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2007 Idaho Vandals

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Idaho Vandals Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 Idaho Vandals

Recap: The Vandals made a compelling case as the nation’s worst FBS program, losing their final 10 games, and winning just once for the second time this decade.  Idaho played plenty of underclassmen this season, which contributed to its futility, but should also start paying some dividends next year.  If nothing else, the Vandals can celebrate the return of rookie head coach Robb Akey, the first time in three years the coach hasn’t bolted Moscow for a job in the Pac-10.    

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Deonte Jackson

Defensive Player of the Year: LB David Vobora

Biggest Surprise: Jackson.  The undersized redshirt freshman gave hope for the future at Idaho, winning the starting job in camp, and rushing for 1,175 yards and seven touchdowns.  With the entire line back, including All-WAC C Adam Korby, Jackson’s encore in Moscow should be even better than his debut.  

Biggest Disappointment: At Idaho, you’ve got to win those few winnable games, such as when 2-10 Northern Illinois visited back on Sept. 22.  The Vandals rallied valiantly in the second half, scoring three touchdowns, but still came up short, 42-35.       

Looking Ahead: Idaho returns 10 starters on offense, and loses little from last year’s squad, which should provide a boost in 2008.  If nothing else, the program will benefit tremendously from the continuity of having the same coaching staff for two straight years.

- 2007 Idaho Preview  
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2006 Idaho Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 3-9

2007 Record:
1-11

Sept. 1 at USC L 38-10
Sept. 8
Cal Poly W 20-13
Sept. 15 at Wash St L 45-28
Sept. 22
No Illinois L 35-24
Sept. 29 Hawaii L 48-20
Oct. 6 at San Jose St L 28-20
Oct. 13 Fresno State L 37-24
Oct. 20 at NMSU L 45-31
Oct. 27 at Nevada L 37-21
Nov. 3
La Tech L 38-16
Nov. 17 at Boise State L 58-14
Nov. 24
Utah State L 24-19

Nov. 24
Utah State 24 ... Idaho 19
Utah State won its second straight game by forcing four turnovers and holding on as Idaho scored the final nine points. Leon Jackson ran for two one-yard scores and Kevin Robinson scored on a four-yard touchdown catch, but the Aggies were outgained by the Vandals 428 yards to 272. Idaho had its chances including a late drive after recovering an onside kick, but weren't able to take advantage.
Player of the game: Utah State QB Leon Jackson completed 11 of 15 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown, ran for two touchdowns, and punted five times for 176 yards.
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 11-15, 118 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Derrvin Speight, 15-57. Receiving: Kevin Robinson, 7-86, 1 TD
Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 14-27, 191 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing:
Brian Flowers, 25-127, 1 TD. Receiving: Lee Smith, 7-91, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The season was bad enough, and then it finished up by turning into a complete disaster with a clunker of a home loss to Utah State. The offense moved the ball, but the four turnovers proved critical. The defense was fine, but it couldn't come up with the big plays the Aggies did. There are good pieces to work with going into next year, led by the running backs, but better quarterback play is a must to have any hope of a quick turnaround under Robb Akey.

Nov. 17
Boise State 58 ... Idaho 14
Idaho hung around for about 29 minutes with touchdown runs from Deonte Jackson and Eddie Williams making it 17-14 Boise State, and then the roof caved in. Austin Pettis caught the first of three touchdown passes with 25 seconds to play to spark a run of 41 unanswered points with Titus Young catching a 58-yard scoring pass, Ian Johnson running it in from 15 yards out, and Jeremy Childs taking a Bush Hamdan pass 71 yards for a score. The Broncos ended up outgaining Idaho 556 to 348.
Player of the game: Boise State QB Taylor Tharp completed 22 of 31 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns, and ran eight times for 30 yards.
Stat Leaders: Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 8-23, 182 yds
Rushing: Denote Jackson, 24-84, 1 TD. Receiving: Deonte Jackson, 3-53
Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 22-31, 282 yds, 4 TD
Rushing:
Ian Johnson, 21-108, 2 TD. Receiving: Austin Pettis, 8-139, 3 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Idaho showed for a little while that it could play with a team like Boise State, and then when things started going wrong, nothing worked to turn it around. The defense didn't make any stops, the passing game wasn't working, and the Broncos moved the ball at will. Idaho couldn't get the BSU offense off the field. The Utah State game isn't the layup it appeared to be a few weeks ago; Idaho has to be sharp or it'll end the season winless against FBS teams.

