2007 Buffalo Bulls

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 Buffalo Bulls Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

Buffalo Bulls

Recap: It didn't take a bowl game or even a .500 record for the Bulls to emerge as the surprise program of 2007 in the MAC.  After winning no more than three games at any time this decade, Buffalo copped a school-record five league games, tying for the East Division lead, and dramatically shifting the culture around the program.  A perennial punching bag for the rest of the conference, the Bulls expected to win games last fall, a credit to the job being done by head coach Turner Gill in just two short years.              

Offensive Player of the Year: RB James Starks

Defensive Player of the Year: S Davonte Shannon

Biggest Surprise: Coming off a nasty loss to Ball State, the 1-4 Bulls permanently changed the direction of their season with a 31-10 spanking of Ohio on Oct. 6.  Showing a hint of what the program was about to become, Buffalo got 183 yards rushing and two scores from Starks, and an air tight effort from an improving defense.      

Biggest Disappointment: With a shot to earn a spot in the MAC Championship game, Buffalo lost back-to-back games in November to Miami and Bowling Green, the East Division front-runners.  The defense, which had been stout for weeks, took a step backwards, allowing 31 points and more than 400 yards in both games.          

Looking Ahead: Last season's success in Buffalo may wind up being a stepping stone to a MAC title in 2008.  With a glut of starters back on both sides of the ball, and Gill locked up for the next few years, the Bulls are on the brink of something special in Upstate New York.

- 2007 Buffalo Preview 
2006 Buffalo Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 1-11
2007 Results:

Aug. 30 at Rutgers L 38-3
Sept. 8 at Temple W 42-7
Sept. 15 at Penn State L 45-24
Sept. 22 Baylor L 34-21
Sept. 29 at Ball State L 49-14
Oct. 6
Ohio W 31-10
Oct. 13 Toledo W 43-33
Oct. 20 at Syracuse L 20-12
Oct. 27
Akron W 26-10
Nov. 3 at Miami L 31-28
Nov. 17
Bo. Green L 31-17
Nov. 24 at Kent St W 30-23 OT

Nov 24
Buffalo 30 ... Kent State 23 OT
Brandon Thermilus ran for a one-yard touchdown on Buffalo's overtime possession, and Kent State couldn't answer with Anthony Mazazu getting sacked on fourth down to give the Bulls a share of the MAC East title. Drew Willy threw two second half touchdowns and A.J. Principe nailed field goals from 21, 23 and 23 yards out, while the Golden Flashes got two touchdown passes from Anthony Magazu and a two-yard Andre Flowers touchdown run. Derrek Burrell made 16 stops and forced a fumble for Kent State, while Buffalo's Davonte Shannon made 15 stops with two forced fumbles for the Bulls.
Player of the game: Buffalo QB Drew Willy completed 34 of 44 passes for 334 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 34-44, 334 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: James Starks, 18-54. Receiving: Ernest Jackson, 9-118, 1 TD
Kent State - Passing: Anthony Magazu, 12-22, 184 yds, 2 TD
Eugene Jarvis, 34-183. Receiving: Tom Sitko, 5-61, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The amazing turnaround season for Buffalo might not have resulted in a winning season or a MAC title, 5-7 is still impressive after years of being awful. A share of the MAC East title is more than the program could've ever dreamed of, while the team showed it could not only be competitive, but successful. Drew Willy came up with a tremendous game throwing the ball against Kent State, but there could've been more from James Starks and the running game. No matter; a season-ending win is still going to be sweet for the rising program.

