2007 UL Monroe Warhawks

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 UL Monroe Warhawks Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 UL Monroe Warhawks

Recap: Overshadowed by Florida Atlantic's success, the Warhawks were one of this year's Sun Belt surprises, winning six of their last eight games to finish at .500 for the first time since moving to the FBS in 1994.  After taking its lumps in September, UL-Monroe regrouped behind the running of all-time leading rusher Calvin Dawson and a defense that stiffened late in the season.  On Nov. 17, the Warhawks delivered the kind of signature win that head coach Charlie Weatherbie has been after, a 21-14 upset of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.       

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Calvin Dawson

Defensive Player of the Year: S Greg James

Biggest Surprise: More than a three-touchdown underdog when it traveled to Alabama in November, UL-Monroe scripted the upset of the season in the Sun Belt Conference.  Although it bent all afternoon, the Warhawk defense never broke, shutting out the Tide in the second half for one of the biggest wins in school history.  

Biggest Disappointment: As respectable as the Warhawks' season was, it could have been even better.  Despite thoroughly outplaying Middle Tennessee State and amassing 624 yards of balanced offense, UL-Monroe bowed, 43-40, on an 89-yard kick return for a touchdown in the last minute.  The loss ended a two-game winning streak, and prevented the program from closing the season on a six-game tear.     

Looking Ahead: The first order of business in Monroe will be to find a replacement for Dawson, no small task.  Frank Goodin will get first dibs after rushing for 596 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman reserve.  In the meantime, QB Kinsmon Lancaster's role should increase now that he's proven to be a decent passer that just happens to have good feet outside the pocket.

- 2007 ULM Preview 
2006 ULM Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Results:

Aug. 30 Tulsa L 35-17
Sept. 8 at Clemson L 35-17
Sept. 15 at Texas A&M L 54-14
Sept. 29 at Troy L 24-7
Oct. 6
Arkansas St W 30-13
Oct. 13 at No Texas L 31-21
Oct. 20 FIU W 28-14
Oct. 27 at FAU W 33-30 3OT
Nov. 3 Middle Tenn L 43-40
Nov. 10
Grambling St W 28-14
Nov. 17 at Alabama W 21-14
Nov. 24 at UL Laf. W 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? ...
How did ULM beat UL Lafayette? The running game was fine, but nothing special, the defense gave up too many yards and the passing attack didn't do much of anything. Turnovers. ULL's two proved to be killers, while ULM didn't give the ball away and came up with the two big plays needed on defense to get by. Now the Warhawks are bowl eligible with the first six-win season in decades, and while there won't be a 13th game, closing out with five wins in the final six, including a wins over Alabama and the arch-rival ULL, this quickly turned into a special season.

Nov. 17
UL Monroe 21 ... Alabama 14
UL Monroe stunned Alabama with an 11-yard touchdown catch from Mary Humphrey in the third quarter, and then stop after stop as the Tide offense had several chances with no luck. Bama went four and out on its final two drives, lost a fumble on a fourth quarter drive that got to the ULM 19, and got a field goal blocked. ULM got 14 second quarter points on a touchdown runs from Calvin Dawson and Frank Goodin, while Bama scored in the first quarter on a 17-yard Keith Brown catch and in the second quarter on a 12-yard Terry Grant run. The Tide got just four first downs in the second half, but outgained the Warhawks 409 yards to 282 for the game.
Player of the game: UL Monroe S Quintez Secka made five tackles and picked off two passes.
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 21-31, 246 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Terry Grant, 21-96, 1 TD. Receiving: Keith Brown, 6-97, 1 TD
UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 14-24, 161 yds, 1 TD
Calvin Dawson, 33-91, 1 TD. Receiving:
Zeek Zacharie, 5-56
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The ULM defense pulled off an absolute stunner against Alabama with great plays on every key down in the second half, and just enough offense to get by. Last year ULM came within an eyelash of beating Kentucky, but that was in a shootout. This time around against an SEC team, the defense came up with a gem to make up for an average day from the offense that only got 121 rushing yards and averaged 2.8 yards per carry. Now, after this stunner, a win over UL Lafayette would mean a tremendous comeback winning five of the final six games.

