2007 Utah State Aggies
2007 Utah St Preview
- 2006 Utah St Season
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? ... Leon Jackson did just enough to get the offense moving against Idaho and the defense did just enough to hold on to give the program back-to-back wins for the first time since 2003. Considering the way the last few years have gone, to finally get over the hump and win a few close ones is a testament to how hard the team kept playing even when the season kept hitting loss after loss. Kevin Robinson will have to go down as one of the WAC's greatest all-around talents as he was one of the few explosive playmakers for the team all year. He showed it again in his final game.
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
Rushing: Justine Buries, 14-44, 1 TD. Receiving: A.J. Harris, 12-68
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... With a balanced offense, just enough timely defense to get by, and good special teams, Utah State played like a living, breathing team in the win over New Mexico State to break the brutal 17-game losing streak. Forgetting about the blowout loss to Boise State, the Aggies have played better over the second half of the season and came through with their best all-around performance under Brent Guy. Getting one victory was nice, but beating Idaho for a two-game winning streak would send the program into the off-season on a major high note.
Boise State 52 ... Utah State 0
Boise State crushed the Aggies with a near-perfect day from QB Taylor Tharp, a blocked punt return for a score from Ala Falo, and Titus Young touchdown runs from eight, nine and 38 yards out. Utah State never had a chance, turning the ball over four times and only gaining 236 yards of total offense. Ian Johnson ran for 110 yards and a 15-yard score.
Player of the game: Boise State QB Taylor Tharp completed 26 of 29 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Boise State - Passing: Taylor Tharp, 26-29, 283 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Ian Johnson, 19-110, 1 TD. Receiving: Jeremy Childs, 7-70
Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 7-15, 95
Rushing: Jase McCormick, 5-32. Receiving: Rob Myers, 5-66
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Boise State might be BCS bound, so losing to a team this good isn't anything to get in a twist over, but considering it's the tenth game of the year, and considering it was the final home game, there should've been a far better performance from all phases. Leon Jackson never got the offense moving, while the running game never had a chance to get established. The Aggies needed to be perfect to make it interesting, and they turned the ball over four times and committed nine penalties.
Fresno State 38 ... Utah State 27
Fresno State avenged last year's 38-27 loss to Utah State with six sacks and a 31-point first half highlighted by a 27-yard Isaac Kinter touchdown catch with three seconds remaining, two Ryan Mathews scoring runs, and a 52-yard bomb from PK Clint Stitser. Utah State came up with a solid second half getting Peter Caldwell field goals from 46 and 40 yards, a 44-yard Kevin Robinson touchdown grab, and a 23-yard Rob Myers scoring play, but couldn't get within close enough to make any sort of scare. A.J. Jefferson returned a kickoff for a touchdown after a 46-yard Caldwell field goal.
Player of the game: Fresno State RBs Clifton Smith and Ryan Mathews ran for 232 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 18-26, 214 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Derrvin Speight, 11-71. Receiving: Kevin Robinson, 5-87, 1 TD
Fresno State - Passing: Tom Brandstater, 13-18, 131 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Clifton Smith, 27-126. Receiving: Bear Pascoe, 4-35
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense continues to be far better than it was at any time last year, and the defense wasn't all that bad against Fresno State, but there still aren't any wins to show for it with an 0-9 start. To come up with a win, the attack has to be far better early on, and more needs to be done on third downs on both sides of the ball. USU converted five of 14 conversion attempts, and allowed Fresno State to convert seven of 11 chances.
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 offense continues to show more pop than it had in the past with Leon Jackson, Jase McCormick and the passing game coming up with more big plays, but the running backs aren't contributing and the defense keeps giving up yards faster than the offense can get them. Things aren't going to get any easier after the loss to Utah State with three of the final four games on the road, and the home date against Boise State.
Nevada 31 ... Utah State 28
Luke Lippencott ran for 241 yards and touchdowns from seven and eight yards out, but the Wolf Pack had to hold on as Leon Jackson ran for two sores and Kevin Robinson returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown on the way to a 28-24 lead in the fourth quarter. Colin Kaepernick hooked up with Mike McCoy for a 32-yard touchdown with just over seven minutes to play to give the Pack the lead, and the D held. The Pack outgained the Aggies 472 yards to 212.
