2007 New Mexico State Aggies

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 New Mexico State Aggies Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 New Mexico State Aggies

Recap: After a third consecutive losing season, folks around Las Cruces are beginning to wonder when Hal Mumme's Air Raid offense is going to produce more than just a lot of fancy passing statistics.  While the Aggies flashed promise at 4-4, a nasty five-game losing streak to close out the year was a stark reminder just how far the program must travel before being competitive in the WAC.  New Mexico State was once again among the nation's leaders in passing, but it wasn't enough to compensate for a defense that yielded almost 40 points a game to FBS opponents.     

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Chris Williams

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Dante Floyd

Biggest Surprise: Beating rival UTEP, 29-24, on Sept. 15.  The Miners have had the Aggies' number of late, but on this night, the underdog reigned supreme, getting a couple of long touchdown passes from Chase Holbrook to Williams in the decisive final quarter.   

Biggest Disappointment: When Utah State traveled to New Mexico on Nov. 17, it hadn't won a football game in more than a year.  In the battle of the Aggies, however, Utah State came out on top, extending New Mexico State's skid to four games with a 35-17 upset win.

Looking Ahead: Holbrook and a few of his top pass-catchers return, which means New Mexico State will be a dangerous opponent once again in 2008.  However, if considerable progress can't be made on defense, the Aggies could be staring at no better than another four-win season.

- 2007 NMSU Preview
- 2006 NMSU Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-8
2007 Record: 4-9

Aug. 30 SE Louisiana W 35-14
Sept. 8 at New Mexico L 44-34
Sept. 15 UTEP W 29-24
Sept. 22 at Auburn L 55-20
Sept. 29
Ark Pine-Bluff W 20-17
Oct. 7 at Boise State L 58-6
Oct. 13
at La Tech L 22-21
Oct. 20 Idaho W 45-31
Oct. 27 at Hawaii L 50-13
Nov. 2 Nevada L 40-38
Nov. 10 at San Jose St
L 51-17
Nov. 17 Utah State L 35-17
Dec. 1 Fresno State L 30-23

Nov. 30
Fresno State 30 ... New Mexico State 23
Fresno State got 263 yards on the ground with short touchdown runs from QB Tom Brandstater, Ryan Mathews and Anthony Harding, but the Aggies made it interesting with a 24-yard Paul Young field goal and a one-yard Chase Holbrook scoring run to pull within seven with just under six minutes to play. The Bulldogs were able to hold on in the cold and rainy conditions to solidify their bowl bid. NMSU got 323 yards through the air, but 66 of them came on a touchdown pass in the first few minutes to Kenneth Buckley.
Player of the game: Fresno State RBs Anthony Harding and Ryan Mathews combined for 220 yards and two touchdowns on 47 carries
Stat Leaders: Fresno State - Passing: Tom Brandstater, 10-19, 205 yds
Rushing: Anthony Harding, 28-121, 1 TD. Receiving: Marlon Moore, 4-106
New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 31-52, 323 yds, 1 TD
Brandon Perez, 5-37. Receiving:
Wes Nelman, 11-128
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Even in the lousy weather conditions, NMSU's passing game still put up yards on Fresno State. It wasn't easy to keep the chains moving, especially considering the Bulldogs were pounding away with their running game, but they were able to put up a decent numbers against a decent defense. In the end, the 4-9 season is a good stepping stone, but there's plenty of room for improvement. As well as the team played this year, a five-game losing streak to close out is still a five-game losing streak.

Nov. 17
Utah State 35 ... New Mexico State 17
Utah State broke its 17-game losing streak with Rob Myers touchdown catches from 26 and 24 yards out and a two-yard Jimmy Bohm run with 47 seconds to play. New Mexico State got a one-yard Justine Buries touchdown run in the second, and a seven-yard Wes Neiman touchdown catch in the fourth, but Kevin Robinson answered with a 82-yard kickoff return for a score. NMSU outgained Utah State 455 yards to 355.
Player of the game: Utah State LB Jake Hutton made 16 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss and a broken up pass.
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 14-20, 189 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Derrvin Speight, 17-78. Receiving: Rob Myers, 4-117, 2 TD
New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 42-58, 367 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Justine Buries, 14-44, 1 TD. Receiving: A.J. Harris, 12-68

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... What happened to the New Mexico State offense? It was supposed to be equipped to hang up huge numbers on everyone, but now it's not just struggling against the Nevadas and Hawaiis of the WAC, it's struggling to put up points against bottom-feeders like Utah State. Now on a four-game losing streak, and with a mega-disappointment of a season, the attack needs to bounce back after an inconsistent game against a Utah State team on a 17-game losing streak. With two weeks off to prepare for Fresno State, it'll be up to head coach Hal Mumme to adjust his offense to make it more effective.

