2007 UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

Recap: Even having two 1,000-yard rushers, QB Michael Desormeaux and RB Tyrell Fenroy, in the same season wasn't enough to get the Cajuns to higher ground in 2007.  While Rickey Bustle felt this was the year that UL-Lafayette would finally challenge for Sun Belt supremacy, the defense and special teams rarely cooperated, especially late in games.  The Cajuns stumbled to a disappointing 1-8 start, ending any hopes for a run to the New Orleans Bowl even before getting to November.        

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Michael Desormeaux

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Rodney Hardeway

Biggest Surprise: A heavy underdog at the time, UL-Lafayette went into Murfreesboro on Nov. 10 and upset Middle Tennessee State, 34-24, playing a complete game for the first time all year.  The Cajuns dug out of a 14-0 hole, cranking out 376 yards on the ground and allowing just a field goal to the Blue Raiders in the second half.  

Biggest Disappointment: A visit from McNeese State was supposed to provide a confidence boost on Sept. 15, but instead, wound up sinking the Cajuns to new depths.  Even against an FCS opponent, five Desormeaux turnovers were too much to overcome, as UL-Lafayette got dumped, 38-17, in front of a disgusted home crowd at Cajun field.  

Looking Ahead: While the returns of Desormeaux and Fenroy bring cautious optimism for 2008, UL-Lafayette will again struggle to compete in the league if the defense doesn't make a quantum leap in the offseason.

- 2007 UL Laf. Preview
2006 UL Laf Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 at S Carolina L 28-14
Sept. 8 Ohio L 31-23
Sept. 15
McNeese St L 38-17
Sept. 22 Troy L 48-31
Sept. 29 at UCF L 37-19
Oct. 6
North Texas W 38-29
Oct. 13 at Arkansas St L 52-21
Oct. 20
Fla Atlantic L 39-32 OT
Nov. 3 at Tennessee L 59-7
Nov. 10 at Mid Tenn W 34-24
Nov. 17
at FIU W 38-28
Nov. 24 UL Monroe L 17-11

Nov. 24
UL Monroe 17 ... UL Lafayette 11
Down 17-11, ULL was marching for an apparent score when Jason Chery fumbled into the end zone to bring the drive to halt. The final Ragin' Cajun drive went nowhere and ULM had its first six win season since moving up to D-I while becoming bowl eligible in the process. Greg James picked off a Connor Morel pass for a 60 yard touchdown to give the Warhawks a lead it wouldn't lose. Kinsmon Lancaster added a three-yard scoring run in the third and Cole Wilson nailed a 28-yard field goal in the fourth. ULL's one big play came on a  42-yard Tyrell Fenroy touchdown dash late in the third.
Player of the game: UL Monroe QB Kinsmon Lancaster completed 11 of 19 passes for 99 yards, and ran 12 times for 63 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 11-19, 99 yds
Rushing: Calvin Dawson, 27-66. Receiving: Kenneth Zacharie, 3-30
UL Lafayette - Passing: Connor Morel, 19-37, 240 yds, 1 INT
Tyrell Fenroy, 19-118, 1 TD. Receiving: Jason Chery, 7-107

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... ULL outplayed ULM on both sides of the ball, but it didn't come through when it had chances to take control of the game and was killed by the two turnovers. Connor Morel did a fantastic job in place of Michael Desormeaux, giving the attack a passing game it hadn't had all year, while Tyrell Fenroy was Tyrell Fenroy, outdueling Calvin Dawson 118 yards to 66. This was a game the Ragin' Cajuns should've won, and now they'll have all offseason to think about it.

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? ...
The loss of Michael Desormeaux to a bruised clavicle would be a killer against UL Monroe next week unless Connor Morel can do what he did against FIU. While not the runner Desormeaux is, Morel threw extremely well and was a strong complement to Tyrell Fenroy. The problem was a defense, outside fo Antwyn Zanders, that made FIU look good for the first time all season long. Even so, on a two-game winning streak, the Ragin' Cajuns have a shot to end the season on a major high note by beating the rivals next week.