Nov. 10
UL Monroe 28 ... Grambling State 14
UL Monroe stuffed Grambling State, holding it to -4 rushing yards while getting touchdown runs from Calvin Dawson from 21 and ten yards out, an eight-yard Frank Goodin scoring run, and a 29-yard Zeek Zacharie scoring grab. GSU got on the board with a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown from Demichael Dizer, and got 63 of its 189 yards of total offense on one play with Nick Lewis taking a pass for a score. ULM had five sacks led by three from David Cooper.
Player of the game: UL Monroe RBs Calvin Dawson and Frank Goodin combined to run 26 times for 206 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Grambling State - Passing: Brandon Landers, 14-33, 169 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Cornelius Walker, 6-10. Receiving: Reginald Jackson, 6-37
UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 16-23, 178 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Frank Goodin, 23-106, 1 TD. Receiving: Darrell McNeal, 7-81

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... After a brutally painful loss to Middle Tennessee, the WarHawks got back on track with a stifling effort against Grambling State. Calvin Dawson and Frank Goodin ran well the defense never let the Tigers breath, and ULM got a much-needed win before going on the road to face Alabama and UL Lafayette. To have any shot of keeping it close against the Tide, there can't be 11 penalties and four turnovers like there were this week. The 30,101 fans set a new school record.

Nov. 3
Middle Tennessee 43 ... UL Monroe 40
UL Monroe took a 40-37 lead with 57 seconds to play on a six-yard touchdown catch from Zeek Zacharie. On the ensuing kickoff, Bradley Robinson returned it 89 yards for a touchdown and the improbable win. The Blue Raiders got an all-timer of a night from QB Joe Craddock, who stepped in for ran injured Dwight Dasher and threw four touchdown passes, highlighted by a 94-yard play to Jonathan Grigsby and scoring plays of 42 and 66 yards to Desmond Gee. ULM always had an answer, mostly from Calvin Dawson, who ran for scores from 17, seven and 62 yards out. A one-yard Craddock run with 2:36 to play appeared to give the Blue Raiders the lead for good, but Kinsmon Lancaster marched the Warhawks down the field finishing up with his second touchdown pass of the game before Robinson came up with his game-winner. ULM cranked out 624 yards of total offense to Middle Tennessee's 499.
Player of the game: Middle Tennessee QB Joe Craddock completed 22 of 29 passes for 401 yards and four touchdown passes, and ran 11 times for 70 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Middle Tennessee - Passing: Joe Craddock, 22-29, 401 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Joe Craddock, 11-70, 1 TD. Receiving: Desmond Hee, 4-139, 2 TD
UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 24-38, 264 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Calvin Dawson, 17-180, 3 TD. Receiving: Darrell McNeal, 9-57

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... ULM did what it had to do to beat Middle Tennessee, but just couldn't execute on the final kickoff. Calvin Dawson was sensational, Kinsmon Lancaster was effective, and everything was working more than fine on offense, but four turnovers and 15 penalties proved to be just enough to keep the Warhawks from grabbing the momentum. With a week off against Grambling State before dealing with Alabama, the team needs to keep the offense humming to have any prayer of making the battle in Tuscaloosa interesting..

Oct. 27
UL Monroe 33 ... Florida Atlantic 30 3OT
Calvin Dawson ran for a 31-yard touchdown in the third overtime to answer Warley Leroy's third field goal of the game. The Owls forced overtime with a rally from ten down in the final seven minutes, getting a 36-yard Leroy field goal and with just over a minute to play, a one-yard Charles Pierre touchdown run. Neither team could get on the board in the first overtime and the two traded field goals in the second. The two teams traded scores all game long with Kinsmon Lancaster throwing for two ULM scores and FAU getting two short scoring runs and a one-yard touchdown pass from Rusty Smith.
Player of the game: UL Monroe RB Calvin Dawson ran 26 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns, and caught five passes for 26 yards
Stat Leaders: UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 22-35, 182 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Calvin Dawson, 26-114, 2 TD. Receiving: Kenneth Zacharie, 6-69, 1 TD
Florida Atlantic - Passing: Rusty Smith, 35-54, 317 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Charles Pierre, 17-73, 1 TD. Receiving: Cortez Gent, 11-142

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... With two straight wins, and a huge road victory over a strong team like Florida Atlantic, has officially changed the season around going into the tough home date with Middle Tennessee. With a road trip against Alabama ahead, a winning season is too much to ask for, but the team proved it had some fight this week on both sides of the ball. To beat the Blue Raiders next week, Kinsmon Lancaster will have to connect on a few more big passes to help loosen things up for Calvin Dawson. Dawson had to fight against the Owls for his yards.

