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2007 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Recap: With one game left in the regular season, the Bulldogs were a win away from a New Mexico Bowl invitation, a sign of progress for a school that’s bowled just once in the last 17 seasons.  Tech lost badly to Nevada in that finale to slip below .500, but the playoff atmosphere will serve the younger players and first-year head coach Derek Dooley well down the road.  The Bulldogs finished 4-4 in WAC play, a dramatic improvement from last year’s 1-7 mark.      

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Patrick Jackson

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Quin Harris

Biggest Surprise: The defense.  Hardly the calling card at Louisiana Tech over the years, the defense played surprisingly well in 2007, finishing third in the league in run defense and sending four players to the all-league team.  Two of those defenders, Harris and S Antonio Baker, will be the cornerstones of next year’s unit.   

Biggest Disappointment: During the regular season, no one came closer to beating Hawaii than Louisiana Tech did on Sept. 8.  The Bulldogs went blow-for-blow with the No. 20 Warriors for more than four quarters before falling, 45-44, when a Zac Champion pass for two points and the win was knocked down.  The game became a footnote in Hawaii’s run to a BCS bowl game, rather than a defining moment for Louisiana Tech.        

Looking Ahead: Can Dooley build on Tech’s improvement from last season?  If so, the Bulldogs will be vying for the postseason again next November.  The staff’s first order of business will be to find Champion’s successor at quarterback out of junior Michael Mosley, sophomore Ross Jenkins, and Auburn transfer Steve Ensminger.   

- 2007 La Tech Preview
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2006 La Tech Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2-10
2007 Record:
5-7

Sept. 1 Central Ark W 28-7
Sept. 8 Hawaii L 45-44 OT
Sept. 15 at California L 42-12
Sept. 29 at Fresno State L 17-6
Oct. 6 at Ole Miss L 24-0
Oct. 13 N Mexico St
W 22-21
Oct. 20 Boise State L 45-31
Oct. 27
at Utah State W 31-21
Nov. 3 at Idaho W 28-16
Nov. 10 at LSU L 58-10
Nov. 17 San Jose St W 27-23
Dec. 1 Nevada L 49-10

Dec. 1
Nevada 49 ... Louisiana Tech 10
Nevada rolled up 641 yards of total offense with a balanced attack that led the way to an early 21-0 lead and didn't let up until early in the fourth quarter. Luke Lippincott accounted for five touchdowns on four short runs and an 11-yard catch, and Kyle Sammons caught scoring passes from 16 and 74 yards out. The Louisiana Tech offense was stuffed all game long, managing just a 20-yard Danny Horwedel field goal. The lone Bulldog touchdown came on a kickoff return following Lippincott's fourth score. Nevada held the ball for 37:05.
Player of the game: Nevada RB Luke Lippincott ran 25 times for 112 yards and four touchdowns, and he caught four passes for 105 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Nevada - Passing: Colin Kaepernick, 18-29, 404 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Luke Lippencott, 25-112, 4 TD. Receiving: Kyle Sammons, 8-199, 2 TD
Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 9-23, 114 yds
Rushing:
Patrick Jackson, 21-66. Receiving: Phillip Livas, 3-52
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Bulldogs made great strides in Derek Dooley's first season, but it just wasn't a good enough team to take that next step against the top teams. Nevada was on a mission and there wasn't anything Tech could do about it on either side of the ball. The passing game went kaput with Zac Champion not getting much room to breathe, and after things got out of hand, nothing worked. Let this serve as a motivating factor for the offseason; the program knows just how far it has to go to become part of the WAC elite.