Nov 10
UL Lafayette 34 ... Middle Tennessee 24
UL Lafayette ran for 376 yards with Deon Wallace scoring from one and 42 yards out, and Jason Chery putting the game away with a 31-yard dash. The Blue Raiders got up 14-0 early with two Joe Craddock touchdown passes, including a 32-yard play to Taron Henry, and then the Ragin' Cajun running game took over. the two teams combined for six turnover and 18 penalties.
Player of the game: UL Lafayette QB Michael Desormeaux completed 13 of 20 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, and ran 19 times for 175 yards
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 13-20, 152 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Michael Desormeaux, 19-175. Receiving: Tyrell Fenroy, 3-26
Middle Tennessee - Passing: Joe Craddock, 8-11, 89 yds, 2 TD
Desmond Gee, 8-71. Receiving: Patrick Honeycutt, 4-22

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The running game controlled Middle Tennessee after getting down early, with the team not panicking after things didn't go perfectly right away. Michael Desormeaux was the main man keying the offense with more than just his legs, keeping the offense moving over the final three quarters with efficient passing. Even with 11 penalties and three turnovers, the team played well enough to pull off a stunner, and now can close out with a big run with games against FIU and UL Monroe ahead.

Nov 3
Tennessee 59 ... UL Lafayette 7
It took a quarter, but Tennessee made its homecoming a laugher with 21 points in the second quarter on two short Arian Foster touchdown runs and a 70-yard interception return for a score from Antonio Reynolds. The Ragin' Cajuns took the second half kickoff 69 yards in seven plays with Tyrell Fenroy running for a 21-yard score, but that would be all their fun as the Volls ripped off 35 unanswered points helped by a blocked punt for a score from Antonio Wardlow and a 49-yard Kenny O'Neal scoring play. Tennessee outgained ULL 466 yards to 364.
Player of the game: Tennessee RB Arian Foster ran 20 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 13-25, 95 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Tyrell Fenroy, 14-113, 1 TD. Receiving: Phillip Nevels, 7-51
Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 16-23, 125 yds, 1 TD
Lennon Creer, 7-109, 1 TD. Receiving: Lucas Taylor, 5-51

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Getting blasted by Tennessee on homecoming is nothing to be upset about. The running game was solid, thanks to a few decent drives from Tyrell Fenroy, and the offense was able to control the all for stretches, but this was an ugly blowout after the first half. Now, with the season turning from bad to ugly, coming up with a win over Middle Tennessee would spark some sort of positive momentum. Effectively running the ball will be vital to closing strong.

Oct. 20
Florida Atlantic 39 ... UL Lafayette 32 OT
Rusty Smith threw four touchdown passes, including a 17-yarder to Cortez Gent with seven seconds to play to force overtime, and then Charles Pierre ran for a one-yard score to put the Owls ahead. ULL stalled on its overtime drive, and FAU escaped. The Ragin' Cajuns overcame a 17-9 second half deficit with a blocked field goal for a touchdown from Jarrett Jones and touchdown runs from Chance Roberson and Michael Desormeaux, with a 32-yard dash giving them a 32-25 lead with a minute remaining, but Smith was too hot, going 64 yards in five plays to keep the game alive. ULL ran for 317 yards, FAU threw for 308.
Player of the game: Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith completed 26 of 45 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Florida Atlantic - Passing: Rusty Smith, 26-45, 308 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Charles Pierre, 16-93, 1 TD. Receiving: Cortez Gent, 5-82, 1 TD
UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 14-24, 121 yds, 1 INT
Michael Desormeaux, 23-145, 2 TD. Receiving: Derrick Smith, 7-75

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... ULL might have lost to FAU, but it was a see-saw battle that could've gone either way in overtime. The concern is the pass defense, which for the second straight week got ripped apart, and now Tennessee is up next. On the plus side, the running game was terrific with Michael Desormeaux and Tyrell Fenroy combining for 235 yards, but it wasn't enough. The D has to start coming up with a few stops to give the O a chance.

Oct. 13
Arkansas State 52 ... UL Lafayette 21
Arkansas State cranked out 681 yards of total offense, including 406 on the ground, but it was the passing of Corey Leonard with five touchdown passes, highlighted by an 84-yard pass play to David Johnson, that helped make the game a blowout. ULL kept it tight in the first half, with Michael Desormeaux running for a 64-yard touchdown and hitting Jason Chery for a 64-yard scoring pass, but Leonard connected with Levi Dejohnette for a six-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds to play to spark a run of 28 unanswered points. Reggie Arnold ran for 225 yards, and put the icing on the cake with a 16-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Arkansas State QB Corey Leonard completed 17 of 23 passes for 275 yards and five touchdowns and ran 18 times for 84 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 6-15, 100 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Michael Desormeaux, 9-74, 1 TD. Receiving: Derrick Smith, 4-33
Arkansas State - Passing: Corey Leonard, 17-23, 275 yds, 5 TD
Reggie Arnold, 24-225, 1 TD. Receiving: Levi Dejohnette, 5-75, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... ULL did a great job of keeping up the pace in the first half of the firefight with Arkansas State, but when the team needed to start throwing the ball in the second half, it wasn't able to get the job done, and it wasn't able to get back in the game. Now out of the Sun Belt title picture, and with tough games ahead with three straight road dates after the Florida Atlantic game. In a big hurry, the defense has to tighten up, especially in the defensive backfield.