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? ... The Warhawks struggled way too much to put away a bad FIU team, but at this point, a win is a win, and now they've won two of their last three games with a trip to Florida Atlantic ahead. Calvin Dawson ran as well as he had in weeks, getting help from a great day from Darrell McNeal and his three scores. To beat FAU, the pass defense has to continue to play well after slowing everyone down over the last few weeks.

Oct. 13
North Texas 31 ...UL Monroe 21
North Texas got two defensive touchdowns and a 99-yard touchdown catch from Casey Fitzgerald on the way to a stunningly easy win. Defensive tackle Montey Stevenson took an interception 20 yards for a score, Fitzgerald came up with his big play, and Dominique Green took an interception 75 yards for a touchdown as part of a 21-0 second quarter. The Mean Green was up 31-7 on a one-yard Micah Mosley run, while the D only allowed a 46-yard Zeek Zacharie touchdown catch before the final 1:23.
Player of the game: North Texas LB Maurice Stevenson made ten tackles, an interception, two tackles for loss, a broken up pass, and 1.5 sacks, with a
Stat Leaders: UL Monroe - Passing: Trey Revell, 14-29, 196 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Calvin Dawson, 18-65. Receiving: Frank Goodin, 6-79, 1 TD
North Texas - Passing: Giovanni Vizza, 16-30, 202 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Micah Mosley, 11-73, 1 TD. Receiving: Casey Fitzgerald, 6-118, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UL Monroe got down early to North Texas, couldn't get the passing game going, with it being more of a detriment than anything else, and now the Warhawks are out of the Sun Belt title race. The defense, overall, did a great job, but it gave up a backbreaking 99-yard touchdown pass, and didn't stiffen when UNT had chances to put the game away late. Now, a win over FIU is a must before dealing with a road trip to Florida Atlantic and a date with Middle Tennessee.

Oct. 6
UL Monroe 30 ... Arkansas State 13
Arkansas State appeared to be on the way to an easy win, scoring the first 13 points of the game with Chris Miller catching a 21-point touchdown pass, but ULM scored 30 unanswered points, helped by two Kinsmon Lancaster touchdown passes to Darrell McNeal, three Cole Wilson field goals, and a one-yard Calvin Dawson touchdown run. ULM's Greg James picked off two passes, giving him seven on the year.
Player of the game: UL Monroe RB Calvin Dawson ran 26 times for 114 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Arkansas State - Passing: Corey Leonard, 14-35, 206 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Corey Leonard, 11-90. Receiving: Levi Dejohnette, 6-82
UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 15-22, 195 yds, 2 TDs
Calvin Dawson, 26-114, 1 TD. Receiving: Darrell McNeal, 5-72, 2 TDs
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Finally, ULM got to play someone its own size, assuming Troy is at another level right now, and it came up with a fantastic performance against Arkansas State, dominating with the ground game, holding on to the ball for over 21 minutes of the second half, and coming up with a desperately needed blowout win. This is the ULM that everyone was waiting for after the way last year ended, and with North Texas and FIU ahead, a 3-4 start, and a 3-1 Sun Belt start, is a must before traveling to Florida Atlantic.

Sept. 29
Troy 24 ... UL Monroe 7
In a defensive battle, Boris Lee returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown, and Omar Haugabook hit Kennard Burton for a four-yard score and Josh Allen from six yards out as Troy came up with the hard win. UL Monroe managed a third quarter Zeek Zacharie touchdown catch from two yards out, but had problems with penalties turnovers. The two teams combined for 20 penalties and five turnovers.
Player of the game: Troy QB Omar Haugabook went 29-of-49 for 288 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, running for 25 yards on 10 carries.
Stat Leaders: UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 18-26, 114 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Calvin Dawson, 20-159. Receiving: Darrell McNeal, 8-31
Troy - Passing: Omar Haugabook, 29-49, 288 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
DuJuan Harris, 7-50. Receiving: Gary Banks, 8-97
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Calvin Dawson ran well against Troy, but he didn't get much help with Kinsmon Lancaster never getting the passing game on track. Troy is too tough at home, much less when there are three turnovers and 11 penalties. After an ugly few weeks, the Warhawks desperately need to take advantage of the next three weeks, getting Arkansas State at home before facing North Texas and FIU. To win all three, Lancaster has provide more balance.