Nov. 3
Louisiana Tech 28 ... Idaho 16
In an ugly game with seven turnovers and 15 penalties, 11 from Louisiana Tech, the Bulldogs outrushed Idaho 211 yards to 67, but needed a 70-yard Phillips Livas touchdown catch midway through the fourth to take the lead for good. Patrick Jackson put the game away with an eight-yard touchdown run off a 12-play, 72-yard drive. Idaho's offense only managed three Tino Amancio field goals, with a Josh Shaw fumble recovery the only Vandal touchdown. Tech's defense started off the scoring with a Ben McGilton five-yard interception return for a score.
Player of the game: Louisiana Tech RB Patrick Jackson ran 26 times for 150 yard and a score
Stat Leaders: Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 16-25, 227 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Patrick Jackson, 26-150, 1 TD. Receiving: Dustin Mitchell, 4-9
Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 16-48, 188 yds, 3 INT
Rushing:
Deonte Jackson, 15-42. Receiving: Max Komar, 5-96

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Either the offense has to get Deonte Jackson going again, or Nathan Enderle has to take advantage of all the attention paid to the running game, or both, but the offense isn't doing nearly as much as it should be considering it's early November. The defense did a decent job against Louisiana Tech, but folded in the fourth quarter while the offense didn't provide any help. Now it's on to Boise State in two weeks. The ugly season isn't about to take a turn for the better.

Oct. 27
Nevada 37 ... Idaho 21
Luke Lippencott ran for a one-yard touchdown on the opening drive and a two-yard run in the fourth quarter as Nevada got ahead early and stayed there. Idaho only cranked out 212 yards of total offense, but it was able to come up with two Nathan Enderle touchdown passes and a one-yard Deonte Jackson run to keep it from getting out of hand. The Wolf Pack defense got involved with Ezra Butler taking a pass 11 yards for a score.
Player of the game: Nevada RB Luke Lippencott ran 27 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and caught three passes for 37 yards
Stat Leaders: Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 12-21, 156 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Deonte Jackson, 17-45, 1 TD. Receiving: Lee Smith, 5-86
Nevada - Passing: Colin Kaepernick, 15-26, 203 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Luke Lippincott, 27-119 yds, 2 TD. Receiving: Marko Mitchell 5-79, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... For the first time in a while, Deonte Jackson wasn't able to run the ball effectively, and it proved costly against Nevada. Nathan Enderle was effective for a stretch, but the offense didn't produce enough without Jackson getting on the move. With two of the final three games at home, the defense has to figure out how to come up with a key stop. David Vorbora is doing his best, with 17 tackles this week.

Oct. 20
New Mexico State 45 ... Idaho 31
New Mexico State got 404 passing yards from Chase Holbrook and three touchdowns with Derek Dubois taking a throw 75 yards for a score and Kenneth Buckley scoring from 19 and 14 yards out. Just when it seemed like Idaho was about to keep pace in the first half, Davon House took an interception 100 yards for a score and the Aggies were never threatened again. Idaho cranked out the yards and got two scores from Eddie Williams and a two-yard yard Deonte Jackson touchdown run, but the offense couldn't keep pace.
Player of the game: New Mexico State QB Chase Holbrook completed 36 of 49 passes for 404 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Idaho - Passing: Brian Nooy, 11-20, 120 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Deonte Jackson, 26-143, 1 TD. Receiving: Eddie Williams, 4-53, 1 TD
New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 36-49, 404 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Tonny Glynn, 11-88, 2 TD. Receiving: Derek Dubois, 7-141, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Idaho might have lost its sixth straight, but the offense kept up for a while with New Mexico State, and Deonte Jackson had yet another phenomenal game. The passing game still isn't up-to-WAC-snuff against the high-octane teams, but if it weren't for some key turnovers, the Vandals might have pulled off the win. Get ready for more fireworks with a trip to Nevada next week.

