrell Fenroy ran 28 times for 150 yards and two scores, and caught a pass for 18 yards
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette - Passing: Connor Morel, 12-15, 125 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Tyrell Fenroy, 28-150, 2 TD. Receiving: Jason Chery, 4-36
Florida International - Passing: Wayne Younger, 11-19, 127 yds, 2 TD
Amod Ned, 20-152, 1 TD. Receiving: Greg Ellingson, 2-47

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... FIU finally came up with a big-time offensive performance with Wayne Younger having his best game as a starter and Amod Ned running wild, but the defense couldn't stop the UL Lafayette running game. Even in yet another loss, the team played well and showed improvement. Defensively, Michael Dominguez had a whale of a game, while Lionel Singleton was all over the place making plays. If the offense plays like this, FIU will come up with a win either against Florida Atlantic or North Texas.

Nov. 3
Arkansas State 27 ,.. Florida International 24
Josh Arauco nailed a 32-yad field goal with two seconds to play to give ASU the win after a wild fourth quarter. Reggie Arnold ran for touchdowns from 16 and 31 yards with fewer than five minutes to play, but FIU was able to tie up with a 29-yard Greg Ellingson touchdown pass with 48 second left. Darren Toney returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards, and ASU was able to come up with the win. FIU only gained 250 yards of total offense, but got a 80-yard Lionel Singelton punt return for a touchdown. ASU stayed in the game with a 17-yard Darren Toney interception return for a score in the opening minute of the second half.

Player of the game:
Arkansas State RB Reggie Arnold ran 20 times for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a pass for ten yards.
Stat Leaders: FIU - Passing: Wayne Younger, 9-19, 110 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Wayne Younger, 16-53. Receiving: Greg Ellingson, 2-35, 1 TD
Arkansas State - Passing: Travis Hewitt, 19-30, 174 yds
Reggie Arnold, 20-120, 2 TD. Receiving: Levi Dejohnette, 6-39

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Just when it seemed like FIU was finally going to pull off a win, it gives up 17 points in the final five minutes and can't cover a kickoff return that set up a field goal in the loss to ASU. The defense did what it had to do for 55 minutes, coming up with the key stops and getting a pick six from Lionel Singleton, but it wasn't enough. The offense couldn't close. The big problem offensively continues to be a lack of a running game. It can't all be Wayne Younger carrying things.

Oct. 27
Arkansas 58 ... Florida International 10
got four short rushing scores from Darren McFadden, a 16-yard Felix Jones scoring dash, and Marcus Monk's first touchdown catch of the year on a 13-yard grab on the way to an easy homecoming win. FIU got ten second quarter points on a 33-yard Greg Ellingson catch and a 35-yard Chris Abed field goal as time ran out, but that would be it for the fun as the Hogs scored 27 unanswered points highlighted by an 81-yard Michael Smith dash in the final minute. FIU turned the ball over seven times.
Player of the game:
Arkansas RB Darren McFadden ran 19 times for 61 yards and four touchdowns, and caught three passes for 22 yards
Stat Leaders: Arkansas - Passing: Nathan Emert, 13-25, 154 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Felix Jones, 17-89, 1 TD. Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 6-77
Florida International - Passing: Wayne Younger, 9-26, 93 yds, 1 TD, 5 INT
Wayne Younger, 14-124. Receiving: Elliott Dix, 2-48

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
What is FIU doing well right now? Trying to turn things around against Arkansas against homecoming isn't a time to figure out what's working, but what's not happing in a passing game that's going beyond inefficient. Wayne Younger pressed too much, isn't getting any help from his receivers, and threw five picks on 9-of-26 passing. He ran extremely well, but more is needed from the running backs over the final month.

