- 2008 WAC Early Lookaheads
Fresno State |
New Mexico St |
2007 WAC Season
| Fresno State |
| Louisiana Tech
| New Mexico St |
The darlings of college football a season ago, Boise State was
forced to take a WAC seat to Sugar Bowl-bound Hawaii in 2007.
The Broncos reeled off nine straight wins after losing at
Washington on Sept. 8, but finished with back-to-back losses at
Aloha Stadium, a 39-27 loss to the Warriors for the league title
and a 41-38 loss to East Carolina in the Hawaii Bowl. During
the winning streak, Boise State scored more than 50 points four
times, largely due to the crisp passing of senior Taylor Tharp,
who did a nice job as a one-year stop-gap after Jared Zabransky
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Taylor Tharp
Defensive Player of the Year: S Marty Tadman
Biggest Surprise: WR Jeremy Childs. The Bronco staff
knew Childs had potential, but few expected it to reach the
surface this early in his career. The sophomore set a school
record with 82 catches for 1,045 yards and nine touchdowns,
despite skipping the bowl game for disciplinary reasons.
Biggest Disappointment: The Bronco defense, so solid for
more than two months, came apart at the end of the season,
allowing Hawaii to rally for a conference-clinching win and East
Carolina to pile up 476 yards in the bowl game. Pirate RB Chris
Johnson treated the Boise State defenders like mannequins,
zipping past them for a bowl-record 408 all-purpose yards.
Looking Ahead: Who replaces Tharp at quarterback? Senior
Bush Hamdan, junior Nick Lomax, sophomore Mike Coughlin, and
redshirt freshman Kellen Moore will duke it out beginning this
spring. The program already received good news when it survived
another December without losing coveted head coach Chris
Peterson to another school.
The Bulldogs rebounded swiftly from last year’s 4-8 debacle,
winning nine games, including a 40-28 thumping of Georgia Tech
in the Humanitarian Bowl. Fresno State closed 8-2, recapturing
some of its swagger under Pat Hill behind a physical offensive
line and a deep running game that had four different 100-yard
rushers during the season. Beating the Yellow Jackets was
especially poignant since the Bulldogs were just 1-4 against
bowl-eligible opponents during the regular season, losing to WAC
kingpins Hawaii and Boise State.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Ryan Mathews
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Marcus Riley
Biggest Surprise: Mathews. Buried on the depth chart
when the season began, the freshman emerged as Fresno State’s
best offensive weapon, rushing for a team-high 866 yards and 14
touchdowns before suffering a muscle tear near his collarbone.
Mathews’ future is bright, particularly in an offense that likes
to grind it out between the tackles.
Biggest Disappointment: The Bulldogs left everything they
had on the Kyle Field turf on Sept. 8, yet still lost to Texas
A&M, 47-45, in triple-overtime. Although Fresno State battled
all the way back from an early 19-0 deficit to force extra
sessions, it finally bowed down to an Aggie ground game that
churned out 318 yards.
Looking Ahead: With so much offensive talent returning
from last year’s 9-4 team, Fresno State is poised to make a run
at a WAC title or more in 2008. If Riley and DE Tyler Clutts
can be adequately replaced, the Bulldogs are going to be a
handful for UCLA, Kansas State, and Wisconsin in the early
stages of the season.
Once Hawaii gets over the sting of being exposed by Georgia in
the Sugar Bowl, it’ll look back on 2007 as a truly remarkable
season. The Warriors exited the regular season as the nation’s
lone unbeaten team, winning season-ending thrillers over Nevada,
Boise State, and Washington to bring unprecedented mainland
exposure to the program. For the third straight year, the face
of Hawaii football was QB Colt Brennan, who finished third in
the Heisman voting, while establishing a new NCAA record for
career touchdown passes.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Colt Brennan
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Adam Leonard
Biggest Surprise: The defense. Known only for its
high-octane passing attack, Hawaii was also home to a feisty
defense in 2007. The Warriors performed well beyond
expectations, ranking No. 2 in the WAC in total and scoring
defense, while placing five players on the all-league first
Biggest Disappointment: Hawaii wasn’t supposed to beat an
elite SEC program in the Sugar Bowl, but a 41-10 dress down
validated the opinions of those that felt the school never
belonged in a major bowl game. The Warriors committed a BCS
bowl-record six turnovers, squandering a lot of the goodwill
they’d compiled during an otherwise outstanding season.