Nov 17
Bowling Green 31 ... Buffalo 17
Tyler Sheehan threw for two touchdown passes, connecting with Freddie Barnes on a swing pass for a 44-yard score, and working with Chris Wright from 83 yards away for a 24-10 halftime lead. And then Sheehan got into the act from the other way with a 25-yard touchdown catch from Anthony Turner for a 21-point lead, but Buffalo would fight back with a 17-yards Ernest Jackson scoring grab and getting down to the Falcon one on a later drive. but QB Drew Willy tripped on third down and threw a pick on fourth. The Bulls wouldn't get any closer.
Player of the game: Bowling Green WR Freddie Barnes caught ten passes or 113 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Bowling Green - Passing: Tyler Sheehan, 20-29, 248 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Anthony Turner, 22-97, 1 TD. Receiving: Freddie Barnes, 10-113, 1 TD
Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 19-32, 210 yds, 1 TD
James Starks, 21-137, 1 TD. Receiving: Naaman Roosevelt, 6-148

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Bull offense was balanced and effective against Bowling Green, but it failed to come up with the key offensive plays it needed in the second half. The defense adjusted nicely after getting ripped up early, but the Falcons got up too much too early for UB, who isn't a team built for comebacks, to overcome. This has been a good season, but it can be a great one in the turn-around effort if it can get by Kent State. It's all about stopping the run against the Golden Flashes, and UB can do that.

Nov. 3
Miami University 31 ... Buffalo 28
Miami got two touchdown passes from Daniel Raudabaugh, including a six-yard play late in the third quarter for a 31-20 lead, but Buffalo would make it interesting with Naaman Roosevelt's second touchdown of the day on a three-yard catch with 2:54 to play. The Bulls had one last shot, but QB Drew Willy was sacked, lost a fumble and MU held on. The RedHawks answered a 92-yard James Starks touchdown run in the first five minutes with 17 straight points, but needed a long drive and a one-yard Thomas Merriweather touchdown run to take the lead for good. MU came up with six sacks, with Joe Coniglio cranking out two of them.
Player of the game: Miami QB Daniel Raudabaugh completed 20 of 26 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns, and ran three times for 17 yards.
Stat Leaders: Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 33-45, 217 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: James Starks, 19-148, 1 TD. Receiving: Brett Hamlin, 9-100
Miami University - Passing: Daniel Raudabaugh, 20-26, 269 yds, 2 TD
Cory Jones, 19-124. Receiving: Eugene Harris, 5-70, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Buffalo played relatively well in the biggest game in its history, but it couldn't stop the Miami pass rush and it couldn't capitalize on the momentum of the 92-yard James Starks touchdown run early. The season is hardly over, with a shot at a 6-6 season with Bowling Green and Kent State ahead, but after being in the MAC East title hunt, it might be impossible to crank up the intensity. It might be Turner Gill's toughest coaching job to keep the team's focus after a tough loss like this and a two-week layoff.

Oct. 27
Buffalo 26 ... Akron 10
Alex Allen capped off an 80-yard opening Akron drive with a one-yard score, and that would be it for the Zip touchdowns as Buffalo forced three turnovers and got an 11-yard touchdown catch from Ernest Jackson and a nine-yard touchdown catch from Naaman Roosevelt for a 13-7 lead. The Bulls owned the second half with two A.J. Principe field goals and a three-yard Chris Scharon scoring run.
Player of the game: Buffalo's Davonte Shannon led the team with 13 tackles
Stat Leaders: Akron
- Passing: Chris Jacquemain, 19-37, 185 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Bryan Williams, 21-87. Receiving: Bryan Williams, 5-49
Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 11-14, 125 yds, 3 TD
James Starks, 24-91. Receiving: Jesse Rack, 3-48

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Buffalo might not have gotten as much from the offense is it would've liked against Akron, but it didn't make the big mistakes the Zips made, and the defense was firm after the opening drive. Drew Willy was efficient and effective as UB took advantage of every opportunity. Now the MAC East title is there for the taking, but now UB has to go on the road to deal with Miami University. Win that, and this will be one of the years' most amazing stories.