Oct. 20
UL Monroe 28 ... FIU 14
Darrell McNeal caught touchdown passes from 14 and three yards out in the second quarter, and a 13-yarder with just over three minutes to play to seal the win. Calvin Dawson added a nine-yard scoring run to keep ULM ahead in the second half.  FIU moved the ball, but could only managed a 23-yard Julian Reams touchdown run to start off the scoring, and a 19-yard Wayne Younger touchdown pass to pull within seven in the fourth.
Player of the game: UL Monroe WR Darrell McNeal caught seven passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and ran three times for four yards and a score
Stat Leaders: UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 15-20, 237 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Calvin Dawson, 19-128, 1 TD. Receiving: Darrell McNeal, 7-120, 2 TD
Florida International - Passing: Wayne Younger, 15-35, 198 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Julian Reams, 11-55, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Dickens, 6-87

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... FIU lacks the ability to come up with the one big play one either side of the ball to turn the momentum around. Wayne Younger's passing is too inconsistent, and against UL Monroe, he needs to be able to move the chains better. At the moment, FIU needs to find one big-time playmaker who can take over a game. No one has emerged all year long.

Oct. 6
Troy 34 ... Florida International 16
FIU made it interesting early on, holding a 7-0 lead into the second quarter on a four-yard run from Wayne Younger, but helped by a career day from Kenny Cattouse, Troy rumbled for a 34-3 run that wasn't stopped until Younger threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to James Rucker with 29 second to play. Omar Haugabook ran for a two-yard score and threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Davis, but it as a 84-yard Leodis McKelvin punt return for a score and an 88-yard dash from Cattouse that turned the game into a blowout.
Player of the game: Troy RB Kenny Cattouse ran for 205 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, adding six catches for 18 yards.
Stat Leaders: Troy - Passing: Omar Haugabook, 24-34, 195 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Kenny Cattouse, 14-205, 1 TD. Receiving: Gary Banks, 6-65
Florida International - Passing: Wayne Younger, 19-40, 248 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Wayne Younger, 16-35, 1 TD . Receiving: Jason Frierson, 4-64

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense needs to find some semblance of consistency. No one helped out Wayne Younger against Troy, and there wasn't nearly enough efficiency from the passing attack to keep up the pace one the points started coming. The defensive line got shoved around way too easily, but again, this one was on the offense. Outside of a good first drive, it couldn't do anything.

Sept. 29
Middle Tennessee 47 ... Florida International 6
Middle Tennessee exploded for 47 first half points as Dwight Dasher threw three touchdown passes and ran for two scores in the easy win. DeMarco McNair took a pass 71 yards for a touchdown, and scoring on a one-yard score, while Dasher's runs came from 22 and one yards out. FIU only managed 145 yards of total offense, scoring only on a fumble recovery in the end zone. MT only allowed eight first downs and forced four turnovers.
Player of the game: Middle Tennessee QB Dwight Dasher completed ten of 17 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns, and ran nine times for 58 yards and two scores
Stat Leaders: FIU - Passing: Wayne Younger, 11-22, 72 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Amod Ned, 13-33. Receiving: Kendall Berry, 5-30
Middle Tennessee - Passing: Dwight Dasher, 10-17, 240 yds, 3 TD
Phillip Tanner, 12-59. Receiving: Desmond Gee, 2-42, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
FIU simply can't afford to get behind early. This isn't a team equipped to come up with big scoring runs, and Wayne Younger simply isn't a top-flight passer yet to get the team back in a game. Middle Tennessee got up too quickly and, FIU didn't have any sort of an answer. Even after MT let up, and even with FIU throwing 35 times, there were only 73 passing yards. Things are only going to get worse with Troy next week, followed up by three straight road games.

Sept. 22
Kansas 55 ... Florida International 3
The Kansas offense rolled up 615 yards while the defense forced five turnovers in the blowout win. The scoring started on a blocked punt for a touchdown, and after FIU pulled within seven on a 42-yard field goal, it was all KU as it scored 45 unanswered points highlighted by a brilliant 100-yard interception return for a touchdown from Agib Talib and two Brandon McAnderson touchdown runs. Todd Reesing threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Derek Fine and ran for a nine-yard score.
Player of the game: Kansas QB Todd Reesing finished 23-of-37 for 368 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while running eight times for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Florida International - Passing: Wayne Younger, 16-33, 133 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Wayne Younger, 10-58. Receiving: Jason Frierson, 4-42
Kansas - Passing: Todd Reesing, 23-37, 368 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Brandon McAnderson, 13-105, 2 TDs. Receiving: Derek Fine, 7-70, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Kansas is playing as well as anyone in America, so it's hard to take too much away from the blowout loss.
After a decent day running the ball last week against Miami, there wasn't much against the Jayhawk defense, with QB Wayne Younger getting most of the yards. The turnovers and special teams breakdowns made a tough situation impossible. Now the Golden Panther offense has to quickly find something it can do right in the opener against Middle Tennessee. Getting A'mod Ned going would be a start.