Oct. 13
Fresno State 37 ... Idaho 24
Idaho ran for 279 yards to Fresno State's 238, but it couldn't come back after the Bulldogs got out to a 31-7 lead going into the fourth quarter on two touchdown runs from both Lonyae Miller and Ryan Matthews. The Vandals got a 53-yard Deonte Jackson touchdown run late in the third quarter, but could never get within striking distance. David Vobora made 14 tackles for the Vandals.
Player of the game: Fresno State RBs Ryan Mathews and Lonyae Miller combined for 175 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries.
Stat Leaders: Fresno State - Passing: Tom Brandstater, 17-22, 178 yds
Rushing: Lonyae Miller, 18-108, 2 TD. Receiving: Bear Pascoe, 6-69
Idaho - Passing: Brian Nooy, 9-22, 144 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Deonte Jackson, 11-111, 1 TD. Receiving:
Maurice Shaw, 6-70
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Deonte Jackson and the Vandal ground game ran extremely well against Fresno State, but the inefficiency from QB Brian Nooy, who only completed nine of 22 passes, proved to be a killer. He couldn't bomb his way back into the game after the Bulldogs got up to a big lead, and had to rely on the ground game just to get any yards. It's about getting better every week for the Vandals, and right now, it's about finding some offensive balance to help out Jackson.

Oct. 6
San Jose State 28 ... Idaho 20
The Spartans broke the game open with a 21-point run on James T. Callier's second short touchdown run of the game, a 33-yard Kevin Jurovich scoring grab with 33 seconds to play in the first half, and a 13-yard Jeff Clark catch to open up the second half. And then the offense stopped working, while Idaho came back late in the fourth on a blocked punt for a score and a 19-yard Brian Flowers run to pull within eight. But that was as close as it would get, as Idaho's final drive was snuffed out by an interception from Dominique Hunsucker.
Player of the game: San Jose State QB Adam Tafralis finished 22-of-30 for 302 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, running four times for seven yards.
Stat Leaders: Idaho - Passing: Brian Nooy, 8-15, 68 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing: Deonte Jackson, 22-94. Receiving: Deonte Jackson, 3-33
San Jose State - Passing: Adam Tafralis, 22-30, 302 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
James Callier, 31-93, 2 TDs. Receiving: Kevin Jurovich, 10-161, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... How did the Vandals stay alive against San Jose State with only 68 passing yards and three turnovers? The running game was effective, and the defense did a great job in the second half, but nothing seemed to work. The offense is going to have to sink or swim with Brian Nooy, and accept that all 11 defenders are going to key on stopping Deonte Jackson. Most of all, there can't be any more turnovers. The team isn't good enough to lose that battle.

Sept. 29
Hawaii 48 ... Idaho 20
There were 11 turnovers with each team throwing five interceptions, but Colt Brennan also threw three first half touchdown passes, connecting with Ryan Grice-Mullen from 13 yards out, Davone Bess on a 24-yarder, and Malcolm Lane from 41 yards, out, but it was the Warrior defense that put the game away, with Adam Leonard taking a pass 40 yards for a score, and Myron Newberry picking off a pass for a 76-yard touchdown on the way to a 41-10 halftime lead. Brennan added a one-yard touchdown run before Idaho took over the fourth quarter with a 49-yard Tino Amancio field goal and Eddie Williams' second score of the day.
Player of the game: Hawaii QB Colt Brennan went 30-of-49 for 369 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions, adding a touchdown on the ground.
Stat Leaders: Hawaii - Passing: Colt Brennan, 30-49, 369 yds, 3 TDs, 5 INTs
Rushing: Kealoha Pilares, 10-85. Receiving: Davone Bess, 12-162, 1 TD
Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 15-34, 186 yds, 1 TD, 5 INTs
Rushing:
Deonte Jackson, 7-47. Receiving: Eddie Williams, 5-78, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Idaho forced the Hawaii mistakes it needed to get to have a shot to pull off the upset, but it made more errors and got its doors blown off. The Vandals need to run effectively to have a chance at winning, but that went out the window early on this week, and Nathan Enderle struggled to get the passing game to respond. Not only couldn't the Vandals bomb away, but they also couldn't move the chains, converting just two of 15 third down chances.