Oct. 6
UL Lafayette 38 ... North Texas 29
Michael Desormeaux tore of a 73-yard touchdown run, and ran for a four yard score, as UL Lafayette ran past North Texas. The Mean Green passing game took a while to get going, but eventually, Giovanni Vizza got hot and hit Casey Fitzgerald with touchdown passes from 39 and 27 yards out. Brock Stickler recovered a fumble for a Mean Green touchdown in the second quarter, and caught an eight-yard scoring pass in the third to help the Mean Green keep pace, but the defense couldn't get the ULL running game off the field.
Player of the game: UL Lafayette QB Michael Desormeaux completed ten of 20 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 18 times for 150 yards and two scores.
Stat Leaders: North Texas - Passing: Giovanni Vizza, 35-57, 383 yds, 3 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Jamario Thomas, 13-60. Receiving: Casey Fitzgerald, 14-121, 2 TD
UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 10-20, 114 yds, 2 TD
Michael Desormeaux, 18-150, 2 TD. Receiving:
Derrick Smith, 4-80, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... When Tyrell Fenroy and Michael Desormeaux are ripping off yards in chunks like they did against North Texas, this will be a tough team to stop. Fenroy saw limited work, only carrying the ball seven times, but he cranked out a 123 yards averaging 17.6 yards per carry. Desormeaux was fantastic, leading the way to home run after home run. Now the team can take a deep breath after finally winning a game, but it's going to have to be far better defensively to beat Arkansas State next week.

Sept. 29
UCF 37 ... UL Lafayette 19
Kevin Smith ran for a career-high 223 yards with two one-yard touchdown runs along with a 56-yard dash on the way to a 30-6 halftime lead. A blocked punt return for a touchdown with nine seconds left in the second quarter all but ended the game, but the Ragin' Cajuns fourth back to make it interesting with a three-yard Marlin Miller touchdown run and a 28-yard Derrick Smith scoring grab. Two final ULL drives stalled.
Player of the game: UCF RB Kevin Smith ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries, adding a 22-yard reception.
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 14-29, 154 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Michael Desormeaux, 19-92. Receiving: Derrick Smith, 3-88, 1 TD
UCF - Passing: Kyle Israel, 11-20, 153 yds, 1 TDs
Kevin Smith, 33-223, 3 TDs. Receiving: Rocky Ross, 6-83
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Not having Tyrell Fenroy meant Michael Desormeaux had to do a little more of everything against UCF, and while he ran well, he struggled to get the chains moving until it was too late. The run defense wasn't even close, with the line allowing Kevin Smith to get into the next level way too often. There won't be any worries against North Texas, but ULL had better toughen up for the Arkansas State showdown in two weeks.

Sept. 22
Troy 48 ... UL Lafayette 31
Kenny Cattouse scored from 36, nine, and eight yards out, and Elbert Mack returned an interception 39 yards for a score as Troy overcame an early deficit to get the win. UL Lafayette got up 14-0 before everyone was in their seats. Jason Chery busted off an 80-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage, and following a Troy fumble, Deon Wallace scored from six yards out,. And then the Trojan offense took over, with Omar Haugabook running for a 15-yard score and throwing two touchdown passes to go along with Cattouse's scores. The two teams combined for 1,072 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: Troy RB Kenny Cattouse ran 19 times for 139 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 20-38, 158 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Michael Desormeaux, 21-159. Receiving: Derrick Smith, 6-72

Troy - Passing: Omar Haugabook, 30-43, 297 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Kenny Cattouse, 19-139, 3 TD. Receiving: Josh Allen 7-128
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... What happened to the defense against Troy? The formula should've worked: get up early, run the ball for 345 yards, get out with a win, but the defense couldn't handle the Trojan offensive balance and got its doors blown off.  Offensively, Michael Desormeaux had a nice game, and there were several parts to the running game to pick up the slack with Tyrell Fenroy's ankle still a problem, but unless the D starts to come up with a meaningful stop, it's going to be a rough next few weeks.

