2007 Northern Illinois Huskies

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 Northern Illinois Huskies Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

Northern Illinois Huskies

Recap: The Huskies' run of seven consecutive winning seasons ended with authority in 2007, as the program managed to win just two games in 12 tries.  While it was supposed to be a down year for the school, its decline was exacerbated by a spate of serious injuries that plagued both sides of the ball.  Head coach Joe Novak, the architect of Northern Illinois' success this decade, won't be on staff to turn things around, opting to retire from his post after a dozen up-and-down years in DeKalb.              

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Justin Anderson

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Larry English

Biggest Surprise: Anderson.  A backup to Montell Clanton at the beginning of the season, Anderson got his shot to shine out of necessity, rushing for 1,245 yards and eight touchdowns after Clanton went on the permanent shelf.  An All-MAC second-teamer, he went over 100 yards in eight of his first nine starts before getting hurt himself in the finale with Ball State.         

Biggest Disappointment: Just seven days after giving Iowa fits, the Huskies got dumped at home by Southern Illinois, 34-31.  Worse, Northern Illinois squandered a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, allowing a pair of touchdown passes in the final minute of the game.  It was the Huskies' first loss to the Salukis since 1979.    

Looking Ahead: After beating the Huskies in September, Southern Illinois head coach Jerry Kill will join them, taking over for Novak in 2008.  A success in his seven seasons with the Salukis, he knows the landscape well, and inherits a team that can only improve once it gets healthy.

- 2007 NIU Preview
- 2006 NIU Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 Iowa (in Chic) L 16-3
Sept. 8 So Illinois L 34-31
Sept. 15 Eastern Mich L 21-19
Sept. 22 at Idaho W 42-35
Sept. 29 at Central Mich L 35-10
Oct. 6
at Temple L 16-15
Oct. 13 Western Mich L 17-13
Oct. 20 at Wisconsin L 44-3
Oct. 27 at Toledo L 70-21
Nov. 10
Kent State W 27-20
Nov. 17 at Navy L 35-24
Nov. 24
Ball State L 27-21

Nov. 24
Ball State 27 ... Northern Illinois 21
Ball State got three sacks from Brandon Crawford and two touchdown passes from Nate Davis to hold off a pesky Northern Illinois. The Huskies got two Ryan Morris touchdown passes including a 23-yard strike to Evans Adonis with 1:32 to play, but BSU recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock. The two teams combined for nine sacks with NIU finishing with -1 rushing yard.
Player of the game: Ball State QB Nate Davis completed 23 of 35 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score.
Stat Leaders: Ball State - Passing: Nate Davis, 23-35, 326 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Frank Edmonds, 5-33. Receiving: Dante Love, 9-135
Northern Illinois - Passing: Ryan Morris, 24-44, 252 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
David Bryant, 17-37, 1 TD. Receiving: Matt Simon, 7-86

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about lousy timing, NIU head coach Joe Novak's contract is up coming off a disastrous 2-10 season. The offense never found anything it could rely on outside of RB Justin Anderson, who was held to nine yards on six carries. QB Ryan Morris got good experience and kept up the pace, for the most part, with Ball State's Nate Davis for extended stretches, but there will be several big battles for jobs this offseason.

Nov. 17
Navy 35 ... Northern Illinois 24
Navy ran for 359 yards with Zerbin Singleton scoring from one and 26 yards out in the first quarter and from 12 yards away in the fourth to seal the win. In place of an injured
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, Jarod Bryant ran for 139 yards with a one-yard score. Northern Illinois was able to stay in the game with two Ryan Morris touchdown passes to Matt Simon coming from 46 and 24 yards out, but the offense failed to score late with a missed field goal and with Navy able to run out the clock. Alex Kube made 15 tackles for the Huskies, while Ross Pospisil came up with 20 stops for the Midshipmen.
Player of the game: Navy QB Jarod Bryant completed 3 of 6 passes for 60 yards and ran 27 times for 139 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Northern Illinois - Passing: Ryan Morris, 21-35, 206 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Justin Anderson, 39-140, 1 TD. Receiving: Matt Simon, 5-100, 2 TD
Navy - Passing: Jarod Bryant, 3-6, 60 yds
Jarod Bryant, 27-139, 1 TD. Receiving: Zerbin Singleton, 1-37

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The passing game needed to crank out big yards against a Navy secondary that hasn't been stopping anyone, and while Ryan Morris was fine, he couldn't take control of the game. Considering all the injuries, the defense did a nice job of keeping Navy from cranking out too many big runs and did a fine job on third downs. The season might be a disaster, but if the Huskies can can come up with a win over Ball State, there will be something to build on.