Nov. 17
Louisiana Tech 27 ... San Jose State 23
Louisiana Tech got out to a 24-6 halftime lead on three Zac Champion touchdown passes, highlighted by a 49-yard pass to Phillip Livas, and then hung on for dear life as San Jose State came back with 17 second half points with Adam Tafralis running for a four-yard score and hitting James Callier for a 23-yard score. Tech got up four in the fourth quarter on a 41-yard Danny Horwedel field goal, which would prove to be critical with the Spartans getting down to the Tech 16 in the final moments only for the drive to sputter out. The two teams combined for 18 penalties.
Player of the game: Louisiana Tech LB Mark Dillard made 13 tackles, a sack, forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble, while in a losing cause, San Jose State LB Matt Castelo made 21 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: San Jose State - Passing: Adam Tafralis, 28-47, 369 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Jacob French, 9-41. Receiving: Kevin Jurovich, 11-156
Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 22-36, 261 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Patrick Jackson, 16-77. Receiving: Phillip Livas, 4-129, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Bulldogs are setting the tone for 2008 with a strong finish to the season with three wins in four games, with the one loss coming to LSU. Now with two weeks off before finishing up with Nevada, a 6-6 season would be a tremendous bounceback campaign and would get the Derek Dooley era off to a big start. There was nice balance to the offense with Zac Champion throwing well enough to win with. The more times RB Patrick Jackson gets the ball, the better.

Nov. 10
LSU 58 ... Louisiana Tech 10
LSU had few problems with the Bulldogs as Terrance Toliver scored on a 71-yard pass play soon after the defense recovered a fumble, Brandon LaFell caught a 37-yard touchdown pass, and Jacob Hester tore off an 87-yard run. Tech got on the board early in the second quarter on a 37-yardBrian Jackson catch to make it 10-7, but LSU answered with 34-straight points helped by two Matt Flynn touchdown passes. The Tigers rolled up 595 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: LSU RB Jacob Hester ran 11 times for 115 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: LSU - Passing: Matt Flynn, 14-26, 237 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jacob Hester, 11-115, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon LaFell, 5-80, 1 TD
Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 20-39, 189 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Patrick Jackson, 9-42. Receiving:
Dustin Mitchell, 5-29
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... :
Playing LSU wasn't a time to work on things late in the season. While Tech got blasted 58-10, but it doesn't matter. Now the real work begins with home dates against San Jose State and Nevada to close things out, and if the Bulldogs win, they'll be bowl eligible at 6-6. What they can learn from the loss to the Tigers is that their pass protection isn't all that bad, holding up relatively well throughout, and that the offense could move a little bit. Other than that, this was a paycheck game.

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? ... Beating Utah State and Idaho might not seem like that big a deal, but these were back-to-back road wins just before having to deal with LSU. Getting these long distance victories puts the Bulldogs in a position for a 6-6 season with home games against San Jose State and Nevada to finish up, but to win those, there can't be as many penalties as there were against Idaho, and the turnovers have to slow down. Patrick Jackson and Daniel Porter are forming a solid running combination, while the run D has been excellent over the last two weeks.

Oct. 27
Louisiana Tech 31 ... Utah State 21
Louisiana Tech rolled for 518 yards, but it needed a big second half to pull away. Daniel Porter ran for touchdowns from 14 and 31 yards out in the second half, while Patrick Jackson added scores from three and nine yards out. Utah State couldn't keep up the pace, but got a few big plays in with an 82-yard Jacob Actkinson touchdown catch in the second quarter and a 19-yard Kevin Robinson touchdown with just over two minutes to play.
Player of the game: Louisiana Tech RBs Daniel Porter and Patrick Jackson combined for 230 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries.
Stat Leaders: Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 23-29, 230 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Daniel Porter, 22-129, 2 TD. Receiving: Phillip Livas, 3-45
Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 9-12, 127 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Jase McCormick, 9-33. Receiving: Kevin Robinson, 6-58, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Bulldog offense continues to crank out yards, but it took a little too long to finally put Utah State away. With a near perfect balance, and a great day from the running tandem of Daniel Porter and Patrick Jackson, Tech was able to stay in control, but to keep winning over the final month, and to have a chance of staying alive for more than a quarter against LSU, the defense can't give up so many big plays.