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
Rushing:
Deonte Jackson, 20-111, 2 TDs. Receiving: Max Komar, 5-92
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Vandals failed come up with an answer to the Northern Illinois offensive balance until it was too late, so despite a brilliant game from RB Deonte Jackson, and 423 yards passing from Nathan Enderle, the lack of pass protection and not enough consistency early proved costly. As ugly as the first half was, and as good as the second half became, the Vandals must figure out how to put together a full sixty minutes next week, or Hawaii will blow the doors off the WAC opener.

Sept. 15
Washington State 45 ... Idaho 28
Idaho scored on its first possession of the game on a 38-yard Max Komar touchdown grab. The Vandals then answered a 21-yard leaping Brandon Gibson touchdown with a nine-yard Maurice Shaw touchdown catch for a 14-7 first quarter lead. And then the Cougars took over with a 24-point second quarter highlighted by two Michael Bumpus scoring grabs. Idaho was able to pull within ten late in the third on a one-yard Nathan Enderle run, but Alex Brinks' fourth touchdown of the game on the ensuing drive put it away.
Player of the game: Washington State QB Alex Brink completed 26 of 36 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns with an interception and ran six times for 17 yards
Stat Leaders: Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 26-36, 307 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Dwight Tardy, 22-108, 2 TD. Receiving: Michael Bumpus, 8-118, 2 TD
Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 17-35, 205 yds, 3 TD, 4 INT
Rushing:
Deonte Jackson, 28-113. Receiving: Max Komar, 5-96, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Idaho showed a ton of heart in the loss to Washington State, but it simply didn't have the weapons to keep up once the game got into a shootout. Deonte Jackson once again proved to be a centerpiece to revolve the offense around with 113 rushing yards, and now he needs the defense to start shining so he can grind out more long drives. If the offense isn't going to explode, then there can't be mistakes against the better teams. The Vandals turned it over five times and committed nine penalties.

Sept. 8
Idaho 20 ... Cal Poly 13
Idaho got a huge rushing day from Deonte Jackson, highlighted by an 11-yard touchdown dash midway though the fourth quarter, to get up 20-6 on Cal Poly. It got interesting late as Tredale Tolver scored on a 69-yard touchdown pass to pull within seven, but the Vandals were able to hold on and run out the clock on eight Jackson runs. 
Player of the game: Idaho RB Deonte Jackson ran for 214 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries.
Stat Leaders: Cal-Poly - Passing: Jonathan Dally, 10-24, 175 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Jon Hall, 20-114. Receiving: Tredale Tolver, 5-120, 1 TD
Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 7-22, 101 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Deonte Jackson, 30-214, 1 TD. Receiving: Lee Smith, 4-41
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Idaho did a great job of forcing fumbles, with Cal Poly putting it on the turf seven times and losing four, and Deonte Jackson showed for the second straight week that he's a force to revolve the offense around. The problem was the passing of Nathan Enderle, who struggled with his consistency and didn't do enough to put the game away. To have any shot against Washington State, there has to be more offensive balance. It can't all be Jackson, but if the defense continues to force turnovers, this will be an interesting year.