Sept. 15
Texas A&M 54 ... UL Monroe 14
Texas A&M ran for 310 yards and consistently rumbled all game long, getting six touchdown runs from five different players with Jorvorskie Lane running for two in the first half.  The Aggies scored ten in the first, 17 in the second, 14 in the third and 13 in the fourth, rolling for 34 straight points after Calvin Dawson tied it at seven late in the first quarter. A&M's Kerry Franks added a 20-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
Player of the game: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee finished 19-of-33 for 237 yards, one touchdown and a pick, while running for 18 yards on four carries.
Stat Leaders: UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 13-23, 116 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing: Calvin Dawson, 20-126, 1 TD. Receiving: Calvin Dawson, 5-42
Texas A&M - Passing: Stephen McGee, 19-33, 237 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Mike Goodson, 11-113, 1 TD. Receiving: Martellus Bennett, 6-98

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The ULM offense is built to control games with the ground attack, but it didn't work against Texas A&M. The Warhawks did a decent job of keeping the chains moving, but it wasn't able to do anything once the Aggies started rolling. There were too many penalties (10 for 65 yards), no run defense, and nothing downfield from the passing game. With Troy coming up next, the offense will have to start being consistent for the first time all year.

Sept. 8
Clemson 49 ... UL Monroe 26
It took a little while to get rolling, but Clemson's offense eventually became unstoppable through the air with Cullen Harper throwing five touchdown passes and James Davis rumbling for a 16-yard score. ULM started off the scoring with an 11-play, 67-yard drive culminating in a one-yard Calvin Dawson run, but Harper got hot with a 14-yard scoring pass to Tyler Grisham and a 52-yard scoring play to Jacoby Ford to take the lead for good. C.J. Spiller took a pass 68 yards on Clemson's first play from scrimmage in the second half for Harper's final scoring throw of the day as Willy Korn took over in the fourth quarter. ULM scored 13 points in the final 9:14 highlighted by a 48-yard Frank Goodin run.
Player of the game: Clemson QB Cullen Harper was 20-of-26 for 270 yards and five touchdown passes.
Stat Leaders: UL-Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 11-26, 139 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Calvin Dawson, 28-121, 1 TD. Receiving: LaGregory Sapp, 4-68
Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 20-26, 270 yds, 5 TDs
Rushing: James Davis, 7-68, 1 TD. Receiving: C.J. Spiller, 4-87, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Clemson, once it got the offense going, did whatever it wanted to against ULM, but this is a great Tiger team that'll make a ton of noise this year. Even so, ULM still did a good job of getting the running game, particularly Calvin Dawson, moving. The big problem was a passing game that wasn't there, as Kinsmon Lancaster couldn't get the ball to his receivers where they could make plays. Now the problem will be handling the Texas A&M running game, but as long as Dawson is rumbling, it might not be a blowout.

Aug. 30
Tulsa 35 ... UL Monroe 17
Tulsa overcame a rocky first half to score 21 unanswered points in the second on two Paul Smith touchdown passes and a four-yard Chris Chamberlain run. The 41-yard scoring play to Trae Johnson in the third quarter finally gave Tulsa a comfortable lead, and then the defense did the rest against a ULM passing game that struggled outside of a ten-yard LaGregory Sapp touchdown catch. ULM's other score came on a 46-yard Matt Freeman fumble return after Smith failed to fall on the ball. Calvin Dawson ran for 150 yards for the WarHawks.
Player of the game: Tulsa QB Paul Smith completed 22 of 31 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 22-31, 307 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Tarrion Adams, 28-129, 1 TD. Receiving: Charles Clay, 8-92
UL Monroe - Passing: Kinsmon Lancaster, 7-21, 66 yds, 1 TD
Calvin Dawson, 24-150. Receiving: LaGregory Sapp, 3-23, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... ULM lives and dies with the run, and while Calvin Dawson had a nice performance against Tulsa, the ground game only cranked out 212 yards and no one gave the franchise back much help. Kinsmon Lancaster had an awful day throwing the ball, with 31 of his 66 yards coming on one play. He only took one sack and he didn't make many mistakes, but he failed to get the passing attack moving in the second half. The defense did a good job against the hurry-up attack until the floodgates opened in the second half. Blame the offense for not providing more help.

