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2007 Western Michigan Broncos

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Western Michigan Broncos Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

Western Michigan Broncos

Recap: Although the talent level and expectations were high enough for the Broncos to be playing in December, the execution and consistency was not, resulting in a disappointing 5-7 season.  With a break here or a timely big play there, the final record could just have easily been 8-4 for Western Michigan, which lost three league games in a span of five weeks by a combined eight points.  The Broncos finished the regular season strong, especially on defense, lending hope that the good vibes will bleed into the offseason.          

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Brandon West

Defensive Player of the Year: CB Londen Fryar

Biggest Surprise: With the postseason officially out of reach, the Broncos turned a Nov. 17 trip to Iowa City into their own personal bowl game.  Western Michigan floored Iowa on Senior Day, 28-19, getting 367 yards and three touchdown passes from Tim Hiller, easily the quarterback’s most complete performance of the season.         

Biggest Disappointment: Although there were a few to choose from, losing on Oct. 6 to Akron on the final play was an outcome that sent Western Michigan into a month-long funk.  Seemingly on their way to a 3-3 record, the Broncos inexcusably permitted an 89-yard kick return for a touchdown with time running out, losing 39-38.              

Looking Ahead: Assuming the right side of the offensive line can be rebuilt, Western Michigan has enough returning veterans to erase the memory of last season’s underachievement.  It’s incumbent upon Hiller to build on last year’s solid finish, and mak

- 2007 WMU Preview
- 2006 WMU Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
6-6
2007 Record:
5-7

Sept. 1 at W Virginia L 62-24
Sept. 8
Indiana L 37-27
Sept. 15 at Missouri L 52-24
Sept. 22
Cent Conn. St W 51-14
Sept. 29 at Toledo W 42-28
Oct. 6
Akron L 39-38
Oct. 13 at No Illinois W 17-13
Oct. 20 Ball State L 27-23
Oct. 27 at Eastern Mich L 19-2
Nov. 6 Central Mich L 34-31
Nov. 17 at Iowa W 28-19
Nov. 24
Temple W 16-3

Nov. 24
Western Michigan 16 ... Temple 3
It took a while for Western Michigan to wake up, but a five-yard Branden Ledbetter touchdown catch in the second quarter would be all the points needed. The Temple offense gained a mere 146 yards and managed just three points on a second quarter Jake Brownell field goal. The Broncos put the game away with a one yard Mark Bonds touchdown run and a 33-yard Chris Kelly field goal in the third.
Player of the game: Western Michigan RB Mark Bonds ran 24 times for 105 yards and a touchdown, and caught a pass for 13 yards.
Stat Leaders: Temple - Passing: Vaughn Charlton, 6-25, 92 yds
Rushing: Jason Harper, 9-40. Receiving: Jason Harper, 2-44
Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 24-39, 276 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Mark Bonds, 24-105, 1 TD. Receiving: Herb Martin, 7-100

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Considering this was a disappointing year, closing out with wins over Iowa and Temple certainly eased the pain. The defense showed up and the team started winning again. With so many close losses, and with the way the team played against the Hawkeyes and Owls, there's some momentum generated into the offseason. It shouldn't take much work to get into MAC title contention next year.

Nov. 17
Western Michigan 28 ... Iowa 19
Western Michigan stunned Iowa with three Tim Hiller touchdown passes including strikes to Anthony Middleton from 35 and seven yards out, with the first one making it 19-0 midway through the first half. Iowa found its offense with three Jake Christensen touchdown passes, but three turnovers proved costly hurt most by a fumble in the final few minutes leading to a game-clinching 30-yard Chris Kelly field goal. The Broncos outgained the Hawkeyes 489 yards to 397.
Player of the game: Western Michigan QB Tim Hiller completed 26 of 45 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 26-45, 367 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Brandon West, 30-116. Receiving: Brandon West, 9-93, 1 TD
Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 20-37, 249 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Albert Young, 17-95. Receiving: Brandon Myers, 6-59, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... That's the Tim Hiller the MAC has been waiting for. He bombed away on Iowa with confidence in his throws and making good decisions time and again taking what the defense was giving him. For one of the first times all year, the defense started to resemble last year's group that got into the backfield early and often with four sacks. Most shocking was the time the O line gave Hiller to work. It was fine for the running game, but Hiller had just enough time to operate and make almost every keep throw to keep control of the game.