Oct. 20
Boise State 45 ... Louisiana Tech 31
In yet another Boise State shootout, the Broncos came up with 465 yards to Louisiana Tech's 463, but the defense came up with four turnovers and Taylor Tharp threw five touchdown passes. Without an injured Ian Johnson, it was up to Tharp to carry the offense, and he came through in the second half, breaking open a 24-24 game with touchdown passes to Jeremy Childs from 83 and 27 yards out, and an eight-yard Austin Pettis score. The Bulldogs had their moments with Daniel Porter tearing off a 74-yard run and Patrick Jackson scoring twice in the first half. In all, there were seven scores from 20 or more yards away.
Player of the game: Boise State QB Taylor Tharp completed 21 of 35 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 21-35, 328 yds, 5 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jeremy Avery, 21-110, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 7-143, 2 TD
Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 24-42, 255 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing:
Daniel Porter, 13-131, 1 TD. Receiving: Phillip Livas, 5-50

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... If only the offense could move on everyone like it did against Boise State. There was balance, explosion, and production from several spots. The turnovers were a problem, and they turned out to kill the chances. And the defense didn't do much to slow down the high-octane Broncos, but as long as the offense can keep up the pace for a while, the Bulldogs can win over the next few weeks at Utah State and Idaho.

Oct. 13
Louisiana Tech 22 ... New Mexico State 21
Louisiana Tech rallied from 12 down in the final seven minutes with two Zac Champion touchdown passes, hitting Phillip Livas for a 30-yard score with 1:53 to play to take the lead. The defense held and Tech had its second win of the year. Danny Horwedel hit three field goals for the Bulldogs before the final rally, while the Aggies to two Chris Williams touchdown catches and a two-yard Justine Buries scoring run.
Player of the game: Louisiana Tech LB Weldon Brown made 13 tackles and broke up two passes.
Stat Leaders: New Mexico State - Passing: J.J. McDermott, 29-40, 319 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Justin Buries, 23-62, 1 TD. Receiving: Chris Williams, 11-170, 2 TD
Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 22-35, 215 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Patrick Jackson, 8-22. Receiving: Patrick Jackson, 7-78

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... On two late drives, Tech might have turned its season around with the touchdowns and the win over New Mexico State. For most of the game, the offense didn't do much of anything, needing to settle for field goals, but the defense kept the high-powered Aggies from pulling away too far. This was a key home win before dealing with Boise State, but things up a bit ahead, even though the Bulldogs have to go on the road to play Utah State and Idaho.

Oct. 6
Ole Miss 24 ... Louisiana Tech 0
Ole Miss got a 28-yard touchdown catch from Dexter McCluster on its third play from scrimmage, and got a score in every quarter with Shay Hodge catching a 17-yard scoring pass in the third and Dustin Mouzon taking a blocked 55-yard field goal for a score in the fourth. The Ole Miss defense controlled the game, allowing just 301 yards of total offense, but Louisiana Tech killed itself, too, with two fumbles and 13 penalties. Ole Miss was even worse on offense, amassing just 232 yards.
Player of the game: Ole Miss LB Ashlee Palmer had 15 tackles, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery.
Stat Leaders: Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 16-27, 144 yds
Rushing: Daniel Porter, 8-51. Receiving: Anthony Harrison, 5-40
Ole Miss - Passing: Seth Adams, 16-32, 167 yds, 2 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing:
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 14-54. Receiving: Mike Wallace, 5-72
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's not like Louisiana Tech didn't have its chances against Ole Miss. With three interceptions, and more yards, 301 to 232, the Bulldogs did a decent job, but gave up two touchdown passes and screwed up on its late field goal attempt. The offense has taken a major step backwards over the last few weeks, and now it needs to find something it can do well. Can there be some sort of a running game? Can Zac Champion start throwing it down the field more? There can't be the penalties and the mistakes there were against the Rebels.

Sept. 29
Fresno State 17 ... Louisiana Tech 6
Louisiana Tech got up 6-0 at halftime on two Danny Horwedel field goals, and then did nothing else the rest of the game as Fresno State scored 17 unanswered points with Jason Crawley catching a 27-yard touchdown pass and Clifton Smith running for a six-yard score. Neither offense moved the ball through the air, but Fresno was helped by a suffocating defensive performance with seven sacks, including four from Tyler Clutts.
Player of the game: Fresno State DE Tyler Clutts made nine tackles and four sacks
Stat Leaders: Fresno State - Passing: Zac Champion, 22-48, 179 yds
Rushing: Patrick Jackson, 18-75. Receiving: Philip Beck, 8-68
Louisiana Tech - Passing: Tom Brandstater, 8-22, 92 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Lonyae Miller, 18-50. Receiving: Bear Pascoe, 3-29

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Tech outplayed Fresno State, except on the offensive line. There wasn't any hope of stopping the Fresno pass rush, and it meant a nightmare of a day for the passing game. There weren't any big mistakes, but the offense simply couldn't get the ball moving after dealing with sack after sack. Now the Bulldogs have to find some semblance of an offense against Ole Miss, New Mexico State and Boise State.