Oct. 20
Syracuse 20 ... Buffalo 12
Mike Williams and Taj Smith each caught 113 yards worth of passes, and the defense held Buffalo to four A.J. Principe field goals, as Syracuse came away with just its second win of the season. SU's Doug Hogue ran for 83 yards with a six-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the first half. UB fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Andrew Robinson found Mike Williams for an 11-yard touchdown with 15 seconds to play, and SU had a 17-3 halftime lead. Principe connected from 31, 33, 29 and 32 yards out for the Bulls.
Player of the game: Syracuse WR Mike Williams caught seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 32-48, 286 yds
Rushing: James Starks, 20-62. Receiving: Naaman Roosevelt, 10-91
Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 15-28, 265 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Doug Hogue, 24-83, 1 TD. Receiving: Mike Williams 7-113, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Buffalo hung with Syracuse through a full four quarters and represented itself well on the road against a BCS team. The problem was closing, with four promising drives ending with field goals instead of touchdowns. The defense gave up yards to the two star SU receivers, Taj Smith and Mike Williams, but it didn't get killed by them. Now it's back into MAC play, where a win over Akron would set the tone for a possible MAC East lead. The team is playing just that well.

Oct. 13
Buffalo 43 ... Toledo 33
James Starks tore off touchdown runs from 45 and nine yards out, Ernest Jackson caught a 75-yard touchdown pass, and Naaman Roosevelt recovered a fumble for a score in a 28-point first half, and cruised from there. Toledo got within ten points midway though the third quarter on a five-yard Chris Hopkins catch, but Starks put it out of reach with a 36-yard touchdown run. Toledo rolled up 526 yards of total offense, but never got close.
Player of the game: Buffalo RB James Starks ran 35 times for 244 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 8-16, 172 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: James Starks, 35-244, 3 TD. Receiving: Earnest Jackson, 4-107, 2 TD
Toledo - Passing: D.J. Lenehan, 32-50, 307 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jalen Parmele, 29-171, 1 TD. Receiving: Stephen Williams, 15-172, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... 3-4? All of a sudden, because of James Starks, the Buffalo offense is rolling, and now the Bulls are actually in the hunt for the MAC East title. As crazy as that might seem, it's all there for the taking if the offensive line keeps giving Starks room to rumble, and if Drew Willy takes advantage of every opportunity. Can UB beat Syracuse next week? If so, then it'll really be time to get excited about when Turner Gill has done.

Oct. 6
Buffalo 31 ... Ohio 10
Buffalo got 183 yards from James Starks, who started off the scoring with a one-yard run, and ended Ohio's hopes with a 72-yard touchdown dash with just over two minutes to play. The Bull defense allowed a four-yard Kalvin McRae touchdown run to tie it at seven, but scored the next ten points on a one-yard Brandon Thermilus run and a 43-yard A.J. Principe field goal to take the lead for good. Ohio was outgained 397 yards to 276.
Player of the game: Buffalo RB James Starks rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries, adding an 18-yard reception.
Stat Leaders: Ohio - Passing: Theo Scott, 12-24, 93 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Kalvin McRae, 24-96, 1 TD. Receiving: Chido Nwokocha, 5-45
Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 10-19, 118 yds
James Starks, 36-183, 2 TDs. Receiving: Naaman Roosevelt, 6-61

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Where did this Buffalo defense come from? A week after not doing anything against Ball State, it came out and shut down the Ohio rushing attack, allowing just 90 yards, while getting the best game of the season from the offensive line. Drew Willy, when he doesn't have to bomb away, can be extremely effective, and it helps when James Starks is carrying the workload for 183 yards.

Sept. 29
Ball State 49 ... Buffalo 14
Ball State rolled out 507 yards of total offense, and got out to a 35-0 lead, with Darius Hill catching two touchdown passes and Dante Love each scoring twice. Frank Edmonds started off the scoring with a one-yard touchdown run, and finished it off with a one-yard score for the Cardinals. Buffalo only managed 219 yards of total offense and two short James Starks touchdown runs.
Player of the game: Ball State QB Nate Davis finished 21-of-29 for 233 yards and three touchdowns, running for 44 yards on five carries.
Stat Leaders: Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 14-19, 136 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: James Starks, 19-47, 2 TDs. Receiving: Naaman Roosevelt, 5-44
Ball State - Passing: Nate Davis, 21-29, 233 yds, 3 TDs
Frank Edmonds, 24-126, 2 TDs. Receiving: Darius Hill, 6-80, 2 TDs

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Buffalo is going to have its days when nothing is working right, and the Ball State game was one of those times. After getting down so quickly, the offense had to start trying to come back with no bullets in the gun. There wasn't much in the way of downfield passing, the ground game didn't work, and 11 penalties killed any hope for a momentum switch. UB might be better than it's been in the past, but it still needs to use each week to try to find one thing it can improve on.