Nov. 7
Central Michigan 34 ... Western Michigan 31
Central Michigan sealed the MAC West title with a one-yard Dan LeFevour sneak with 12 seconds to play, after just missing on a sneak on the play before, to cap a wild fourth quarter. CMU held a 10-7 after three, and then the fireworks began with each team scoring 24 points in the fourth quarter. Western Michigan got two Tim Hiller touchdown passes in the final frame to keep up with CMU, who got a five-yard LeFevour run along with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown as the two defenses couldn't come up with a stop until late. Trying to run out the clock, LeFevour fumbled leading to a 15-yard Brandon West touchdown with 1:34 to play for a 31-27 WMU lead. A long pass to Bryan Anderson set up the final score, going 65 yards in eight plays.
Player of the game: Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour completed 23 of 38 passes for 235 yards and a touchdowns with an interception, and ran 18 times for 72 yards and two scores.
Stat Leaders: Central Michigan - Passing: Dan LeFevour, 23-35, 235 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Den LeFevour, 18-72, 2 TD. Receiving: Bryan Anderson, 7-120
Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 27-37, 311 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brandon West, 12-72, 1 TD. Receiving: Herb Martin, 7-38, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Lack of a consistent running game and struggles early on cost WMU a chance to beat Central Michigan. The D did what it could on the late goal line stand, but by then the big play had already happened to all but seal the win for the Chippewas. There was about a minute left when CMU had the ball on the six-inch line down four. WMU should've thought about allowing the score to get the ball back with a shot at a field goal. Instead, the inevitable touchdown gave the ball to the Broncos with just enough time for an ill-fated attempt at a miracle. Now comes a trip to Iowa to likely make the lousy season plunge further into the abyss.

Oct. 27
Eastern Michigan 19 ... Western Michigan 2
Eastern Michigan held on to the ball for 40:29, including 12:41 in the fourth, getting a 55-yard Dontayo Gage touchdown run, a 19-yard Jacory Stone catch, and Zach Johnson field goals from 25 and 50 yards out as part of a 19-0 scoring run. Western Michigan started off the scoring with a sack for a safety, but the offense turned it over six times and only managed 199 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: Eastern Michigan RB Pierre Walker ran 33 times for 151 yards, and caught a pass for seven yards.
Stat Leaders: Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 10-18, 117 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Brandon West, 10-37. Receiving: Jamarko Simmons, 6-59
Eastern Michigan - Passing: Kyle McMahon, 8-17, 74 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Pierre Walker, 33-151. Receiving: Jacory Stone, 5-70, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... What was that? Eastern Michigan's defense isn't that good, but the WMU offense crashed and burned giving up six turnovers and didn't threaten to change things around after the game started going south. The defense isn't blameless, giving up 255 rushing yards and allowing the Eagles to convert third down after third down. This disappointing season could take a good turn up with a win over Central Michigan next week, but it'll be too little, too late.

Oct. 20
Ball State 27 ... Western Michigan 23
Ball State went 79 yards in nine plays, capped off by a one-yard Frank Edmonds touchdown run with 1:09 to play, to get the win. Western Michigan got three Mike Jones field goals a one-yard Tim Hiller touchdown run, and a 50-yard scoring pass to Jordan White, but Ball State kept pace with Nate Davis touchdown passes from 34 and 44 yards out, along with Jake Hogue field goals, until the final drive. The two teams combined for 15 penalties.
Player of the game: Ball State QB Nate Davis completed 25 of 48 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Ball State - Passing: Nate Davis, 25-48, 358 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Frank Edmonds, 9-41, 1 TD. Receiving: Dante Love, 11-101
Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 21-38, 237 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing:
Brandon West, 21-171. Receiving: Jamarko Simmons, 9-110

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Devastating. Western Michigan needed one defensive stop against Ball State late, didn't get it, and now the MAC title hopes might be gone, as are any bowl hopes, without winning out. Fortunately, there are winnable dates with Eastern Michigan and Temple ahead, along with the showdown against Central Michigan. First, beating EMU is a must, and to do that, the mistakes have to stop. Tim Hiller can't throw three picks again.

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
Rushing:
Justin Anderson, 29-132. Receiving: Matt Simon, 6-160, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
It might not have been the prettiest offense performance in the win over Northern Illinois, but with the defense cranking things up a notch for a full 60 minutes, the Broncos got over the crushing loss to Akron to get back into the MAC race. Tim Hiller had an efficient day throwing the ball, and Mark Bonds provided nice balance, but there will have to be more explosion to beat Ball State next week.