Nov. 10
Northern Illinois 27 ... Kent State 20
NIU got the lead on two Justin Anderson touchdown runs, and preserved it late as John Tranchitella picked off a Jon Brown pass at the Huskie ten in the final minutes. Anderson scored from 16 and four yards out, and cot Chris Nendick field goals from 25 and 40 yards out in the second half to stay ahead. The Golden Flashes, only managed two Nate Reed Field goals in the second half and was outgained 510 yards to 363 for the game.
Player of the game: Northern Illinois QB Dan Nicholson completed 21 of 28 passes of 275 yards for two touchdowns and two interceptions, and ran for 19 yards
Stat Leaders: Kent State - Passing: Jon Brown, 16-34, 132 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Eugene Jarvis, 20-170. Receiving: Alan Vanderink, 4-27, 1 TD
Northern Illinois - Passing: Dan Nicholson, 21-28, 275 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
David Bryant, 28-110. Receiving: Reed Cunningham, 7-65, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... In a lousy year, the Huskies were able to overcome an ugly 70-21 loss to Toledo with an offensive explosion against Kent State. The Golden Flashes were able to get their yards on the ground, but the NIU defense held firm in the second half and ended up playing better than it has in weeks. Now this needs to spark a little bit of a run, with the balance of Dan Nicholson throwing the ball, and the continued excellence of Justin Anderson running it, NIU has a shot against Navy and Ball State.

Oct. 27
Toledo 70 ... Northern Illinois 21
Toledo set a MAC record with 812 yards of total offense, running for 382 and passing for 430, while rolling with ease from the start. Aaron Opelt threw three first quarter touchdown passes, ran for a one-yard score in the second, and threw a fourth scoring pass, on the way to a 35-0 Rocket lead less than 21 minutes into the game. Nick Moore caught three of the passes, scoring from 33, 33 and 29 yards. The running game took over from then on with Gordon Warner running for three scores and Jalen Parmele and DaJuane Collins each getting a short touchdown. NIU got a 28-yard Britt Davis touchdown catch to break the first half run, and a six-yard Justin Anderson touchdown to open the second half.
Player of the game: Toledo QB Aaron Opelt completed 22 of 28 passes for 387 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for a score
Stat Leaders: Northern Illinois - Passing: Dan Nicholson, 11-23, 155 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Justin Anderson, 24-116, 1 TD. Receiving: Britt Davis, 4-81, 1 TD
Toledo - Passing: Aaron Opelt, 22-28, 387 yds, 4 TD
DaJuane Collins, 15-132, 1 TD. Receiving: Nick Moore, 7-145, 3 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The defensive line has nothing in the tank. Injuries have killed the Huskies, and it showed in the epically poor loss to Toledo. The offense wasn't remotely close to picking up the slack when the roof caved in early on, and now there are even more problems ahead facing Kent State, Navy and Ball State. The key from here on will be ball control; the defense can't be on the field for extended stretches.

Oct. 20
Wisconsin 44 ... Northern Illinois 3
Wisconsin thoroughly dominated the Huskies, outgaining them 331 rushing yards to -13, 20 first downs to 6, and only allowed a 34-yard Chris Nendick field goal late in the third quarter. P.J. Hill tore off a 72-yard run in the first quarter, and added a one-yard score in the third, while Chris Pressley and Lance Smith each ran for short second quarter touchdowns. Garrett Graham caught a 25-yard touchdown pass on UW's opening drive to start the blowout.
Player of the game: Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill ran 21 times for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught a pass for seven yards
Stat Leaders: Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 11-19, 91 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: P.J. Hill, 21-184, 2 TD. Receiving: Travis Beckum, 4-25
Northern Illinois - Passing: Ryan Morris, 3-8, 68 yds, 1 INT
Justin Anderson, 13-14. Receiving: Matt Simon, 4-86

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Huskies were beaten to a pulp by Wisconsin. They were looking for any willing and able bodies to man the defensive line, and now it'll be rough to see just what kind of a team can be put together for the trip to Toledo next week. The offense didn't even come close, with the running game stuffed from the start, and neither Dan Nicholson nor Ryan Morris getting anything going for the passing game. This was a total blowout that could end up making NIU's awful season worse. This is a team in need of two weeks off, and it'll get it after the date with the Rockets.