Sept. 1
USC 38 ... Idaho 10
USC got out to an early 21-0 lead on a four-yard Stafon Johnson run, an eight-yard C.J. Gable catch, and a brilliant one-handed, backwards leaping, one-yard grab from Vidal Hazelton. Idaho never threatened, only managing a 20-yard field goal until late in the fourth when Jayson Bird ran for a one-yard score. John David Booty finished with three touchdown passes for the Trojans and Johnson ran for two scores.
Player of the game ... USC QB John David Booty completed 21 of 32 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns and one interception
Stat Leaders: Idaho - Passing: Nathan Enderle, 16-34, 155 yds
Rushing: Deonte Jackson, 22-99  Receiving: Max Komar, 5-28
USC - Passing: John David Booty, 21-32, 206 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
C.J. Gable, 8-68   Receiving:
David Ausberry, 5-46
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Idaho wasn't going to beat USC, but at least it came up with a good sixty minute effort and kept fighting late. The defense prevented it from being a blowout once the Trojan offense mentally checked out, and the always upbeat coaching staff will use the late touchdown as an indication that the team has a good heart. Interestingly enough, Jayson Bird wasn't used much in the ground game. This was Deonte Jackson's game, but that could quickly change against Cal Poly next week.

Sept. 1 – at USC
Offense: Does anyone in the country reload faster than the Trojans?  While there’ll be new faces on the line, at wide receiver, and at offensive coordinator, the high-powered results that have become commonplace in the Pete Carroll era aren’t about to change.  Of course, it helps to have at the controls strong-armed senior John David Booty, one of the early favorites to add a fourth Heisman Trophy to Heritage Hall in the last six years.  He’ll be surrounded by an absolutely decadent amount of skill position talent, but most of the receivers lack experience at this level.  In this case, talent will overcome inexperience in a rout.  At 6-5 and 220 pounds, junior receiver Patrick Turner has the imposing size and sticky fingers to conjure up images of Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, and have a breakout year.  Although the line is going to miss the presence of center Ryan Kalil, returning two-time All-American Sam Baker to protect Booty’s blindside will help cushion the blow.    
Defense: The Trojan offense is good.  The Trojan defense is scary good.  Backed by a Who’s Who of future first-day NFL Draft choices, USC is ready to unleash the nastiest and stingiest unit of the Pete Carroll era.  Led by Sedrick Ellis at the nose, Keith Rivers at middle linebacker, and Terrell Thomas at cornerback, the Trojans boast seven players capable of making a run at All-America honors in 2007.  Yeah, a few more sacks and takeaways would be nice, but this is as close to a flawless unit that there is in the country.  From front to back, they’re aggressive, experienced and fast enough to create a swarming effect on the ball carrier.  Although the Trojans will give up yards to teams playing from behind, scoring meaningful points on them in the first three quarters is going to be a year-long nightmare.

Sept. 8 – Cal Poly

Sept. 15 – at Washington State
Offense: Washington State won’t abandon the run by any means, but this is an offense that’s traditionally wide-open and run out of three-wide sets.  The engineer of the attack will be fourth-year starting quarterback Alex Brink, who enters his senior season with a real nice complement of receivers, led by all-Pac-10 candidates Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus.  Although the offensive line welcomes back four players that started games a year ago, both tackles will be new, a big concern heading into the season.  If they’re overmatched, the ripple effect will reverberate throughout the entire offense.          
Defense: Expect some subtle changes as head coach Bill Doba steps in to coordinate the defense in 2007.  He’d like to utilize more man coverages and blitz packages, both of which could be suicide for a secondary that’s been gutted by graduations and is in dire need of a couple of reliable cornerbacks.  The Cougars are going to give up plenty of yards and points, but if they can create turnovers and sack the quarterback, like last year, there’s hope that the breakdowns can be managed.  The defense is loaded with big, agile bodies up front, but there’s a catch—serious injuries are mounting and could bleed into the start of the season.  While there’s no quick fix for the pass defense, junior college transfer Terry Mixon has the potential to be a star from the moment he steps foot in Pullman.

Sept. 22 - 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.