Oct. 6
Akron 39 ... Western Michigan 38
A wild game with 992 yards of total offense became a game-of-the-year candidate with an all-timer of an ending. Western Michigan took a 38-24 lead with 12:25 to play on a seven-yard Mark Bonds run. Akron couldn't respond until Jabari Arthur caught a 51-yard touchdown pass, his third score of the day, with less than five minutes. to play. WMU couldn't run out the clock, and instead of risking a punt return for a score, chose to take a safety with 15 seconds to play. On the free kick, Alphonso Owen fielded the ball and went 11 yards before getting stopped. Before going down, he was able to get the ball to Andre Jones, who took it 78 yards for an improbable score with no time left on the clock for the 39-38 win. The play overshadowed a huge day from Arthur, who caught 15 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns, and big performances from both quarterbacks. Akron's Chris Jacquemain threw for 389 yards and four scores, and WMU's Tim Hiller threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns.
Player of the game: Akron's Alphonso Owen and Andre Jones, for combining on the 89-yard kick return for a touchdown to win the game. Jones made five tackles on the day, and Owen caught three passes for 58 yards
Stat Leaders: Akron - Passing: Chris Jacquemain, 23-41, 389 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Bryan Williams, 14-72. Receiving: Jabari Arthur, 15-223, 3 TD
Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 27-40, 375 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Mark Bonds, 26-83, 1 TD. Receiving: Jamarko Simmons, 10-172, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
How mentally tough is Western Michigan? After losing in brutal fashion to Akron, the team has to quickly regroup, forget about this gaffe, and blowout a bad Northern Illinois team on the road. The parts are working. Tim Hiller has been excellent. There's good offensive balance, and there's consistency and explosion. The defense is a big problem, but the offense should be able to outbomb most teams anyway. The season is far from lost, but now there's no margin for MAC error.

Sept. 29
Western Michigan 42 ... Toledo 28
Western Michigan ran for 280 yards, with Brandon West and Mark Bonds each going over 100, and each scoring twice as part of a 28 point mid-game run for a 35-14 lead. Toledo kept fighting, getting a late 35-yard Jalen Parmele touchdown run, and a 15-yard Andrew Hawkins score, but it wasn't nearly enough. WMU held on to the ball for 37:48.
Player of the game: Western Michigan RBs Brandon West and Mark Bonds combined for 245 yards and three touchdowns on 51 carries.
Stat Leaders: Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 21-29, 229 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Mark Bonds, 26-143, 2 TD. Receiving: Herb Martin, 7-71
Toledo - Passing: Clint Cochran, 7-12, 112 yds
Rushing:
Jalen Parmele, 20-130, 1 TD. Receiving: Nick Moore, 4-110, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... WMU is starting to wake up. The running game dominated Toledo, while the defense started to play a little like it was expected to when the season started. There still isn't much of a pass rush, but the pass defense was tough, allowing the Rockets to complete just nine of 23 passes, while Tim Hiller was ultra-efficient. This was how the team was expected to play, and now it has to be considered among the MAC favorites again after a lousy 0-3 non-conference start.

Sept. 22
Western Michigan 51 ... Central Connecticut State 14
Helped by five turnovers forced by the defense, Western Michigan rolled without a problem. A 32-yard Boston McCornell interception return for a touchdown gave the Broncos a 17-0 first quarter, and then after a three-yard Adrian Hull touchdown run for CCSU, the Bronco offense exploded for 34 straight points helped by Tim Hiller's second touchdown pass of the day and a five-yard Mark Bonds touchdown run.
Player of the game: Western Michigan LB Boston McCornell had eight tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown..
Stat Leaders: Central Connecticut State - Passing: Aubrey Norris, 2-4, 16 yds
Rushing: Ralph McKenley, 16-57. Receiving: Nicholas Colagiovanni, 3-27
Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 17-27, 140 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
Mark Bonds, 12-66, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon West, 3-41

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Finally, Western Michigan gets its first win of the year, and it doesn't matter that it came against Central Connecticut State. The defense started to play like the D of last year, with several plays made in the backfield and forcing several mistakes and turnovers. The offense wasn't exactly clicking, but it took advantage of every opportunity. Now the real season begins with a date at Toledo next week. Could this be the spark needed for the rest of the year? That's asking for too much, but it was a much needed win.