Nov. 10
San Jose State 51 ... New Mexico State 17
The Spartans blew past the Aggies as Kevin Jurovich caught scoring passes from 36 and 45 yards out in the second quarter as part of a 31-point run. Adam Tafralis threw two touchdown passes and ran for one, while Jared Strubeck nailed field goals from 42, 41 and 38 yards out. The Aggie passing game came up with Chase Holbrook touchdown passes from 46 and 24 yards away, but it also gave away three interceptions. The Spartans cranked out 507 yards to 398 and didn't turn the ball over.
Player of the game: San Jose State WR Kevin Jurovich caught ten passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 30-49, 318 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Justine Buries, 14-62. Receiving: Nick Cleaver, 5-46
San Jose State - Passing: Adam Tafralis, 19-31, 317 yds, 2 TD
Myles Eden, 5-64. Receiving: Kevin Jurovich, 10-233, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Aggie offense is supposed to be built for shootouts like the game against San Jose State, but it couldn't keep pace. Four turnovers, misfired, and a meltdown by the defense allowed the Spartans to put the game away with a big midgame run, and Chase Holbrook couldn't come up with the passes to stop it. Now on a three game losing streak, with five losses in six games, the Aggies have to finally get on track against lowly Utah State or else this really will be the WAC's biggest disappointment.

Nov. 2
Nevada 40 ... New Mexico State 38
Down two, New Mexico State's Paul Young badly missed a 44-yard field goal in the final few seconds allowing Nevada to hang on. The Wolf Pack blew a 20-3 lead, but took the lead with a minute to play on a 31-yard touchdown catch from Mike McCoy, but Brett Jaekle missed the extra point to open the door for the Aggies to potentially get the win. Nevada's Colin Kaepernick threw three touchdown passes, highlighted by a 64-yard Marko Mitchell touchdown catch. Cold early, NMSU QB Chase Holbrook heated up with four touchdown passes with two going to A.J. Harris and two to Kenneth Buckley. A 32-yard play to Harris with 3:38 to play gave the Aggies the lead, but couldn't hold on.
Player of the game: Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of 28 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and ran 11 times for 136 yards and two scores.
Stat Leaders: New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 35-49, 407 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Justine Buries, 14-68. Receiving: A.J. Harris, 11-131, 2 TD
Nevada - Passing: Colin Kaepernick, 15-28, 237 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Luke Lippincott, 30-143. Receiving: Marko Mitchell, 6-132, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Aggies might have lost to Nevada, but the offense was still a thing of beauty when it heated up. Chase Holbrook has to get more production early in games than he did the last two weeks, but once the production started to come, the Wolf Pack was helpless. The defense struggled was too much against the run, but it isn't likely to be pounded on by San Jose State or Utah State over the next few games. All the D will have to do is simply hold serve and let Holbrook be Holbrook. There's still reason to be fired up despite the disappointing loss.

Oct. 27
Hawaii 50 ... New Mexico State 13
Colt Brennan threw six touchdown passes with three to Ryan Grice-Mullen from 20, 42 and 11 yards out, while New Mexico State, who held on to the ball for 38:59, failed to keep up the pace. The Warriors got up 23-0 before the Aggies got on the board with two Paul Young field goals. They didn't find the end zone until Wes Neiman caught a 19-yard touchdown pass in the third, but the Hawaii answered right back with a Grice-Mullen's third score as part of a 21 point run. The defense finished things off with a 57-yard JoPierre interception return for a score.
Player of the game: Hawaii QB Colt Brennan completed 29 of 46 passes for 425 yards and six touchdowns with an interception, and WR Ryan Grice-Mullen caught 13 passes for 195 yards and three scores.
Stat Leaders: New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 37-52, 328 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Tonny Glynn, 5-35. Receiving: Derek Dubois, 8-106
Hawaii - Passing: Colt Brennan, 29-46, 425 yds, 6 TD, 1 INT
Kealoha Pilares, 6-47. Receiving: Ryan Grice-Mullen, 13-195, 3 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense is built for being able to keep up in games just like the one with Hawaii, and it wasn't even close. Yardage-wise, the Aggies got theirs in, but the points weren't there while the secondary didn't do anything to slow down Colt Brennan and the attack once it got moving. Now NMSU has to gear of for a Nevada team that'll try to run the ball to win. At some point, Chase Holbrook will have to be more consistent, and he'll had to get the offense working against someone decent.