Aug. 30 - Tulsa
Offense: Can Gus Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle offense really work at this level … take two.  All the buzz about Malzahn's fancy playbook fizzled in Fayetteville last year, but unlike at Arkansas, Tulsa coach Tood Graham is on board and prepared to see all of the offense's bell and whistles.  The system aims to control the tempo, physically and mentally wear out opponents, and sort of run a two-minute offense for four quarters.  Senior quarterback Paul Smith is liable to go berserk running this offense, but a makeshift offensive line and a whole new set of receivers will be two major stumbling blocks.  When the Hurricane runs the ball, it'll turn to senior Courtney Tennial and junior Tarrion Adams, arguably the best running duo in Conference USA.   
Defense: Head coach Todd Graham brings the 3-3-5 and a very aggressive style back to Tulsa, where he led the defense from 2003-2005.  The fact that he coached and recruited many of this year's players should make for a smoother-than-expected transition.  Graham will showcase a swarming unit that brings turnovers back to Tulsa.  In his final season as the defensive coordinator, the Hurricane had 36 takeaways.  Without him last year? 14.  The strength is at linebacker, which features three senior starters and Nelson Coleman, one of the nation's best middle linebackers you've never seen play.  With so much over pursuing going on in 2007, a retooled secondary could give up as many big plays this year as it has in the last two combined.

Sept. 8 – at Clemson
Offense: Clemson had the ACC's best offense last season, but it didn't get nearly enough from the passing game. Expect more of the same. The 1-2 rushing punch of James Davis and C.J. Spiller is among the best in the country, and while the line loses four starters, there's enough experience and talent up front to pave the way for a big rushing year. The receiving corps has potential, but a quarterback has to emerge to consistently produce. Cullen Harper has the job to start the year, but superstar recruit Willy Korn will likely take over at the first opportunity. No matter who's under center, and despite all the bells, whistles and formations of the Rob Spence offense, it'll be all about the running game.
Defense: As long as the corners are fine, this will be one of the nation's best defenses. The line, even without Gaines Adams, will be amazing, thanks to the emergence of Ricky Sapp and a great rotation of tackles. Assuming Tramaine Billie (broken ankle) and Antonio Clay (family tragedy) are back, the linebacking corps will fly around and make plays all over the filed. The safety situation is one of the ACC's best with Chris Clemons, Michael Hamlin (broken foot and all) and DeAndre McDaniel all potential all-stars, and the corners should be decent, at worst.

Sept. 15 – at Texas A&M
Offense: Run, run, and run some more. The Aggies finished last year eighth in the nation in rushing, and now the line should be even better with four legitimate All-Big 12 candidates paving the way for the devastating rushing tandem of Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson. QB Stephen McGee was better than anyone could've hoped for last year taking over for Reggie McNeal, and while he might not throw only two interceptions again, he'll be one of the league's best all-around quarterbacks. The tight end tandem of Martellus Bennett and Joey Thomas would get all the conference attention if it wasn't for Missouri's tremendous pair, but the receivers are suspect and could be the Achilles heel if there Earvin Taylor doesn't have a huge season.
Defense: First of all, realize what amazing strides the defense made under defensive coordinator Gary Darnell. The pass defense was the worst in the nation in 2005 and became more than just respectable last season in a 4-2-5 alignment that led to a solid year until the Holiday Bowl meltdown against Cal. There wasn't enough of a pass rush outside of Chris Harrington, but that could change if tackle Red Bryant is healthy again and occupies two blockers on the inside. There aren't any all-stars in the back seven, but it's a good, sound group that will do just enough to get by.

Sept. 29 – at 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. 6 - 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. 13 – at 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. 20 - 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.

Oct. 27 – at 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 - 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. 10 – Grambling State

Nov. 17 – at Alabama
Offense: Major Applewhite takes over as offensive coordinator and will play around with several different formations and ideas, while trying to stick with Nick Saban's run-first philosophy. He'll incorporate a little bit of spread and four-wide sets. There's one problem; Bama might not have the backs to run well on a consistent basis. The strength is in the passing game with the great 1-2 receiving tandem of D.J. Hall and Keith Brown working with rising passer John Parker Wilson. The line welcomes back five starters led by soon to be All-Everything tackle Andre Smith.
Defense: Former Florida State defensive coordinator Kevin Steele came in and switched things up to a 3-4 in an attempt to jump-start a woeful pass rush by getting more production from the outside linebackers, led by a hybrid position of defensive lineman and linebacker, manned by Keith Saunders. Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood look the part of top ends, and now they have to start producing. The biggest problem is tackle, where former backup center Brian Motley, who looked great this spring, has to be an anchor for everything to work right. The back eight should be excellent, led by all-star corner Simeon Castille.

Nov. 24 – at 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.



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