Sept. 15
Miami 23 ... Florida International 9
Kyle Wright connected with Lance Leggett for an 80-yard touchdown in the third quarter, Graig Cooper ran for a three-yard score, and Francesco Zampogna hit two field goals as Miami won easily in a civil, respectful game that had none of the bitterness of last year's brawling battle (at least on the field). FIU's offense sputtered and coughed all game long, only managing a 24-yard Chris Abed field goal until late in the fourth, when Trenard Turner caught a 65-yard touchdown pass.
Player of the game: Miami RB Javarris James ran for 92 yards on 19 carries and had a pair of receptions for 12 yards.
Stat Leaders: Florida International - Passing: Wayne Younger, 6-14, 105 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: A'mod Ned, 18-87. Receiving: Jason Frierson, 2-20
Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 10-19, 224 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Javarris James, 19-92. Receiving: Darnell Jenkins, 5-108
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... FIU needed to be nearly perfect to beat Miami, and it wasn't. Ten penalties, two interceptions, six of 14 passing; it wasn't a crisp performance. Even so, the defense did a fine job, especially against the pass, outside of one big 80-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The running game was surprisingly decent, but overall, the offense will have to turn it up several notches to avoid a blowout against Kansas next week.

Sept. 8
Maryland 26 ... Florida International 10
Keon Lattimore ran for two first quarter touchdowns and Lance Ball ran for a one-yard score in the fourth quarter as Maryland struggled to get by FIU. The Golden Panthers fought back with a 49-yard Moses Hinton touchdown catch and a 42-yard Chris Abed field goal, but only managed 114 yards outside of the touchdown play. Erin Henderson made 12 tackles for the Terps.
Player of the game ... Maryland RB Keon Lattimore ran 17 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Florida International - Passing: Wayne Younger, 8-22, 81 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Wayne Younger, 8-42  Receiving: Matthew Sherry, 5-68, 1 TD
Maryland - Passing: Jordan Steffy, 18-25, 135 yds
Keon Lattimore, 17-111, 2 TD Receiving: Darrius Heyward-Bey, 4-48
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... FIU doesn't have the talent in place to come anywhere near beating a team like Maryland, so it has to keep hustling for a full sixty minutes. It did, and it gave the Terps a rough time. Wayne Younger struggled to throw the ball outside of one big play, and the rushing tandem of Amod Ned and Julian Reams never got going. The defense is going to have to carry things on the road with six away games in the next seven, and that counts a drive to Miami, but the offense will have to quickly find something it can do reasonably well.

Sept. 1
Penn State 59 ... Florida International 0
Anthony Morelli threw three touchdowns passes, Austin Scott rumbled for two short scores, and the Nittany Lion defense dominated in the easy win. Penn State got up 24-0 in the first half highlighted by a 17-yard Mickey Shuler touchdown catch, and then exploded for 28 points in the third quarter. FIU managed just seven first downs and was outgained 236 yards to -3 on the ground, and 549 yards to 114 overall.
Player of the game ... Penn State LB Sean Lee made seven tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, forced a fumble and broke up a pass
Stat Leaders: Florida International - Passing: Wayne Younger, 12-25, 117 yds
Rushing: Julian Reams, 8-11 Receiving: Greg Ellingson, 3-31
Penn State - Passing: Anthony Morelli, 23-38, 295 yds, 3 TDs
Evan Royster, 8-70, 1 TD  Receiving: Jordan Norwood, 5-92

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Penn State wasn't exactly the right team to try to work against to get the offense rolling. The Nittany Lion defense is among the best in the nation, and it showed as FIU failed to do anything on the ground and struggled just to keep the chains moving. The line gave up way too many sacks and allowed the quarterbacks to be pressured way too often, while the defense couldn't hold up in the second half after the offense failed to provide any help. Unfortunately, it'll be hard to find a running game against Maryland or Miami over the next two weeks.