Looking Ahead: Although life after Brennan won’t be easy,
you can do a lot worse than senior-to-be Tyler Graunke, a
strong-armed veteran of 24 games and 217 passing attempts. On
defense, the Warriors will be tough up front, needing to find
replacements for departing defensive backs Myron Newberry, Jacob
Patek, and Gerard Lewis.
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
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,
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.
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
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.
The Wolf Pack may have bowled for a third year in-a-row, but the 2007 season
will be remembered for lost opportunities and an inability to close out tight
games. Of Nevada’s seven losses, five were by eight points or less, pushing the
program into a three-way tie for fourth place in the WAC with middling Louisiana
Tech and San Jose State. The best news for the Pack was the development of
Colin Kaepernick, the conference Freshman of the Year and the future at
quarterback in Chris Ault’s Pistol offense.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Luke Lippincott
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Ezra Butler
Biggest Surprise: Kaepernick. Nick Graziano was the starter for the
first five games before injuring his foot, opening the door for Kaepernick’s
improbable emergence. Yeah, he made the typical rookie mistakes, but also lit a
fire under the offense, throwing 19 touchdown passes to just three picks and
scrambling for 593 yards and six more scores.
Biggest Disappointment: Potential breakthrough wins over WAC daddys
Hawaii and Boise State both wound up being heartbreaking two-point losses. In
one of the wildest games in league history, Nevada lost to the Broncos, 69-67,
in four overtimes despite getting 420 total yards and five touchdowns from
Looking Ahead: Nevada welcomes back two quarterbacks with starting
experience, a 1,400-yard rusher, and one of the league’s top receiver, the
building blocks of an explosive offense. It’ll have to be in order to
compensate for an already flimsy defense that’s losing its two most consistent
players, Butler and NG Matt Hines.
New Mexico State
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
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
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
San Jose State
Although the Spartans failed to make a return to the postseason, they did
persevere through an ominous 0-3 start and injuries to key players to finish 5-7
and tied for fourth place in the WAC. While it wasn’t enough to land the
program a bonus game in December, it do show head coach Dick Tomey that his kids
wouldn’t fold when faced with adversity. The defense and record-setting QB Adam
Tafralis kept the Spartans in most league games, but losing 1,000-yard rusher
Yonus Davis crushed a running game that wound up averaging only 83 yards a game.
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Kevin Jurovich
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Matt Castelo
Biggest Surprise: Jurovich. A safety in his first two seasons, Jurovich
made a seamless and unlikely transition to the offensive side of the ball during
spring practice. The junior went on to deliver an All-WAC season, backed by a
school-record 85 receptions for 1,183 yards and nine touchdown grabs.
Biggest Disappointment: The Spartans had unbeaten and 17th-ranked
Hawaii on the ropes on Oct. 12, but couldn’t land the knockout blow. San Jose
State blew a two-touchdown lead with four minutes left, losing in overtime,
42-35. Had the Spartans held on, they would have been eligible for a December
bowl game. Ouch.
Looking Ahead: Out of junior Myles Eden and sophomore Jordan La Secla,
San Jose State needs to decide on a successor to Tafralis at quarterback.
Whoever gets the ball will be throwing to one of the WAC’s top pass-catching
tandems, Jurovich and David Richmond.
Well, at least the Aggies will have momentum heading into next
season. After losing its first 10 games, a number in
excruciating fashion, Utah State closed with two road wins for
the first time since 1999, a significant accomplishment for a
program that hasn’t finished over .500 in more than a decade.
The past year marked the end of the career of WR Kevin Robinson,
an all-time great Aggie and All-WAC first teamer that holds the
NCAA record for all-purpose yards per play.
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Kevin Robinson
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Jake Hutton
Biggest Surprise: On Nov. 17, Utah State mercifully ended
its 16-game losing, traveling to Las Cruces to blow past New
Mexico State with a 21-point fourth quarter. The Aggies got two
touchdown catches from TE Rob Myers and a back-breaking 82-yard
kickoff return from Robinson to taste victory for the first time
in more than 13 months.
Biggest Disappointment: Utah State should have ended its
futility much earlier in the season, such as against San Jose
State on Sept. 22. The Aggies took a rare lead into the fourth
quarter, but allowed an Adam Tafralis to David Richmond
touchdown hook-up with 53 seconds remaining to let the game slip
Looking Ahead: Utah State will spend much of the
offseason looking for a new quarterback, a few capable linemen,
and an every-down back that can take some pressure off the new
man behind center. Freshman RB Derrvin Speight looks capable of
answering the call after rushing for 504 yards in limited