Sept. 22
Baylor 34 ... Buffalo 21
Baylor took a 10-0 lead on the first of Blake Szymanski's three touchdown passes, hitting Justin Akers from four yards out, but didn't put it away until the third quarter on a nine-yard Krys Buerck touchdown catch and a Brandon Whitaker two-yard scoring grab. Buffalo's offense struggled to get going, but it was able to take advantage of the short field twice, finishing with two James Starks scores. Starks added a third score on a one-yard run with 1:21 to play.
Player of the game: Baylor QB Blake Szymanski went 21-of-45 for 172 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and ran 11 times for 91 yards and another score.
Stat Leaders: Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanksi, 21-45, 172 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Blake Szymanksi, 11-91, 1 TD. Receiving: Justin Akers, 7-74, 1 TD
Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 29-46, 276 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs
James Starks, 14-62, 2 TDs. Receiving: Naam Roosevelt, 6-79
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Buffalo had a prime opportunity to make a big statement, getting a BCS league team at home, but Baylor's offense was too effective, and the Bull attack didn't do enough to get things moving. James Starks had a nice game, but the ground attack only came up with 87 yards, and there were way too many mistakes on both sides of the ball with ten penalties and five turnovers. The secondary will have to be far tighter against Ball State next week.

Penn State 45 ... Buffalo 24
Buffalo scored first on a 19-yard field goal after an Austin Scott fumble, and then Penn State took control with a 31-point on a 27-yard Kevin Kelly field goal and four Anthony Morelli touchdown passes. Andrew Quarless scored from 21 and four yards out, Jordan Norwood caught a five-yard touchdown pass, and Terrell Golden scored from 27 yards out. Rodney Kinlaw and Austin Scott each ran for fourth quarter touchdowns.
Player of the game: Penn State QB Anthony Morelli went 20-of-27 for 202 yards and four touchdown passes.
Stat Leaders: Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 28-39, 330 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: James Starks, 18-41, 1 TD. Receiving: Naaman Roosevelt, 7-114
Penn State - Passing: Anthony Morelli, 20-27, 202 yds, 4 TDs
Rodney Kinlaw, 23-129, 1 TD. Receiving: Deon Butler, 5-72
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UB was never going to beat Penn State, but there were positive, mostly in the passing game. Drew Willy kept the pressure on and kept winging it around, throwing for 330 yards, and while there weren't enough positive plays to keep drives alive, the offense showed it can make up for a lack of running game with Willy's arm. That'll come in handy next week against Baylor in what should be a high-octane shootout.

Sept. 8
Buffalo 42 ... Temple 3
Buffalo ruined Temple's MAC opener by stuffing the running game for -36 yards helped by five sacks, and outgained the Owls 414 yards to 141. The Bulls made it a laugher in the first quarter on a 74-yard pass from Drew Willy to James Starks on the games opening play, got a 50-yard interception return for a score from Mike Newton on Temple's possession, and put it away on a 33-yard Mario Henry run. Jason Harper ran for a ten-yard score for the Owls, but UB cranked out 21 straight points to end it, helped by a nine-yard Willy run and a five-yard scoring pass to Jesse Rack.
Player of the game: Buffalo LB Larry Hutchinson had a team-high eight tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery, and QB Drew Willy completed 20 of 22 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and a touchdown run..
Stat Leaders: Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 20-22, 190 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Mario Henry, 17-125, 1 TD. Receiving: Ernest Jackson, 5-40
Temple - Passing: Adam DiMichele, 13-23, 160 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing: Jason Harper, 6-25. Receiving: Marcell Grigsby, 3-27
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Where the heck did this come from? Yeah, it's Temple, but yeah, it's Buffalo. The Bulls had one big game last year in the win over Kent State, but this still came from out of nowhere. It all started with a swarming defense that never let the Owls breathe, and was helped by an all-timer (for UB) of a game from QB Drew Willy, who went 20 of 22. Once it appeared in the bag, he didn't make mistakes and he kept the chains moving. This wasn't a program-changer for Turner Gill's team, but it was certainly impressive.