Sept. 29 - Hawaii          
Offense: Everything worked last year as Colt Brennan and the offense exploded for a nation-leading 559 yards and 46.86 points per game. While Brennan is back, after flirting with the idea of turning pro early, along with star receivers Davone Bess, Jason Rivers and Ryan Grice-Mullen, the line isn't remotely as good as last year's and the running game will desperately miss Nate Ilaoa. David Farmer has to add the run to the run and shoot, or else Brennan won't be nearly as effective. Even so, expect video game numbers out of the nation's best passing attack.
Defense:
With defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville gone, Greg McMackin will change the D from a 3-4 to a 4-3, even though the one weak spot, at least early on, is experience on the line. The linebackers will be excellent with good depth behind top tacklers Adam Leonard and Solomon Elimimian, and they won't have to do  as much compared to last year with a more conservative, though not that much, overall defensive approach. Three starters return to a secondary that needs to be far tighter and far more clutch in big situations.

Oct. 6 – at San Jose State
Offense: The offense wasn't always explosive, but it was steady, didn't give the ball away, kept the chains moving, and got the job done. Expect more of the same if the offensive line can quickly replace three starters and the new recruits for the receiving corps can play right away. The passing game loses the top three targets and 141 of 181 catches, so ultra-efficient QB Adam Tafralis has to be even better. Yonus Davis leads a small, quick, veteran group of running backs that can take it the distance with a little bit of room.
Defense: The Spartan defense took a giant leap forward giving up yards, but not a whole bunch of points allowing fewer than 24 in ten of the final 11 games. Seven starters are back from the ball-hawking crew led by tackling machine Matt Castelo at middle linebacker and corners Dwight Lowery and Christopher Owens. The defensive front has to do a better overall job, and it will now that it's experienced after cutting its teeth last season. Jarron Gilbert and Justin Cole will be pass rushing terrors. Expect this group to give up plenty of yards, but also come up with more than its share of takeaways.


Oct. 13 - Fresno State
Offense: New offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will pump some life into a stagnant passing game with a wide-open attack featuring some funky, multi-receiver formations while not running quite as much. Call it playing to the strengths, as the receiving corps is lightning fast, but untested, while Tom Brandstater, who struggled mightily last year, is still a talent who appears ready to make a big jump and become a major player. The running game will suffer without Dwayne Wright, but Lonyae Wright and Clifton Smith should be decent. The line is the strength of the team with four starters returning to a group that allowed just 12 sacks.
Defense: After a tremendous 2005 season when the defense dominated, last year was a step back, especially in the secondary. Enough overall experience returns to be better, but the line has to do more to get into the backfield and the corners have to pick off more passes after taking away just three. There's plenty of speed and athleticism in the linebacking corps to swarm to the ball, and there's size and pass rushing ability from the front four, but there have to be more big plays and more takeaways.

Oct. 20 – at New Mexico State
Offense:
So that's how it's supposed to work? With Chase Holbrook at the helm, the Aggies finished third in the nation in total offense averaging 475 yards a game, 15th in scoring averaging 31 points a game, and second in passing averaging 399 yards per game. Those numbers might seem pedestrian this year if everyone stays healthy. Nine starters return including the top seven pass catchers, starting running back Jeremiah Williams, four linemen, and of course, Holbrook, who'll be one of the nation's statistical leaders all year long if the line, which found the right combination late last year, gives him just a little more time.
Defense: Big plays, big plays, big plays. The call has gone out from defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer for the defense to use all its experience, with eight returning starters (with safety Gerald Gurrier moving to receiver) to find a way to force more turnovers, come up with more stops on third downs, and most importantly, generate a pass rush. The Aggies came up with a mere 15 sacks and 55 tackles for loss last year, and those numbers need to double to give the beleaguered secondary any shot of being better. There isn't a whole bunch of talent from top to bottom, so everyone will have to be ultra-aggressive and more consistent.