Sept. 1 – at Penn State
Offense: Known for being button-down conservative, now it's time for Penn State to open the offense up. At least, that's what it has to do to play to the team's strengths. The receiving corps has the potential to be the best in the league with three great targets in Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood, and an all-star-to-be in tight end Andrew Quarless. If senior quarterback Anthony Morelli is consistent and gets the ball to his speedy receivers deep, the passing game will be fantastic. The line, despite the loss of Levi Brown, will be excellent with the expected emergence of tackles Dennis Landolt and Gerald Cadogan, but the real question mark will be running back Austin Scott. The one time star recruit Austin Scott has to finally show he can be the workhorse for the running game. If not. it'll be throw, throw and throw some more.
Defense: As always, the defense will revolve around the linebackers. Paul Posluszny might be gone, but Dan Connor, who'll take over in the middle, could turn into a better all-around playmaker, and Sean Lee will be an All-Big Ten performer. The line doesn't have much experience with only one starter returning, but there's plenty of promise on the inside in beefy tackles Phil Taylor and Abe Koroma. The secondary will be stellar if Anthony Scirrotto gets past his off-the-field legal troubles. If not, corner Justin King and safety Tony Davis, who moves over from corner, will keep the pass defense from sliding after a good 2006.

Sept. 8 - Maryland
Offense: It's all there for the Terps to be steady, explosive and very, very productive as long as everyone plays as well as they should. This will be one of the four best offenses in the league as long as injuries don't strike up front. The line is full of veterans and should be a rock, but there's no depth. The receiving corps might be the fastest in the ACC and Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore form a tremendous 1-2 rushing punch. It's all there for a big season, but that's what everyone said last year and the Terps were merely average.
The defense didn't exactly work last season, but it didn't seem to matter. No one stopped the run, the secondary was average, there weren't enough takeaways, and the 3-4 that was supposed to generate a serious pass rush wasn't even close. The Terps still won nine games helped be the defense coming through when it absolutely had to. This year's group won't be so fortunate and has to be better. The defensive line should be better with end Jeremy Navarre and tackle Dre Moore good enough to hope for All-ACC honors. Erin Henderson leads an athletic linebacking corps that needs experience, but should be good in time. The secondary is a concern, especially the corners hoping for Isaiah Gardner to become a shut-down defender after returning from a shoulder injury.

Sept. 15 – at Miami
Offense: After a miserably inconsistent year finishing 87th in the nation in both total and scoring offense, the attack needs to play up to its talent level. The backfield will be amazing with Javarris James and true freshman Graig Cooper each good enough star for just about anyone in the country. The line has potential with two good tackles in Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood to work around, and now the passing game has to be far better. The Kyle Wright vs. Kirby Freeman quarterback battle will be an ongoing debate, and the receiving corps has to step up and be better. Lance Leggett emerging as a true number one target would be a start.
Defense: The defense finished seventh in the nation last year despite not getting any help from the offense. The starting 11 should be good enough to shut everyone down, but there will be early concerns with the depth on the defensive line and the secondary. Safety Kenny Phillips and end Calais Campbell might be the two best defensive players in the nation, and everything will revolve around them; they must stay healthy. The linebacking corps might not have name stars, but it'll be a rock against the run with a good rotation of talents.

Sept. 22 – at Kansas
Offense: After spending last year running the ball, new offensive coordinator Ed Warinner will try to stretch the field more with a big, experienced group of receivers. The big question will be who the quarterback will be throwing to them. Sophomores Kerry Meier and Todd Reesing are talented, mobile passers who can do a little of everything well, but they'll be in a battle for the starting job up until the opener. The other big question mark is at running back, where Jon Cornish and his 1,457 yards and eight scores will be replaced by Jake Sharp (fast) and Brandon McAnderson (powerful). The line is nothing special, but the tackles are experienced and solid.
The defense had to go through a little bit of a rebuilding phase last season, and while the overall results weren't terrific, and too many yards were allowed, it wasn't as bad as it might have appeared. The secondary gave up more yards than anyone in America, but it gets Aqib Talib back at corner to go along with an upgrade in speed at the other three spots. The linebacking corps, by design, is small on the outside with a slew of safety-sized defenders designed to fly to the ball. They have to hold up better when they're getting pounded on. James McClinton is a star at tackle who should set the tone for the front seven.