Aug. 30
Rutgers 38 ... Buffalo 3
Ray Rice ran for three scores, but Tiquan Underwood stole the show with ten catches for a school-record 248 yards with two touchdowns in the easy Scarlet Knight win. Rutgers jumped out to a 28-0 first half lead on Underwood scores from 65 and 66 yards out, and Rice closed out the touchdown scoring with a 41-yard dash in the third quarter. A.J. Principle got the only Buffalo points on a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Player of the game: Rutgers WR Tiquan Underwood caught ten passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 19-32, 165
Rushing: Mario Henry, 8-49. Receiving: Brett Hamlin, 4-54
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 16-23, 328 yds, 2 TD
Ray Rice, 25-184, 3 TD. Receiving: Tiquan Underwood, 10-248, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Rutgers will turn out to be one of the ten best teams in the country, so there's no need to get too upset about a blowout loss. The big concern for Buffalo was the lack of getting anything going on either side of the ball. The run defense, secondary, ground game and passing game all failed to make anything happen, with no defense whatsoever on third downs allowing the Scarlet Knights to convert seven of 11 chances. Fortunately, next week, Temple will look like it's playing in slow motion by comparison.
Aug. 30 – at Rutgers
Offense: Although Rutgers is more than content to pound the ball between the tackles 30 times a game with All-America running back Ray Rice, it wouldn't mind a little more offensive balance this year.  Whether that happens depends on the development of junior quarterback Mike Teel who struggled badly last year, but did play his best ball at the end of the year and has a speedy group of receivers needed to author a rebound.  While question marks exist on the interior of the offensive line, the tackle tandem of seniors Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah is one of the best in the country.
Defense: For Greg Schiano and his Rutgers defense, it's all about creating pressure and turnovers with a variety of different looks to confuse opposing offenses.  Everything came together last year for a unit that had 31 takeaways and allowed just 252 yards and 14 points a game, but five starters need to be replaced.  Senior defensive tackle Eric Foster is a ticking time bomb that exploded on quarterbacks in 2006, en route to All-America recognition.  He's the physical and spiritual leader of a front seven that's noticeably less experienced than last year.  Provided sophomore Devin McCourty can handle the corner spot opposite twin brother Jason, the secondary will rock with the return of all-league safeties, Courtney Greene and Ron Girault.

Sept. 8 – at Temple
Offense: There was a little bit of improvement; the offense averaged 10.92 points per game after averaging 9.73 in 2005. There's plenty of experience and a major infusion of talent at running back and receiver, but can any of them play? The attack will rely on several true freshmen all over the place while praying for a major, major improvement on the offensive line. The quarterback situation is solid with Adam DiMichele and Vaughn Charlton each good enough to start after seeing plenty of time last season. Whatever happens, the offense will average more than a nation's worst 215.67 yards per game.
Defense: The good: The D improved giving up nine fewer yards and four fewer points per game than in 2005. The bad: The Owls were 117th in the nation in total defense and 118th in scoring D. The 2008 version should be tremendous once all the freshmen and sophomores are crusty veterans, but for now, there's good competition at almost every spot with no sure-thing starter. The defensive line should be far better with an instant infusion of talent, while the back seven has potential, especially at linebacker, to make a big jump in production. It would be nice if a true shut-down corner could quickly emerge with the hope that JUCO transfer Tommie Williams will be that guy. Don't expect miracles, but the overall numbers should improve.