Oct. 13
Western Michigan 17 ... Northern Illinois 13
Western Michigan got a one-yard Mark Bonds touchdown run in the second quarter, took the lead with a seven-yard Branden Ledbetter scoring catch in the third quarter, and led the defense do the rest, as NIU couldn't score in the second half after getting a 59-yard Matt Simon touchdown catch in the first quarter and a Chris Nendick field goal in the second. NIU was outgained 396 yards to 333 and only had the ball for less than nine minutes in the second half.
Player of the game: Western Michigan QB Tim Hiller completed 20 of 29 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown with an interception
Stat Leaders: Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 20-29, 226 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mark Bonds, 27-104, 1 TD. Receiving: Jamarko Simmons, 5-57
Northern Illinois - Passing: Ryan Morris, 13-25, 144
Justin Anderson, 29-132. Receiving: Matt Simon, 6-160, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Justin Anderson ran well against Western Michigan, and the defense did a strong job, but there wasn't any semblance of a consistent passing game, with Ryan Morris struggling in play of Dan Nicholson, and now things have gone from bad to worse. The Huskies have to start taking advantage of the good combination of defense and running, and it needs better overall quarterback play to have any home of being competitive on the road against Wisconsin and Toledo.

Oct. 6
Temple 16 ... Northern Illinois 15
Jake Brownell nailed a 39-yard field goal with nine seconds to play to stun Northern Illinois and ruin a comeback attempt. The Huskies got touchdown runs from one and 39 yards from Justin Anderson, but both conversion attempts failed, proving to be the difference in the end. Brownell nailed kicks form 25 and 38 yards out, while the Owl defense got the team's lone touchdown on a 55-yard fumble return from Terrance Knighton.
Player of the game: Temple PK Jake Brownell hit 3-of-4 field goal attempts, including the game-winner from 39 yards with nine seconds left
Stat Leaders: Northern Illinois - Passing: Dan Nicholson, 12-25, 101 yds
Rushing: Justin Anderson, 29-163, 2 TDs. Receiving: Marcus Perez, 5-63
Temple - Passing: Adam DiMichele, 18-32, 202 yds, 1 INT
Daryl Robinson, 14-71. Receiving: Bruce Francis, 4-51
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... What happened to the passing game? There should be far more consistency from Dan Nicholson and the Huskies through the air, especially when Justin Anderson is running as well as he did against Temple. This wasn't a fluke loss to the Owls; Temple played the better game and deserved to win in the end. There's no excuse for only converting three of 13 third down chances.

Sept. 29
Central Michigan 35 ... Northern Illinois 10
Talk about two different halves. The two teams bombed away in the first half, with CMU getting a 32-yard touchdown catch from QB Dan LeFevour, along with a two-yard scoring run, and Justin Hoskins scored from 40 and five yards out. NIU hit the home run with a 92-yard Matt Simon touchdown catch, but CMU answered with Antonio Brown returning the ensuing kickoff for a score. Neither team scores in the second half, with NIU turning it over four times.
Player of the game: Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour went 18-of-27 for 172 yards, ran for 42 yards and a score on nine carries, and caught a 32-yard touchdown pass.
Stat Leaders: Northern Illinois - Passing: Dan Nicholson, 21-41, 293 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Justin Anderson, 28-157. Receiving: Matt Simon, 9-205, 1 TD
Central Michigan - Passing: Dan LeFevour, 18-27, 172 yds
Justin Hoskins, 14-93, 2 TDs. Receiving: Antonio Brown, 7-74

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense put up a ton of yards against Central Michigan, but outside of the 92-yard touchdown play early on, there weren't any touchdowns. It's hard to crank out 521 yards of offense and have such a hard time scoring. CMU might have stopped trying, but the NIU defense did a nice job in the second half. Now the mistakes have to stop, and the team has to figure out how to play a full sixty minutes.