Sept. 29 – at Middle Tennessee
Offense: The offense was strange last year finishing sixth in the league in total yards but first in scoring. In other words, the O took advantage of almost every opportunity despite not being all that good scoring on 33 of 36 chances in the red zone. Even without long-time starting quarterback Clint Marks, the passing game can't help but better whether it's Joe Craddock, or one of three other options under center. The receiving corps is experienced, but unless Bobby Williams plays up to his talent, it won't be much better. The running game will be the strength with DeMarco McNair and speedsters Desmond Gee and Phillip Tanner running behind a massive line.
Defense: This should be one of the Sun Belt's best defenses in time, but only if the back seven can fill all the holes. The front four will be regulars in the backfield with three all-conference caliber ends in Erik Walden, Sean Mosley and Tavares Jones along with nose tackle Trevor Jenkins. The linebackers are a big problem needing to replace all three starters, but they aren't the problem the cornerbacks are. Bradley Robinson is an all-star, but there's no depth and a concern at the second spot. Damon Nickson will carry things for a while at safety.

Oct. 6 - Troy
Offense: Spread it out with four wide receivers, let Sun Belt Player of the Year Omar Haugabook throw to the open guy, hope it all works. This isn't an explosive attack, and it won't be for a while with a mixed bag of talents on the front line trying to fit the puzzle. The running backs are fine with the return of Sean Dawkins helping out Kenny Cattouse, and Gary Banks and Mykeal Terry lead an inexperienced receiving corps that'll be fine. But it's all up to Haugabook. He's the difference between a second straight Sun Belt title and a losing season.
Troy won the Sun Belt title despite a mediocre year from the defense. Now the D will be positively dominant with the best secondary and a defensive line that's either the best, or a close second behind Middle Tennessee's. Generating pressure won't be a problem with phenomenal pass rushers from every spot, while the secondary will use five and six defensive backs at times just to get all its talent on the field. The linebacking corps is the weakness of the defense by default considering how good the line and secondary will be, but it'll still be fantastic with Boris Lee and Marcus Richardson each deserving all-star consideration.

Oct. 20 – at UL Monroe
Offense: The best offense in the Sun Belt gets 11 starters back led by RB Calvin Dawson working behind a terrific line with several all-star candidates. QB Kinsmon Lancaster has a year of starting experience under his belt, and he has all his top targets to get the ball to including LaGregory Sapp and tight end Zeek Zacharie. While the attack will spread it out and allow Lancaster to use his mobility and big-time arm to find the right receiver, it'll be Dawson who carries the workload when things get tight.
Defense: The same problems ULM had last year appear to be the same issues going into this year with a questionable run defense and no proven pass rush, but the strength, the secondary, will be the same even without Kevin Payne and Chaz Williams. The 4-2-5 did its job against mediocre offenses, but got ripped apart by any offense with a pulse. Unless the line is better, the Warhawks will be pounded on by everyone in the Sun Belt.

Oct. 27 – at Arkansas
Offense: The Gus Malzahn experience quickly got pushed aside, forgetting about his spread offense to better utilize the devastating running attack. Now it'll be up to new offensive coordinator David Lee, who'll try to run a pro style passing attack, but will spend most of his time figuring out how to get the ball into the hands of the magnificent running duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The line, despite the loss of three starters, will be fantastic for the running game, but suspect in pass protection. Marcus Monk is an elite receiver, but a number two option has to emerge and Casey Dick has to throw the ball effectively and consistently.
Defense: It'll be a good defense, but there are some big-time talent losses in linemen Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson, corner Chris Houston, and linebacker Sam Olajubutu. There's plenty of speed and athleticism to go around in what should be a solid back seven, but everyone has to stay healthy. The line needs tackle depth with Marcus Harrison questionable after tearing his knee this spring. Overall, coordinator Reggie Herring will keep things aggressive with tons of plays in the backfield, along with lots of pressure applied by the defensive backs.