Sept. 15 – 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. 22 - Baylor
Offense: After making the change to a Texas Tech-like passing attack, the Bears threw well, but did absolutely nothing for the running game, finishing dead last in the nation averaging just 40.17 yards per game. There will be more emphasis on running the ball, but this will still be a passing attack. First, BU has to find someone to throw, and someone to catch. It'll be a three-way battle for the starting quarterback job, with former Kent State Golden Flash Michael Machen the leader in the race, while the two star receivers of last season are gone. Several young players have to turn into reliable targets, while Brandon Whitaker has to try to provide some semblance of a rushing attack behind a line that should be a bit better.
Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. Baylor didn't come up with any last year, and it affected the entire defense. With only 11 sacks and 51 tackles for loss, BU let opposing quarterbacks spend all day to throw, and the secondary struggled. Worse yet, the run defense was awful. Now, there's hope for improvement in the 4-2-5 alignment with promising tackles in Vincent Rhodes and Trey Bryant, along with tackling machine Joe Pawelek at linebacker. The secondary has more raw talent than last year, but not a lot of experience, so it'll be up to veteran ends Jason Lamb and Geoff Nelson to finally produce some sort of pressure on the quarterback.

Sept. 29 – at Ball State
Offense: The offense grew into something special as Nate Davis emerged as one of the MAC's star passers. He should be even better after surviving his true freshman season, and with four starters returning on the line, he should have more time to operate. The receiving corps should be fantastic led by tight end Darius Hill and receiver Dante Love, who's growing into a good number one target. Don't expect too much from the running game even with the expected emergence of quick sophomore MiQuale Lewis.
Defense: Awful for the last two seasons, the defense started to get a little better as last year went on and should make even bigger strides with plenty of experience returning. Six starters are back, and most of the new starters have seen enough time to be ready to hit the ground running. The 3-4 is good at getting into the backfield, but there haven't been enough sacks and not nearly enough consistent production against power running teams. The pass defense has been non-existent for the last two seasons. Corners Trey Lewis and Trey Buice have been around, and can hit, but if they don't cover better, the Cardinals won't be able to take the next step.

Oct. 6 - 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.

Oct. 13 - Toledo
Offense: Injuries hit the offensive line last year and killed the production and the consistency. With John Greco back at left tackle and a slew of big redshirt freshmen, the front five should be better and could be fantastic is David Perkins and Jerry Aguwa return to their pre-injury form. The spread offense should improve with quarterback Aaron Opelt looking better and Clint Cochran healthy again after a knee problem. The receiving corps is big, fast, and so far, disappointing. That could quickly change considering all the interesting targets. Jalen Parmele and DaJuane Collins form a good 1-2 rushing punch that needs to stay healthy with the off-the-field issues of Richard Davis and Scooter McDougle.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Tim Rose has done a good job over the last two years using a flexible 3-4 alignment that occasionally morphs into a 4-2-5. Now it has to be better after getting bombed on by everyone over the first half of last year and only produced once the schedule lightened up. Seven starters return along with plenty of depth, especially up front, and now there have to be more big plays and more pressure into the backfield. Greg Hay and Keith Forestal form a strong 1-2 linebacking punch, while the safety tandem of Tyrrell Herbert and Barry Church is among the best in the MAC.

Oct. 20 – at Syracuse
Offense: The pieces are there among the skill players for a night-and-day improvement from last year's putrid attack that cranked out a mere 264 yards and 17.4 points per game. The receiving cops, helped by the return of Taj Smith from injury, should be one of the best in the Big East, while Curtis Brinkley is a good back to work around. Sophomore QB Andrew Robinson is a star in the making, but he'll have a hard time with his consistency behind an offensive line that needs work even with three starters returning in the interior.
Defense: It might take a little while, but the D will improve as the season goes on, it struggled in every area but getting into the backfield, and with a strong defensive line returning, led be end Jameel McClain, generating pressure won't be much of a problem. The linebacking corps will be a work in progress with three news starters, but the excellent safety tandem of Dowayne Davis and Joe Fields should clean up plenty of messes.