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
Tonny Glynn, 11-88, 2 TD. Receiving: Derek Dubois, 7-141, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Rested from missing two weeks with bruised ribs. Chase Holbrook became Chase Holbrook again, bombing away with precision against the Idaho defense. The Aggie D struggled a bit too much against a normally anemic offense, but when Holbrook is firing and is on, it doesn't matter; NMSU will simply outbomb teams. Interestingly enough in a shootout like this, Chris Williams was barely involved with three grabs for 26 yards. Now comes the real fun ... Hawaii.

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
Patrick Jackson, 8-22. Receiving: Patrick Jackson, 7-78

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... J.J. McDermott wasn't Chase Holbrook against Louisiana Tech, but he wasn't bad. He didn't make a slew of mistakes, and he put the team in a position to win, but the defense that played so well for about 53 minutes collapsed at the end. The Aggies lost last week in a blowout, and lost this week in a heartbreaker, and now they need to beat Idaho to turn things back around before dealing with a trip to Hawaii.

Oct. 7
Boise State 58 ... New Mexico State 0
Boise State dominated, outgained the Aggies 604 yards to 89, with Jeremy Childs catching touchdown passes from nine, 24, and 33 yards away, Ian Johnson running for a six-yard score, and Taylor Tharp throwing for four scores, including an 18-yard pass to Ryan Putnam and a 50-yard play to Titus Young. Aggie star QB Chase Holbrook started, but was too injured to last more than a drive.
Player of the game: Boise State WR Jeremy Childs caught six passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 19-26, 251 yds, 4 TDs
Rushing: Ian Johnson, 17-85, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 6-102, 3 TD
New Mexico State - Passing: J.J. McDermott, 10-19, 57 yds, 2 INT
J. Williams, 3-8. Receiving: Chris Johnson, 4-32

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Chase Holbrook tried to go against Boise State, but it wasn't happening. The offense floundered with J.J. McDermott at the helm, while the defense did nothing to help the situation. At this point, the Hal Mumme offense should be getting 89 yards a drive, not a game, and there's no reason to only be cranking out 57 yards passing. Boise State is good, but it's not better than Auburn, and NMSU was able to drive on its D late in the game.

Sept. 29
New Mexico State 20 ... Arkansas-Pine Bluff 17
Paul Young nailed a 37-yard field goal with one second to play for New Mexico State to avoid the huge upset. Arkansas-Pine Bluff stayed alive with a 17-yard Raymond Webber touchdown catch and a one-yard Martell Mallett score, and held the Aggies to just a six-yard Chris Williams touchdown catch and a 21-yard Tonny Glynn scoring dash. The two teams combined for 18 penalties.
Player of the game: New Mexico State QB Chase Holbrook completed 31 of 42 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran seven times for 17 yards.
Stat Leaders: New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 31-42, 246 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Justine Buries, 12-60. Receiving: Christopher Buckner, 7-68
Arkansas-Pine Bluff - Passing: Jonathan Moore, 16-35, 234 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Martell Mallet, 18-84, 1 TD. Receiving: Jason Jones, 5-64

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Things aren't clicking yet, and this was supposed to be the week for it to happen. At this point in the year, the Aggies should be starting to find their groove. Instead, QB Chase Holbrook is banged up, the offense is sputtering, the passing game isn't doing what it's supposed to, and there have to be some major worries with a trip to Boise State ahead. If NMSU plays in Boise like it did against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, it'll be a mega-blowout the other way.