Sept. 15
California 42 ... Louisiana Tech 12
Cal jumped out to a quick lead after LaVelle Hawkins returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for the touchdown, and then the running game took over as Justin Forsett scored from two and 39 yards out. A Crag Stevens 17-yard touchdown catch at the end of the first half made it 28-6 Bears, and after Tech started off the second-half scoring with a five-yard Patric Jackson catch, the Cal offense went back to work going 47 yards in just over two minutes with Jahvid Best catching a 16-yard scoring pass. Forsett put it well out of reach with a one-yard run.
Player of the game: Cal RB Justin Forsett rushed 23 times for 153 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 18-32, 149 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Patrick Jackson, 18-68. Receiving: Joe Anderson, 5-31, 1 TD
Cal - Passing: Nate Longshore, 22-33, 230 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
Justin Forsett, 23-152, 3 TDs. Receiving: LaVelle Hawkins, 7-87
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... After the offense did such a good job against Hawaii of moving the ball when it had to, and with the defense being so active, Tech wanted to have a decent performance against California. It didn't happen. As will be the problem all year long, the run defense got shoved around way too much, while the offense could crank out enough decent drives to break up the momentum. This is a better team than it played in Berkeley, and it has to prove it against Fresno State with better line play and more from the ground game.

Sept. 8
Hawaii 45 ... Louisiana Tech 44 OT
Louisiana Tech answered a Hawaii overtime touchdown with a two-yard touchdown catch from Dustin Mitchell, but the two-point conversion attempt for the win was broken up and the Warriors hung on. Colt Brennan threw four touchdown passes for Hawaii with third quarter strikes from 64 and 17 yards out to Ryan Grice-Mullin, a 19-yard play to Davone Bess in the fourth, and a six-yard strike to Jason Rivers in overtime. Louisiana Tech's offense kept up the pace with Patrick Jackson running for two scores and Zac Champion hitting josh Wheeler with a three-yard scoring pass, but Hawaii kept coming back, eventually sending it into overtime on a 34-yard Dan Kelly field goal.
Player of the game ... Hawaii QB Colt Brennan completed 34 of 40 passes for 416 yards and six touchdowns and led the Warriors with 23 yards on three carries
Stat Leaders: Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 23-36, 187 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Patrick Jackson, 23-98, 2 TD  Receiving: Philip Beck, 5-40
Hawaii - Passing: Colt Brennan, 43-61, 548 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Leon Wright-Jackson, 6-53, 1 TD  Receiving:
Jason Rivers, 14-176, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Hawaii might not have much of a defense, but it was still a major plus to be able to crank out 223 rushing yards and get Zac Champion and the passing game going. Derek Dooley took plenty of chances to try to pull off the win, and there might be some second guessing for going for two in overtime, but his defense wasn't stopping Colt Brennan and the passing game, and Champion was on a little bit of a roll. Even in a loss, this was a positive performance going into the road games at Cal, Fresno State and Ole Miss.

Sept. 1
Louisiana Tech 28 ... Central Arkansas 7
Central Arkansas outgained Louisiana Tech 386 yards to 261, but the Bulldogs game up with six turnovers to give Derek Dooley a win in his head coaching debut. Tech got four short touchdown runs for 28 unanswered points after Marquez Brown started off the scoring with a seven-yard touchdown catch. No scoring drive was longer than 47 yards. Tony Moss picked off three passes for the Bulldogs.
Player of the game: Louisiana Tech DB Tony Moss made two tackles and intercepted three passes
Stat Leaders: Central Arkansas - Passing: Nathan Brown, 26-41, 234 yds, 1 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Ross Brown, 23-72. Receiving: Darrius McNeal, 6-46
Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 12-23, 71 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Patrick Jackson, 21-120, 1 TD. Receiving: Joe Anderson, 3-13
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... On paper, the 28-7 win over Central Arkansas might seem like a walk-in-the-park win over a FCS team, but there were issues. The offense got a nice game out of RB Patrick Jackson, but the passing attack was woeful. However, the idea was to not turn the ball over and to force big plays from the defense, and the Bulldogs did that with six takeaway. To have a shot against Hawaii and Cal over the next few weeks, QB Zac Champion has to do far better than complete 12 of 23 passes for 71 yards.