Sept. 22
Northern Illinois 42 ... Idaho 35
In a weird game, Larry English came up with five sacks for NIU, including one to snuff out a final Idaho drive that got down to the Huskie 18. English got into he scoring act, recovering a fumble for a score to cap a 35-point first half run that also saw a blocked punt for a touchdown, a 95-yard Chase Carter interception return for a score, and two Dan Nicholson touchdown passes including a 59-yarder to Matt Simon. But the Vandals would come back, as Shiloh Keo returned a punt 100 yards for a score at the end of the first half, Deonte Jackson ran for two scores, and Nathan Enderle threw two touchdown passes.
Player of the game: Northern Illinois DE Larry English made 12 tackles and five sacks, and he recovered a fumble for a score
Stat Leaders: Northern Illinois - Passing: Dan Nicholson, 10-17, 168 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Justin Anderson, 35-167, 1 TD. Receiving: Matt Simon, 4-115, 1 TD
Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 27-54, 423 yds, 2 TDs, 3 INTs
Deonte Jackson, 20-111, 2 TDs. Receiving: Max Komar, 5-92
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It seems like it's taken all season long for Larry English to get going and now he has. Of course, just getting a win, even a road win at a place like Idaho, is a big step for a program that's struggled so mightily over the last two weeks. Of course, there's that little matter of yet another second half collapse, and that can't be blamed on the lack of a running game with Justin Anderson firing out 167 yards on the ground. As shaky as things have been, just take the W and don't ask questions going into Central Michigan.

Sept. 15
Eastern Michigan 21 ... Northern Illinois 19
Eric Young blocked a 50-yard NIU field goal attempt as time ran out to seal the two-point win for EMU. Daniel Holtzclaw picked off a pass that led to a Pierre Walker one-yard touchdown with 5:29 to play to give EMU a 21-13 lead, but NIU would bounce back. The Huskies went 58 yards in four plays with Brandon Davis catching a seven-yard touchdown pass with just over four minutes left, but the pass two point conversion attempt failed. EMU went three and out, giving the Huskies the ball back with 1:54 to play, leading to the ill-fated final drive. NIU held a 13-0 lead in the first half, but Walker got in from one-yard out with 22 seconds remaining. The Eagles took the lead on a 68-yard DeAnthony White touchdown dash, and never trailed the rest of the way.
Player of the game: Eastern Michigan LB Daniel Holtzclaw made 13 tackles, a tackle for loss, and an interception that set up the game-winning touchdown
Stat Leaders: Eastern Michigan - Passing: Andy Schmitt, 16-24, 189 yds
Rushing: DeAnthony White, 3-78, 1 TD. Receiving: DeAnthony White, 5-89
Northern Illinois - Passing: Dan Nicholson, 20-28, 160 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Justin Anderson, 28-168, 1 TD. Receiving: Justin Anderson, 6-45

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... For the second straight week, NIU lost in heartbreaking fashion. First there was the collapse against Southern Illinois, and then the late loss to Eastern Michigan, complete with a blocked field goal, and for the second straight week, a bad interception that turned everything around. This was the home layup the Huskies had to have, and now it has to try to find get its head back in a hurry before the trip to Idaho. The Vandals play hard for a full sixty minutes. That's not a plus for NIU right now.

Sept. 8
Southern Illinois 34 ... Northern Illinois 31
Northern Illinois got out to a seemingly comfortable 38-7 halftime lead as Justin Anderson caught touchdown passes from 23 and 22 yards out and ran for a one-yard score, and was up 31-14 going into the fourth quarter. SIU turned things around with a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown, and got a 26-yard Ryan Kernes touchdown grab with 1:01 to play. After recovering the onside kick, SIU went 57 yards in five plays with Justin Allen making a 30-yard touchdown catch with just 22 seconds remaining for the improbable Saluki win.
Player of the game ... Southern Illinois' Brandin Jordan made 15 tackles, one tackle for loss and forced a fumble
Stat Leaders: Southern Illinois - Passing: Nick Hill, 21-33, 248 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Deji Karim, 9-48  Receiving: Ryan Kernes, 6-69, 1 TD
Northern Illinois - Passing: Dan Nicholson, 21-27, 223 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
Montell Clanton, 13-91, 1 TD   Receiving: Justin Anderson, 8-87, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Choke. It's an ugly word, but that's the only way to describe what happened to Northern Illinois against Southern Illinois. The offense basically turned off the production over the final 20 minutes, while the defense couldn't get a stop on a key 15-play, 84-yard SIU drive to get within striking distance. The Huskies have to immediately put this game behind them and focus on what's important. This loss doesn't mean anything if NIU can get hot in MAC play from the start, and it begins next week against Eastern Michigan.