Sept. 15
McNeese State 38 ... UL Lafayette 17
McNeese State pulled off the stunner in front of a sell-out crowd, as Allen Nelson returned a fumble 87 yards for a touchdown ad Kris Bush scored twice in the win. UL Lafayette got a five-yard Tyrell Fenroy touchdown run in the first quarter, and tied it at 17 won an 18-yard Derrick Smith scoring grab, but MSU took the lead with 17 seconds to play in the half on a 22-yard Carlese Franklin catch. That score sparked a run of 21 unanswered MSU points, with Jamie Leonard putting it way in the fourth on a 12-yard run.
Player of the game: McNeese State RB Jamie Leonard ran 19 times for 134 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: McNeese State - Passing: Derrick Fourroux, 12-21, 151 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jamie Leonard, 19-134, 1 TD. Receiving: Carlese Franklin, 3-57, 1 TD
UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 11-24, 162 yds, 1 TD, 4 TD
Tyrell Fenroy, 20-82, 1 TD. Receiving: Derrick Smith, 4-99, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's not like ULL didn't have its chances to put up big points on McNeese State, but three separate deep drives came up empty. The offense simply couldn't find a way to generate points in the second half, to go along with the early miscues. ULL had four empty trips into the red zone, turned it over five times, and didn't play half as well as it did in losses to South Carolina and Ohio. Now the team has to sharpen up in a hurry with the key Sun Belt opener against Troy coming up this week.

Sept. 8
Ohio 31 ... UL Lafayette 23
Ohio got two of Kalvin McRae's four touchdowns in the fourth quarter as it was able to take the lead for the first time on a 23-yard dash and then put it away on a grinding drive that culminated in a 13-yard scoring run. UL Lafayette cranked out 534 yards of total offense, mostly due to QB Michael Desormeaux, who threw for two touchdowns and accounted for 335 yards, but couldn't get the momentum back in the fourth quarter with one drive stalling and another stopped by a fumble. Ohio kept pace early as McRae took a pass 44 yards for a first quarter touchdown and cut the ULL third quarter lead to three on a five-yard run to spark a 21-3 second half run.
Player of the game ... Ohio RB Kalvin McRae ran 20 times for 84 yards and three touchdowns and caught three passes for 52 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 16-26, 234 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Tyrell Fenroy, 24-136  Receiving: Derrick Smith, 4-99
Ohio - Passing: Brad Bower, 17-28, 264 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Kalvin McRae, 20-84, 3 TD  Receiving: Chris Garrett, 4-25
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The loss to Ohio has to serve as a motivator for bigger things ahead. ULL had the Bobcats beaten, thanks to a great day from QB Michael Desormeaux and 136 rushing yards from Tyrell Fenroy, but the defense couldn't come up with a fourth quarter stop and the offense failed to generate points when they were needed most. If the offense continues to click as well as it did this week, a ULL has to be considered the favorite to win the Sun Belt title. However, the defense needs to do more in crunch time.

Sept. 1
South Carolina 28 ... UL Lafayette 14
In a game of runs, South Carolina scored the first 14 points on an Andy Boyd two-yard catch from Chris Smelley and a 19-yard Kenny McKinley catch from Tommy Beecher. UL Lafayette came back on touchdown runs from Michael Desormeaux and Chance Roberson, and then the USC defense took over and Cory Boyd scored on runs from two and four yards out. Jasper and Casper Brinkley combined for 15 tackles for the Gamecocks.
Player of the game ... South Carolina QBs Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley combined for 21 of 29 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 12-19, 63 yds
Rushing: Michael Desormeaux, 21-116, 1 TD  Receiving: Phillip Nevels, 4-9
South Carolina - Passing: Tommy Beecher, 11-15, 137 yds, 1 TD
Mike Davis, 15-94   Receiving:
Kenny McKinley, 6-44, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Ragin' Cajuns ran the ball extremely well on a good SEC defense, but the lack of a passing game, and the failure to move the ball consistently in the second half, proved to be the undoing against South Carolina. Michael Desormeaux wasn't able to get the passing game to open anything up, and it allowed the Gamecock linebackers to tee off as the game went on. If ULL can outrush Ohio next week, it'll win.

Sept. 1 – at South Carolina
Offense: This should be a balanced attack that'll rely on the running game early on and the steady play of emerging QB Blake Mitchell to be more explosive and consistent than last year. The big concern is a line that was overmatched throughout the spring as it tried to break in three new starters. Getting a push for the nice 1-2 rushing punch of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis is job one, while Mitchell will have to make quick decisions early on until things start to come together. The loss of Sidney Rice won't be a killer if Kenny McKinley handles the number one job like he's expected to and a good number two emerges.
Defense: The defense has plenty of returning experience, depth, young options waiting to step up and shine, and good stars to build around. MLB Jasper Brinkley is one of the best in America, and now his twin brother will move from defensive end to outside linebacker to help out (though he might end up back on the line). The secondary is emerging as a potential force if everyone starters to play consistently. There's speed at corner, depth and experience at safety, and an emerging star in SS Emanuel Cook. The defensive line has to be far better against the run, and it should be with the return of Marque Hall from injury and the emergence of freshman Ladi Ajiboye.