Sept. 1 – Central Arkansas

Sept. 8 - 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.

Sept. 15 – at California
Offense: With Jeff Tedford at the controls, this is basically a pro-style offense that mixes the run and the pass evenly, and puts up points as quickly as any program in the country.  The head coach will be calling plays again after a one-year hiatus, meaning trick plays will be more frequent than a year ago.  The job of distributing the ball to an array of speedy skill position players belongs to quarterback Nate Longshore, a strong-armed junior that threw 24 touchdown passes in 2006 and a few too many picks.  Although he has plenty of receivers to choose from, none is more lethal than DeSean Jackson, a field-stretcher and legit Heisman candidate.  Super sub Justin Forsett takes over for Marshawn Lynch at running back, where he’ll be running behind an outstanding veteran line.  Center Alex Mack is on the All-American doorstep after earning first team All-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore.
Defense: There’s plenty of work to be done for a Cal defense that begins a new era without its signature all-conference player at each of the three defensive units.  Outstanding recruiting by Jeff Tedford and his staff in recent years ensures that the cupboard is far from empty, but there’ll be a learning curve early on in 2007.  Of greatest concern is a pass defense that gets modest support up front and will be relying on a slew of green cornerbacks.  Sophomore Syd’Quan Thompson and redshirt freshman Darian Hagan look the part, but need to deliver once Pac-10 plays begins.  Junior Zack Follett is the budding star of a linebacker unit that has the potential to be the next best thing to USC in the conference.

Sept. 29 – at 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. 6 – at Ole Miss
Offense: The offense needed more out of the running game after a woeful 2005, and it got it with BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming up with a 1,000-yard season as the workhorse for the offense. Now the offense has to figure out how to score after averaging 15.7 points per game (up from a whopping 13.45 per game in 2005). The passing game needs a lot of work, and the hope will be for the young receiving corps to step up and become passable. There will be a quarterback battle into the fall with Brent Schaeffer needing to prove he can move the offense, or he'll be unseated be Seth Adams, who's the more efficient passer. The massive line should be better after years of seasoning.
Defense: This should've been the year when everything started to come together for the Rebel defense, but the loss of all three starting linebackers, along with some major uncertainty in the secondary, will make this an inconsistent year, at least early on. The defensive line will be the strength with end Marcus Tillman on the verge of stardom, and the tackle combination of Peria Jerry and Jeremy Garrett to be among the best in the league ... if they stay healthy. The secondary lost some of its top safety prospects to the depleted linebacking corps, and the corners have to be far better. Ole Miss only picked off three passes last year. That can't happen again.

Oct. 13 - 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. 20 - 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.

Oct. 27 – at 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.


Nov. 3 – 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.


Nov. 10 – at LSU
Offense: There's a little bit of nervousness among LSU fans with a major change underway in the offense under new coordinator Gary Crowton. There'll be more option, more quick timing patterns, and quicker reads on the line. Fortunately, the loss of JaMarcus Russell won't hurt as much as it would for almost any other program with Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux returning to run the attack. The backfield is loaded with options led by star newcomer Keiland Williams working behind a great line with enough returning experience to dominate. The receiving corps won't be as productive without Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, but Early Doucet and Brandon LeFall will be a great 1-2 combination.
Defense: The nation's number three defense in each of the last two years might crank things up yet another notch with eight starters returning led by the nation's most impressive line. Tackle Glenn Dorsey and end Tyson Jackson might be top five draft picks next season, while Ali Highsmith leads a fantastic linebacking corps that'll only get better once the star prospect backups get more time. Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon form a top lock-down corner tandem, while Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor will be more than just fill-ins for safeties LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels. With all the talent returning, expect more big plays, more turnovers, and more dominance against the average to bad teams.


Nov. 17 - 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.

Dec. 1 - 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.

   

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