Sept. 1
Iowa 16 ... Northern Illinois 3
It wasn't a game for the offenses, but Iowa was able to run well, outgaining the Huskies 250 yards to 21 on the ground, with Albert Young leading the way. Young started off the scoring with a seven-yard first quarter touchdown, and then Iowa put the game away with a 95-yard drive culminating in a five-yard Brandon Myers scoring grab. Austin Signor nailed a 22-yard field goal for the final Hawkeye points, while NIU was only able to get on the board with a 33-yard field goal.
Player of the game ... Iowa RB Albert Young ran for 144 yards and a score on 23 carries, and had a reception for five yards.
Stat Leaders: Iowa- Passing: Jake Christensen, 12-29, 133 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Albert Young, 23-144, 1 TD  Receiving: James Cleveland, 3-61
Northern Illinois - Passing: Dan Nicholson, 26-42, 214 yds, 3 INTs
Montell Clanton, 13-49  Receiving: Britt Davis, 6-75

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Garrett Wolfe era appears to be long, long gone. NIU had no running game whatsoever against Iowa, and Dan Nicholson and the passing attack couldn't pick up the slack. The Hawkeyes struggled to pull away and gave the Huskies plenty of opportunities to get into the game, but it never happened. The offensive line didn't play well, while there wasn't nearly enough of a pass rush to disrupt an Iowa offense that had a hard time finding any sort of a groove. Southern Illinois isn't going to be any sort of a pushover next week if the Huskies play this poorly again.

Sept. 1 - Iowa
Offense: The Jake Christensen era starts after four years of the Drew Tate regime, but backup quarterback Arvell Nelson is a terrific prospect who could push hard this fall. With the 1-2 rushing punch of Albert Young and Damian Sims, the ground game will be strong if the questionable offensive line pulls out a better season than last year (when injuries were a major problem). Dominique Douglas and Andy Brodell are emerging targets, and they'll shine with a passer like Christensen winging it. As good as Christensen might be, the offense will try to run first.
Defense: You basically know what you're getting with the Iowa defense. It's not going to do anything fancy, it's not going to bring any funky blitzes, and most teams should be able to get yards through the air without a problem. However, everyone can hit and there are few mistakes made. Eight starters return, led by end Ken Iwebema and one of the Big Ten's best lines, while the replacements for the departed starters are good. Forcing more turnovers, making more plays behind the line, and generating more pressure are all vital to coming up with a better year.

Sept. 8 – Southern Illinois

Sept. 15 - Eastern Michigan
Offense: EMU's defense hasn't been productive in years, but if there's not a major improvement this year with ten starters returning along with a slew of experienced depth, it might never happen. Junior Daniel Holtzclaw is a superstar middle linebacker who'll be the one the rest of the defense revolves around. Tackles Jason Jones and Josh Hunt can't stop the run, but they're regulars in opposing backfields. As long as the corners and ends start to produce, and the experience and quickness at all spots makes up for a general lack of size, things should be better after finishing 116th in the nation against run and 98th in total defense.
Defense: New offensive coordinator Scott Ispohording has his work cut out for him despite getting seven starters back along with a ton of experienced depth. The supposed wide-open offense was awful with no ground game from the running backs and even less of a passing attack with quarterbacks Andy Schmitt and Tyler Jones basically running, running and running some more. The line should be better with three returning starters and a decent interior, but the offense won't go anywhere unless Pierre Walker, or possible Jones, turns into a reliable tailback. The loss of top receiver Eric Deslauriers means the passing game will be spread out among several options with the hope for former quarterback Dontayo Gage to turn into a true number one.

Sept. 22 – at Idaho
Offense: Same idea, different implementation. The new coaching staff will go with a one-back set using four and five-wide formations, sort of like the old coaching staff did, but there will be an even bigger emphasis on tough running. That's a good thing with the strength in the running back corps with four good players, led by junior Jayson Bird, to carry the offense early on. The quarterback situation will be settled this fall with the likely winner being 6-5 redshirt freshman Nathan Enderle, but the receiving corps is going to be a work in progress well into the season. The starting five up front should be fine due to its experience, but it's nothing special. 
Defense: There's experience and all-star talent to work with, so why was the Vandal defense so miserable last season? The line. The front four has to find tackles that can stop the run, and ends that can get into the backfield. If that happens, there could be a night-and-day improvement as the coaching staff looks to attack, attack, and attack some more. With MLB JoArtis Ratti back and healthy, he should combine with David Vobora to create the WAC's most dangerous linebacking duo. Corner Stanley Franks is an interception machine, and safety Shiloh Keo is an undersized hitter. Now everything has to start working around those four.