Sept. 22
Auburn 55 ... New Mexico State 20
At halftime, it appeared to be a dogfight with the makings of a possible upset. NMSU got two touchdown passes, including a 25-yarder to Chris Williams, from Chase Holbrook, along with a one-yard scoring run, and then the Auburn defense kicked in, finishing with six takeaways, and the offense took over. Down 20-14, the Tigers scored 35 unanswered points on three Mario Fannin touchdown runs, capped off by a 67-yard dash in the final minute, while Rod Smith caught touchdown passes from 58 and 18 yards out. Brandon Cox and Ben Tate each ran for short second half touchdowns.
Player of the game: Auburn RB Mario Fannin ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, and added a catch for eight yards.
Stat Leaders: New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 29-40, 254 yds, 2 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: Justine Buries, 15-55. Receiving: Chris Williams, 9-109, 1 TD
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 13-19, 135 yds, 1 TDs
Ben Tate, 21-111, 1 TD. Receiving: Rod Smith, 3-86, 2 TDs

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... To have any shot against a team like Auburn, the Aggies can't screw up. Five turnovers, missed tackles against the run, and a general lack of pop in the second half ruined all the positive things to come out of the first half. Chase Holbrook was fine, but he's still having problems with interceptions, and it's almost like he's pressing too much. He had to against Auburn, and now he has to use the breather against Arkansas-Pine Bluff to get his groove back before going to Boise State.

Sept. 15
New Mexico
State 29 ... UTEP 24
New Mexico State got two fourth quarter touchdown catches from Chris Williams, striking from 82 and 59 yards out, and the defense held on late in the tight win. UTEP got its first points on a 100-yard Quintin Demps interception return for a touchdown, increased the lead on a 12-yard Marcus Thomas run, and after a big kickoff return from Fred Rouse, following the Williams 82-yard touchdown, needed one play to take the lead on a 25-yard Jeff Moturi touchdown catch.
Player of the game: New Mexico State WR Chris Williams caught nine passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 36-48, 434 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Justine Buries, 15-77, 1 TD. Receiving: Chris Williams, 9-221, 2 TD
UTEP- Passing: Trevor Vittatoe, 15-27, 261 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Marcus Thomas, 21-74, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeff Moturi, 6-105, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
You know you have a good team when you can screw up big-time and still win. New Mexico State had dropped passes, a 100-yard pick six, two missed field goals and a blocked extra point, and it still got by UTEP. Outside of a key drop, Chris Williams had a magnificent game, highlighted by an unstoppable fourth quarter, and there was even a little bit of balance with Justine Buries running well. The Aggie run defense might not be a rock, but it's far better than it's been in the past few years.

Sept. 8
New Mexico 44 ... New Mexico State 34
The two teams traded offensive punches all game long when New Mexico finally broke the game open in the fourth quarter on a one-yard Rodney Ferguson touchdown run. a field goal and a 26-yard Chris Mark touchdown catch gave the Lobos some breathing room, but it was a deflected pass into the hands of Frankie Solomon that sealed NMSU's fate. Chase Holbrook and Chris Williams hooked up for touchdowns from 38, nine and four yards out, while New Mexico kept pace all game long helped by two Donovan Porterie touchdown passes and two Ferguson touchdowns. The two teams combined for 1,077 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: New Mexico QB Donovan Porterie completed 17 of 24 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 47-63, 473 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Tonny Glynn, 10-92. Receiving: Chris Williams, 10-120, 3 TD
New Mexico - Passing: Donovan Porterie, 17-24, 342 yds, 2 TD
Rodney Ferguson, 26-118, 2 TD. Receiving: Marcus Smith, 6-128
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
NMSU might have lost to New Mexico, but the team was competitive and had a shot late. Don't dismiss how important that is for a program that's still trying to get some consistency. The offensive machine cranked it up against after an average day against SE Louisiana, and now the key will be for Chase Holbrook to keep his interceptions to almost none, or at least make sure they're not backbreakers. The key one late against the Lobos wasn't necessarily his fault, but it's all about getting the ball in the right spot in this attack. Right now, no one wants to deal with this offense.