Nov. 3 – at Arkansas State
Offense: Run, run and run some more. At least that's what ASU has done over the last several years, and it has the talent in the backfield to do it again with speedy quarterback Corey Leonard leading a loaded group of runners with several great backs to hand off to. Reggie Arnold is the best of the bunch, but he's one of just four good options to carry the load. Two problems with what ASU likes to do. 1. The line needs major revamping losing three key players and 2) the receiving corps might be the team's second biggest strength behind the running backs. The underutilized corps has speed to burn, but Leonard couldn't get them the ball on a consistent basis last season. That has to quickly change.
Defense: It's all up to the defensive line. The linebacking corps, despite some huge losses, will be surprisingly solid with Koby McKinnon returning with plenty of help around him. The safeties are tremendous with Tyrell Johnson and Khayyam Burns each on the fast track to All-Sun Belt honors. The corners are deep and potentially a major strength of the defense. And then there's the line, which has to figure out how to get to the quarterback at some point. The return of Brian Flagg and Brandon Rollins from injuries will be a huge boost. The 4-3 alignment works, and it should produce the league's best statistical pass defense.

Nov. 17 - UL Lafayette
Offense: The nation's seventh best rushing team two years ago, and 11th best last year, ULL will run more than ever with the return of two-time 1,000-yard back Tyrell Fenroy, speedy Deon Wallace, and running quarterback Michael Desormeaux. The receivers aren't used much, but they're experienced enough to make plays when they get the chance. The offensive line isn't deep, but the starting five will end up fine. The team will hope for around 2,500 rushing yards, and around 60% completion percentage throwing it.
Defense: New defensive coordinator Kevin Fouqueir won't change too much from one of the Sun Belt's better defenses. Five starters return, along with a few others with starting experience, to form a solid run defense that needs to be tighter against the pass. The secondary will give up completions, but it's not going to get beaten too often. The front seven should be great with a nice blend of talents and depth to form a good rotation almost everywhere. If ULL doesn't lead the league in run defense, it'll finish second.

Nov. 24 - Florida Atlantic
Offense: Things should be more consistent now that the quarterback situation is settled (at least to start the year) with Rusty Smith the full-time starter and Sean Clayton the backup. The running backs are experienced and quick, and Frantz Simeon leads a decent receiving corps, but it's all up to the line which was decent in pass protection last season but awful in the running game. It's a small front five by design, and that's a major issue for a ground game that averaged just 110 yards per game and an offense that struggled to amass 300 yards and 15 points per outing. 
Defense: The defense should be tremendous is all the starters play as expected. The back seven will be among the best in the Sun Belt with all three starters returning to the linebacking corps, two All-Sun Belt caliber safeties in Kris Bartels and Taheem Acevedo, and a shut-down corner in Corey Small. The defensive front gets three starters back led by top pass rusher Josh Pinnick and star tackle Jervonte Jackson. Even so, the run defense will be average, while the pass defense will be great.

Dec. 1 - North Texas
Offense: The offense hasn't moved the ball in two years finishing 117th in the nation last season in yards and 115th in scoring. The look of the attack will change dramatically as new head coach Todd Dodge will incorporate his spread attack in an attempt to get something going. The backfield is solid with RB Jamario Thomas leading the way and a slew of veteran, yet mediocre quarterbacks returning. The receiving corps will need a while to jell with all the talent in the incoming freshman class, while the line will be a major problem early on.
Defense: The defense improved dramatically after making a drastic move to the 3-4. Now it'll go back to a traditional 4-3 and hope the overall experience and depth will pay off with more big plays after forcing just 14 turnovers. The linebackers will be solid with the return of Maurice Holman, Brandon Monroe and Derek Mendoza, while Aaron Weathers anchors a secondary that should be better in time. Generating a pass rush from the front four is a must, but Jeremiah Chapman will be a good end to work around.


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