Sept. 15
Missouri 52 ... Western Michigan 24
Missouri got out to a 31-3 halftime lead highlighted by a 24-yard Jeremy Maclin touchdown catch and a 25-yard Tommy Saunders scoring grab. But Western Michigan came back to make it interesting, starting with a 46 yard interception return for a touchdown from C.J. Wilson. Tim Hiller connected with Branden Ledbetter for a 27-yard score to make it 38-24 Mizzou, but that was as close as the Broncos would get. Daniel ran for a 35-yard score and Chase Patton added an 18-yard touchdown run to pull away.
Player of the game: Missouri QB Chase Daniel went 27-of-46 for 328 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while adding 60 yards and another score on five carries.
Stat Leaders: Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 30-43, 240 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Mark Bonds, 14-82, 1 TD. Receiving: Jamarko Simmons, 10-98
Missouri - Passing: Chase Daniel, 27-46, 328 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing:
Tony Temple, 16-96, 2 TDs. Receiving: Martin Rucker, 11-115

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Frustration can't start creeping in yet. At the end of the day, WMU was supposed to get blown out be West Virginia and Missouri and it was supposed to lose on the road to Indiana. The offense has taken too long to get going, but when it does, there's been good production from Tim Hiller and the passing game. Now it has to figure out how to roll from the opening kickoff. What's the team's biggest difference from last year? The pass rush isn't there.

Sept. 8
Indiana 37 ... Eastern Michigan 27
Indiana jumped out to a 31-7 first half lead helped by two James Hardy touchdown catches, a 24-yard Josiah Sears scoring grab, and a 44-yard Greg Middleton fumble recovery for a score, and then Western Michigan came back. Down 34-7, the Broncos answered a 23-yard Austin Starr field goal with a 98-yard Brandon West kickoff return for a score as part of a 20-3 run. It wasn't enough as the Hoosier defense finally stiffened late, but not before Tim Hiller found Jamarko Simmons and Brandon Ledbetter for touchdowns.
Player of the game ... Indiana QB Kellen Lewis completed 20 of 40 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns wit an interception, and he ran 15 times for 59 yards
Stat Leaders: Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 28-51, 343 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brandon West, 12-51  Receiving: Jamarko Simmons, 14-158, 1 TD
Indiana - Passing: Kellen Lewis, 20-40, 221 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Marcus Thigpen, 22-81  Receiving:
Ray Fisher, 9-77
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Broncos aren't bringing the pressure they were able to throughout last year, and it's killing the defensive back seven. The offense took a while to get going against the Hoosiers, and it was helped by IU letting up, but QB Tim Hiller still
came through with a strong 343-yard performance with Jamarko Simmons showing why he's one of the MAC's elite offensive playmakers with 14 catches. To have any shot against Missouri, the offense has to be bombing away from the word go, but there has to be decent pass protection for Hiller, who was sacked eight times by IU.

Sept. 1
West Virginia 62 ... Western Michigan 24
Western Michigan shut down the West Virginia running game was shut down ... in the first quarter. The Mountaineers only gained 16 on the ground in the first frame, but still had a 14-7 lead as Pat White threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Dorrell Jalloh and combined with Steve Slaton on a 50-yard score. Eventually, everything worked as usual for the Mountaineers, who finished with 316 rushing yards and turned the jets on with White tearing off a brilliant 38-yard run and Slaton scoring on two one-yard runs to go along with a 58-yard dash. Western Michigan stayed around for a half on the first of two Jamarko Simmons touchdown catches and a two-yard Tim Hiller run, but the defense couldn't slow down the WVU machine.
Player of the game ... West Virginia RB Steve Slaton ran 16 times for 109 yards and three touchdowns and caught two passes for 61 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Western Michigan- Passing: Tim Hiller, 16-25, 160 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing: Glenis Thompson, 8-23  Receiving: Jamarko Simmons, 14-144-2
West Virginia - Passing: Patrick White, 10-18, 192 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing:
Steve Slaton, 16-109, 3 TDs  Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 5-92

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... West Virginia can rumble on anyone in America, so there's no reason to be too concerned about the way the Broncos were blown out. The problem was how the offense couldn't keep up the pace with an attack good enough to throw on almost any secondary. At least, it should be good enough. The quarterback situation is still up in the air, as Tim Hiller and Thomas Peregrin each struggled. On a positive note, Jamarko Simmons was incredible catching 14 passes for 144 yards and two scores.