Aug. 30
New Mexico State 35 ... SE Louisiana 14
The Aggie passing game was merely average as Chase Holbrook threw two touchdown passes to Chris Williams and four overall, but he also threw three picks, including on to Demeri Johnson for a 30-yard interception return for a score to tie the game at seven in the first quarter. The NMSU defense controlled the game, failing to allow a touchdown until a 62-yard Dremell Adams run with just over two minutes to play. SLU only gained 268 yards of total offense. Brandon McKinney returned an interception 68 yards for a score for the Aggies.
Player of the game: New Mexico State LB Dante Floyd made ten tackles and two sacks
Stat Leaders: SLU - Passing: Brian Babin, 14-27, 145 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Jay Lucas, 16-73. Receiving: Mario Gilbert, 5-33
New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 23-33, 280 yds, 4 TD, 3 INT
Tonny Glynn, 6-73. Receiving: Derek Dubois, 7-47, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... While the passing game didn't explode against SE Louisiana like Aggie fans might have liked, and Chase Holbrook was mediocre with three interceptions and only 280 yards, but there was a lot to get excited about and it was mostly on the defensive side. While it wasn't a big game against a good offense, the defense still appeared to be light years ahead of where it was last season and should be far, far tougher. Now the offense has to limit its mistakes and be the New Mexico State offense again.

Aug. 30 – SE Louisiana

Sept. 8 – at New Mexico
Offense: The offense is scrapping the Bob Toledo attack and going back to a more basic style that'll pound the ball more with a big line, but won't forget about balancing things out through the air. With one of the Mountain West's best receiving tandems in Travis Brown and Marcus Smith, and a rising superstar in quarterback Donovan Porterie, the passing game should shine, while Rodney Ferguson will be a 1,000-yard back. If injuries are a problem, there will be big troubles with no developed depth among the skills positions and even less to count on up front.
Defense: The 3-3-5 scheme will stay in place, but the Lobo position will be fifth defensive back more than a linebacker. As always, there are plenty of great athletes who can run and fly to the ball. Now there has to be more production against the pass and more big plays in the backfield. The linebacking corps with Cody Kase moving from the outside in, should be stellar, while the cornerback tandem of DeAndre Wright and Glover Quin should be among the best in the league. There's a ton of talent to get excited about, but, unlike last year, will it all come together to form one of the league's better defenses? It's possible.

Sept. 15 - UTEP
Offense: The offense continued to be one-sided finishing fifth in the nation in passing and 116th in rushing, and now things will make a shift back the other way, although not necessarily for the positive. A battle for the quarterback job will continue until the fall, but the running game should be set with Marcus Thomas ready to break out as on of Conference USA's best backs. However, he needs room to move behind a line that has to be night-and-day better than last year when it struggled to pound away.
The Miners melted down over the second half of last season and needs to be far more productive with nine starters returning. Don't expect miracles, but unlike previous years, the D should be better as the season goes on. The defense was miserable last season despite getting a consistent pass rush from the front seven. Now the whole line needs to find replacements while the linebacking corps has to hope for Jeremy Jones to be healthy after a knee injury. The secondary should be a strength after a rough year with safeties Quintin Demps and Braxton Amy potential all-stars, while Josh Ferguson is a solid corner.

Sept. 22 – at Auburn
Offense: Where are the stars? The Auburn offense is full of above-average talents who need to mesh into a better, more consistent attack than the one that averaged just 24.77 points and 321 yards per game while doing next to nothing against the top teams. Only one starter, massive tackle King Dunlap, returns to the offensive line, while the receiving corps could be a problem is no one becomes a reliable number two receiver alongside Rodgeriqus Smith. On the plus side, the running backs are deep and talented, Brandon Cox appears ready to be a more productive passer, and the tight ends are the best in the league by far.
Defense: The whole will likely be better than the parts. Auburn's defensive front has the potential to be excellent thanks to the return of star end Quentin Groves for his senior year and with the emergence of Sen'Derrick Marks on the inside. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue, and coming up with sacks had better not be with a secondary that'll be shaky despite getting three starters back. The loss of corner David Irons will hurt. The linebacking corps isn't experienced, but it should be better than last year's group as the season goes on.

Sept. 29 – Arkansas Pine-Bluff

Oct. 7 – 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.

Oct. 13 – at 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.

Oct. 20 - 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.

Oct. 27 – at 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.
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.

Nov. 2 - 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. 10 – 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.

Nov. 17 - 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.
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.

Dec. 1 - 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.


Related Stories
Scout.com's Top 30 Cornerbacks
 -by ScoutNFLNetwork.com  Jan 14, 2008
Post-Bowl Fallers
 -by ScoutNFLNetwork.com  Jan 9, 2008
Live Blog - Scout.com Signing Day Updates
 -by ScoutFootball.com  Feb 6, 2008

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > New Mexico State
[View My HotList]