Sept. 8 - Ohio
Offense: You know the fastball is coming, but can you hit it? Ohio will try to add more passing to the attack, but this is a running team that'll pound away with Kalvin McRae behind a good, though not as good as last year, offensive line. The attack has to be more versatile after being stuck in the mud against the good teams on the schedule, and that's where new starting quarterback Brad Bower comes in. He'll be looking to add more passing to the mix, but he doesn't have a great receiving corps to work with. The tight ends will get more involved this year to try to keep things moving.
Defense: The defense made a night-and-day improvement from 2005, and should be among the best in the MAC again if replacements can be found for the three star linebackers and All-MAC corner T.J. Wright. The defensive line is big and active, and it needs to be stronger against the run. Getting into the backfield won't be a problem with All-MAC end Jameson Hartke leading the way. The safeties will be fantastic leading a deep and talented group. It's all up to the linebackers, who have talent, but are relatively inexperienced and haven't stayed healthy.

Sept. 15 – McNeese State

Sept. 22 - 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.

Sept. 29 – at UCF
Offense: Quarterback Steven Moffett and premier receiver Mike Walker have graduated, so logic dictates the Knights will lean on junior Kevin Smith for a while.  He's as good as any back in the league when he's healthy, and has the luxury of four starting linemen returning.  Don't expect any drop-off from Moffett to senior Kyle Israel.  In fact, the veteran of 16 games and five starts was so sharp down the stretch in 2006, some around the program feel he could be even better running the pro-style offense if a couple of the young receivers emerge.
Defense: Nothing typified UCF's collapse in 2006 more than the shoddy play of the defense, which finished 106th nationally and allowed almost 30 points a game.  The secondary was a particular mess, prompting George O'Leary to open up the competition at every spot, despite the return of four starters.  The coach had a chance to take the wrappers off some of his young kids late last year, which will benefit players, such as tackles Torrell Johnson and Travis Timmons and end Jared Kirksey, this season.  More than anything else, the Knights are looking to improve their team speed after looking a step slow throughout the 2006 season.

Oct. 6 - 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.

Oct. 13 – 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.

Oct. 20 - 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.

Nov. 3 – at Tennessee
Offense: The return of David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator made a night-and-day difference in the passing game. Now he needs to get the running game to do more, and there needs to be even more from QB Erik Ainge after a nice bounceback year. The receiving corps loses the top three targets and the line loses the two best players, so it'll be up to the trio of Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty to carry the running game and the offense. Ainge has to make everyone around him better until new producers at receiver emerge.
Defense: Is there a defense in America that's produced less with so much promise and potential? The Vols have a who's who of top high school prospects that haven't quite panned out, and now that has to change to have any hope of winning the SEC East. Jerod Mayo will move from the outside to the middle and Jonathan Hefney returns at free safety to give the Vols two All-America caliber defenders to build around. Now there needs to be more of a pass rush after coming up with an inexcusable 17 sacks, and the new starting tackles have to quickly emerge. The secondary has to replace three starters, but should be fine in time, while the linebacking corps, if healthy, will be among the SEC's best.

Nov. 10 – 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.

Nov. 17 – at FIU
Offense New offensive coordinator James Coley has a lot of work to do with an offense that finished dead last in America in scoring averaging fewer than ten points per game and 116th in the nation in yards averaging 233 per outing. Eight starters return, including the entire offensive line, and there's good potential in the backfield with the 1-2 rushing punch of Julian Reams and A'mod Ned, but the passing game needs work with Paul McCall likely to take over at quarterback and no experience at receiver to rely on. 
Defense: The defense did what it could with no help from the offense, and now seven starters return with a shot to be among the league's best. The secondary gets all four starters back, led by Lionell Singleton at corner. The line is big and good with a pair of strong 300-pounders (Roland Clarke and Jonas Murrell) inside. Now for the problem: the great linebacking corps loses all three starters. The top four tacklers are gone, along with the top pass rushers. Keyonvis Bouie, Alexander Bostic, and Antwan Barnes were stars who won't be easily replaced.

Nov. 24 - 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.


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