Sept. 29 – at Central Michigan
Defense: Statistically, the defense struggled throughout last year. Actually, it wasn't that bad as many of the numbers came when the game was already decided. This year's D doesn't have a Dan Bazuin up front, but it has Steven Friend leading a group of good tackles, while there should be a good rotation of ends. The linebacking corps gets better with Ike Brown back from the knee injury that cost him almost all of last year, while the secondary gets three starters back, along with promising corner Chaz West. This won't be a rock of a defense, but it'll be good enough to win another title with.
Offense: Thanks to the emergence of quarterback Dan LeFevour, the offense went from decent to ultra-efficient, leading the MAC in yards and scoring. The passing game became fantastic, and the ground game, while not always getting enough from the backs, hit home run after home run. Now there will be more running from the backs, especially Ontario Sneed and Notre Dame transfer Justin Hoskins, and less running from LeFevour. The receiving corps is good enough for LeFevour to spread the ball around to several different targets. The line won't be as good as last year, after losing two key starters, but it'll be fine.

Oct. 6 – 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.

Oct. 13 - Western Michigan
Offense: The parts are there, and now the production has to come. The offensive line, led by center Robbie Krutilla and three other starters, will be one of the best in the MAC, and it should give the quarterback all the time in the world. Now the question is who that'll be. Thomas Peregrin and Tim Hiller will each likely see time this year, and either one can be a star. The receiving corps will be serviceable, and it needs tight end Branden Ledbetter to grow into an even more prominent target, and has to hope several speedy newcomers can play right away, for more pop. Mark Bonds is a steady 1,000-yard back who'll combine with Brandon West for a nice 1-2 punch. Everything's in place. There's no excuse for the attack to be as average as it was last year.
Offense: It's not a big D, but it's very quick, very disruptive, and very good. After a big year, the MAC's number one defense gets eight starters back. The line will get in the backfield early and often with the return of Zach Davidson and big-play tackles Nick Varcadipane and Cory Flom. The secondary is loaded with speed and experience with all four starters returning after helping the D pick off 24 passes. The big concern is at outside linebacker after losing Ameer Ismail and Paul Tithof, but Austin Pritchard is a rising star and Dustin Duclo is good in the middle.

Oct. 20 – at Wisconsin
Offense: The offense wasn't always pretty, but it produced. Now it welcomes back nine starters, led by power runner P.J. Hill working behind a deep and talented offensive line. The receiving corps is loaded with deep threats with Paul Hubbard, Luke Swan, and top pass-catching tight end Travis Beckum returning. It's all there to have a huge season as long as the quarterback situation is settled. Tyler Donovan and Allan Evridge are each good enough to start, but one has to break free and take the job by the horns. While this is one of the deepest Badger offenses in a long time, most of the top reserves are untested. That isn't going to be an issue for the line or the backfield, but it could be a problem if injuries hit the receiving corps.
Defense: Seven starters return to the Big Ten's best defense that finished fifth in the country. The corners will be terrific with Jack Ikegwuonu and Allen Langford back on the nation's second best pass defense (and first in pass efficiency defense), but the safeties have to be replaced. Shane Carter is a future star at free safety, but strong safety is a question mark. The front seven might not have any sure-thing stars, but it'll be terrific as long as Elijah Hodge plays up to his potential in the middle. The overall depth is talented, even though it's young and relatively untested.

Oct. 27 – at 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.

Nov. 10 - 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.

Nov. 17 - at Navy
Offense: Navy led the nation in rushing in 2005, led the nation in rushing in 2006, and will lead the nation in rushing in 2007. What's the difference? The ground game will be terrific as always, but now it'll be truly special with the best combination of backfield talent and experience head coach Paul Johnson has ever had. There won't be any passing game, but it won't matter with a ground attack that can crank out a big run from anywhere on the field. The big concern will be the line with no experience among the backups whatsoever and a shaky starting five if left tackle Josh Meek's injured knee isn't healthy.
Uh oh. Wholesale changes need to be made with only three starters and seven lettermen returning. The best defense will be a good offense needing the ground game to crank out long drives to keep this inexperienced, woefully undersized, untested group off the field. Pass rushers need to emerge with the hope for Chris Kuhar-Pitters and Casey Hebert to turn into playmakers around rising star tackle Nate Frazier. Clint Sovie and Irv Spencer will turn into reliable inside linebackers, but outside linebacker will be a question. The secondary will be a work in progress around solid corner Rashawn King.

Nov. 24 - 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.



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