Oct. 27 – at Nevada
Offense: The offense is going to be a work in progress and should be far better midseason than it will be to start. The biggest question marks are on the offensive line, particularly at tackle, after Charles Manu moved to guard and Dominic Green move to center. The receiving corps is big, faster than last year, and should make more big plays with big-armed Nick Graziano taking over at quarterback. The running backs need Brandon Fragger to be healthy to add a speed option along with Luke Lippencott. The Pistol offense will likely use a little more fullback this year, and will try to push the passing game deeper.
Defense: There will be some new defensive coaches taking over with coordinator Ken Wilson keeping the 3-4 scheme to take advantage of the great linebackers. Ezra Butler, Jeremy Engstrom, and Joshua Mauga are as good as any trio in the WAC, and will be the team's strength. The line is solid, helped by the emergence of nose tackle Matt Hines as a top all-around playmaker. The secondary is fine, but nothing special; the better WAC passing games won't have a problem against it.

Nov. 3 - Louisiana Tech
Defense: 2006 was expected to be a year of transition, but yeesh. The D was the worst in America allowing 483 yards and close to 42 points per game, and it was simply awful from start to finish. Step one for the new coaching staff is to find a way to get into the backfield after the Bulldogs finished dead last in sacks and tackles for loss, and it'll alternated between a 3-4 and a 4-3 to try to get some production. The linebacking corps should be decent, the secondary can fly, and the defensive line is full of decent-sized veterans. Now there has to be come semblance of production.
Offense: It's not like the offense was awful last year, but it wasn't consistent and it didn't do enough to keep in all the shootouts created by its defense. Enough talent returns to look for more overall production, especially in the running game where Patrick Jackson should shine behind a big, veteran offensive line that can block, but can't pass protect. The quarterback situation will be worth watching with Zac Champion likely to get the job to start the season, but will be pushed by Michael Mosley and Ross Jenkins for time.


Nov. 17 – at Boise State
Offense: As the Fiesta Bowl showed, there isn't a more creative offensive coaching staff in the country, but the attack, led by a Heisman caliber back in Ian Johnson working behind a tremendous line, could look positively vanilla (by Boise State standards) early on. Ryan Clady leads a dominant front five with four starters returning, and they'll need to be even stronger in pass protection with the quarterback situation unsettled. Taylor Tharp is a good, accurate passer, while Bush Hamdan is a big-armed runner who'll throw it all over the place. The receiving corps has potential, but the top four pass catchers have to be replaced. Even so, look for several different formations and several different looks from game to game.
Defense: As expected, the defense was the best in the WAC last year and should be fantastic again with seven starters returning. Stopping the run will be goal one, and it can be with a fantastic returning pass defense. The secondary will be great with safety Marty Tadman and the corner tandem of Orlando Scandrick and Kyle Wilson returning, while the linebacking corps, even with the loss of Korey Hall, will be a strength with Derrell Acrey expected to step up and star, with veterans Kyle Gingg and David Shields keeping the run defense strong. Mike Williams and Nick Schlekeway form a good end tandem, but the tackles will be the team's biggest question mark outside of the quarterback situation.

Nov. 24 - Utah State
Offense: The offense did next to nothing last season scoring fewer than 14 points seven times and finishing averaging 10.83 points and 254 yards per game. The offensive line isn't bad and the starting receivers, led by Kevin Robinson, are solid, but the quarterback situation isn't settled with Riley Nelson out on a church mission, and there's no experience whatsoever at running back after Marcus Cross transferred. Basically, the attack needs to find one thing it can do well.
Defense:
If experience counts for anything, the Aggies should be far better with 11 returning starters and a ton of veteran backups ready to fill in. Now the defense has to stop someone after getting ripped apart by just about everyone. How bad did things get? The Aggies allowed an average of 48.8 points per game over the final five games. Ben Calderwood leads an undersized line that has to do more to get into the backfield. The corners are way too small, the linebackers are way too small, and the tackles are way too small. If the overall team quickness isn't accounting for big plays, there will be problems.

  

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