Sept. 1 – at West Virginia
Offense: Unlike most schools that run the spread offense, West Virginia aims to open lanes for its prolific ground game, rarely putting the ball in the air more than 20 times a game.  The Mountaineers want the ball in the hands of its two junior Heisman candidates, quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton.  Along with receiver Darius Reynaud, they form the fastest offensive trio in America, and are threats for six with even a hint of daylight.  White is an underrated passer that rarely misses his target, but needs more help from a receiving corps that’s suspect after Reynaud.  Few schools rebuild on the offensive line better than West Virginia, but how will the unit react without its long-time quarterback Dan Mozes and long-time coach Rick Trickett?
Defense: Lost in all the yards the Mountaineer offense gained in 2006 was all the yards the defense allowed.  West Virginia allowed 35 or more points three times last fall and was torched through the air repeatedly over the second half of the year.  Worse, this once relentless defense had trouble getting to the quarterback and looked a step slow.  Rich Rodriguez is banking on a few tweaks to the back eight and an influx of faster players as the solutions in the team’s 3-3-5 stack formation.  Led by playmaking senior safety Eric Wicks, the secondary has a glut of really talented athletes that need to gel into a cohesive unit.

Sept. 8 - Indiana
Offense: The IU spread offense has the pieces in place with rising star quarterback Kellen Lewis about to come into his own as a leader, and a good receiving corps to put up big numbers, led by James Hardy. There's speed at running back, but Marcus Thigpen and Demetrius McCray have to be more productive. The X factor is the line, which the late Terry Hoeppner did a great job of putting together in the 2006 recruiting class. Rodger Saffold and Pete Saxon are just two who should upgrade the front.
Defense: The IU defense has struggled over the last few years to slow anyone down, but now the youth movement should produce results. The goal is to bend but not break, and now there has to be less breaking. It's still a young overall group, but there's experience and potential, especially at corner where Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors should be among the Big Ten's best. There's little proven pass rush up front, while the linebacking corps is small and quick by design.

Sept. 15 – at Missouri
Offense: If all the parts are working as expected, this should be one of the nation's five most productive offenses with an embarrassment of riches to work with. Junior QB Chase Daniel is growing into a star leader with more than enough weapons to choose from. The tight end combination of Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman is the best in the nation, Will Franklin can fly on the outside, and Tony Temple leads a small, quick backfield that'll rip through the holes created by a talented, experienced line. The problems? Consistency and proven play in crunch time. The numbers are going to be there, but they have to come against the top teams in the big games.
Defense: The whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. A pass rush will emerge eventually from the outside linebackers as well as end Stryker Sulak, while Brock Christopher has the makings of an All-Big 12 performer at middle linebacker. The secondary will be fine thanks to the return of starting corners Darnell Terrell and Hardy Ricks, but replacing safeties David Overstreet and Brandon Massey won't be easy. There's tremendous speed and athleticism in the back seven, several good young players to get excited about among the backups, and an excellent tackle pair in Evander Hood and Lorenzo Williams to anchor things up front. Now the D has to prove it can come through on a consistent basis against the top teams.


Sept. 22 -  Central Connecticut State

Sept. 29 – 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.


Oct. 6 - 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.

Oct. 13 – at Northern Illinois
Offense: New offensive coordinator Roy Wittke will put his stamp on the attack early on with more passing plays, more variety, and more funky motions and formations. That'll all mean more from the passing game, and while it wasn't ignored last year, it was mostly used when Garrett Wolfe was either tired or shut down. Six starters return, but this is still a young group with only two seniors on the depth chart. The line was a problem this spring, but it's very big with the potential to be great ... next year. There will be a steady rotation of backs, led mostly by Montell Clanton and Justin Anderson, and more passes spread around, with Britt Davis the number one target. Dan Nicholson has to be a steady leader of the show.
Defense: The NIU defense is steady with several good, sound players, but for all the quickness and all the athleticism, there weren't nearly enough big plays, not enough production from the secondary, and a good, but not great, year against the run. While the corners will be better, expect more of the same from the front seven; for good and bad. End Larry English and tackle Craig Rusch will be regulars in the backfield. This won't be the nation's 90th ranked defense again, and it'll do a good job of bending, but not breaking.

Oct. 20 - 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. 27 – at 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.


Nov. 6 - 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.

Nov. 17 – at 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.

Nov. 24 - 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.


 


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