Oct. 27 - Akron
Offense: The offense was a major disappointment last season with almost no production from a veteran offensive line and too much of a reliance on the passing game. Now the running game, with a good 1-2 punch of Dennis Kennedy and Andre Walker, should provide more pop, but the the line, with four new starters, has to be far better. The quarterback situation will be unsettled going into the fall with Carlton Jackson, Chris Jaquemain, and Sean Hakes all in the race. The receiving corps is fast and experienced, and now everyone has to play beyond their talent level to help out whoever the new passer will be.
Defense: The 3-3-5 defense of Jim Fleming was excellent last year, and it should be even better with eight starters returning and the right pieces in place. To run this type of defense, you need big linemen. Check. The Zips have 300-pounders in a rotation at tackle and big size at the other two spots. You need playmaking linebackers. Check. Three starters return with excellent depth to rotate in. You also need a secondary to hold it's own. Not a problem. Four starters return in the back five led by veteran corners Reggie Corner and Davanzo Tate.

Nov. 3 – at Miami University
Offense: It's all about the offensive line. The front five was hit by injuries last season and the whole machine broke down with no running game, an obscene amount of sacks, and not enough of a passing game. Now the line is experienced with decent depth, the running backs should be solid as long as Brandon Murphy is over his ankle problems, and Mike Kokal has the potential to be the MAC's most effective all-around quarterback. And then there's the receiving corps. With Ryne Robinson gone, there's no proven number one receiver, but there's a boatload of speed on the outside in Dustin Woods and Armand Robinson. While they'll make big plays, someone has to become a go-to guy.
Defense: There were huge concerns about the defense going into last season with only two returning starters, but the lumps taken against the run and against way too many mediocre offenses should pay off in a return to the days when MU had one of the MAC's best defenses. While just six starters are back, there are more than enough promising options at several positions to create good overall competition and have more depth than there's been in a long time. The pass rush needs to be better with Craig Mester needing to get back to form to help out junior end Joe Coniglio. Joey Hudson and Clayton Mullins form one of the MAC's best 1-2 linebacking punches, while the secondary should be one of the team's strengths led by speedy corner Jerrid Gaines and veteran safety Robbie Wilson.

Nov. 17 - Bowling Green
Offense: The offense went from being all-pass, no-run in 2005 to being a running team last year thanks to mobile quarterbacks in Anthony Turner, and early on, Freddie Barnes. Now there's a battle between Turner and Tyler Sheehan for the starting job with the hopes of balancing things out. The backfield should be excellent with the addition of JUCO transfer Eric Ransom to go along with power of Chris Bullock and Dan Macon. All-star center Kory Lichtensteiger leads a a good line that should get better and better as the year goes on. The one area of development will be receiver with some deep threats needing to emerge to go along with mid-range possession-target Corey Partridge.
Defense: Bowling Green might not always be a brick wall on defense, but it will do whatever it can to make plays all over the field. Last year this was a break-but-don't bend defense giving up points, but not yards. Now it needs to stiffen. With an emphasis on speed and quickness, the front seven will be flying around looking to get into the backfield to dictate the tempo, while the solid secondary will benefit. There might be problems against the better power running teams with a new set of tackles and smallish linebacking corps, but that'll be offset by the big plays ... at least that's the hope.

Nov. 24 – at Kent State
The Kent State offense was all pass, no run in 2005 (and it was really no run). It was all run, little pass in 2006. Now the ground game should be even stronger with the 1-2 rushing punch of Eugene Jarvis and Greg Keys along with the mobility of QB Julian Edelman. Four starters return to a line that needs to be better in pass protection, and a go-to receiver has to emerge with the loss of WR Najah Pruden. In the end, it'll all come down to Edelman. If he's playing well, the offense will shine.
Somewhat quietly, Kent State had one of the MAC's best defenses last season getting into the backfield, and to the quarterback, on a regular basis, while getting a phenomenal statistical season out of the secondary. CB Jack Williams and SS Fritz Jacques are good defenders to build around, but the rest of the secondary is a question mark. The front seven, in KSU's 3-4, should be excellent led by tackle Colin Ferrell and the Buck, the hybrid of end and linebacker, Kevin Hogan, should be one of the MAC's top pass rushing terrors. The D won't be as good as last year, but it won't be bad.



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