Player of the game: Nevada RB Luke Lippencott ran 36 times for 241 yards and two touchdowns, and caught four passes for 20 yards
Stat Leaders: Nevada - Passing: Colin Kaepernick, 15-23, 170 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Luke Lippincott, 36-241, 2 TD. Receiving: Mike McCoy, 7-92, 1 TD
Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 11-19, 196 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Leon Jackson, 15-51, 2 TD. Receiving: Rob Myers, 3-41
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... How did the Aggies stay alive against Nevada after only gaining 212 yards? Leon Jackson was the entire attack, with no help from the rest of the running game and nothing whatsoever from the defense that got ripped to shreds for a second straight week, but the team was still in it until the end. Eventually the breaks will go the right way, but if it doesn't happen against Louisiana Tech, the 0-fer season is likely certain.
Hawaii 52 ... Utah State 37
With Colt Brennan knocked out with an ankle injury, Tyler Graunke came in and kept the machine rolling, running for a one-yard score with five seconds left in the first half, and hitting three touchdown passes in the third quarter, highlighted by a 72-yard play to Jason Rivers, to pull away. Utah State kept things interesting with a Kevin Robinson kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter, who also scored on a 77-yard pass in the third quarter, but couldn't keep pace after the second quarter. Hawaii got a kickoff return for a touchdown as well from Malcolm Lane in the second quarter.
Player of the game: Hawaii QB Tyler Graunke completed nine of 11 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for a score.
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 14-21, 161 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Derrvin Speight, 20-71, 1 TD. Receiving: Kevin Robinson, 5-96, 1 TD
Hawaii - Passing: Tyler Graunke, 9-11, 246 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Inoke Funaki, 4-20. Receiving: C.J. Hawthorne, 9-116, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense got a decent game against Hawaii, and threw it well, but once again, outside of a big play from Kevin Robinson, there weren't enough big throws down the field, and the line struggled in pass protection, allowing six sacks. No defense is going to struggle against Hawaii, and Utah State's wasn't even close. On the plus side, Derrvin Speight looks like a good running back to work around.
Utah 34 ... Utah State 18
Utah got its leader back as Brian Johnson returned from a separated shoulder to start for the first time in three weeks, with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jereme Brooks and a 38-yard pass to Marquis Wilson. Louie Sakoda added two field goals and Darrell Mack ran for a three-yard score as part of a 20-point run that Utah State finally stopped with a ten-yard Otis Nelson catch late in the fourth. The two teams combined to convert just nine of 31 third down chances.
Player of the game: Utah RB Darrell Mack rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, and had a reception for seven yards.
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 17-24, 139 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Derrvin Speight, 22-67. Receiving: Kevin Robinson, 7-71
Utah - Passing: Brian Johnson, 18-29, 181 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Darrell Mack, 26-132, 1 TD. Receiving: Brian Hernandez, 5-50
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defensive effort has been there, with Devon Hall and Paul Igobeli making several plays against Utah, and Leon Jackson had an accurate day throwing it, but as will be the problem all year long, and was an issue last year, was the lack of a true playmaker. There's no one who can take the ball and quickly change the outcome. Next week, that might change by force against Hawaii. Utah State will have to figure out, in a real hurry, how to put up 50 points.
San Jose State 23 ... Utah State 20
Adam Tafralis connected with David Richmond for a 31-yard touchdown with 53 seconds remaining to pull off San Jose State's first win of the season. The Spartans got three touchdown passes from Tafralis, including a 24-yarder to Richmond in the second quarter, while Utah State's offense struggled to close. The Aggies answered a 31-yard Jared Strubeck field goal with an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Kevin Robinson, but they could only manage two field goals on offense before going on an 18-play, 92-yard drtive that took of 8:23 in the fourth quarter and finished up with a one-yard Derrvin Speight touchdown run. The Spartans needed just 56 seconds to go on their final scoring drive.
Player of the game: San Jose State QB Adam Tafralis completed 35 of 48 passes for 426 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, and ran three times for 14 yards.
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 11-21, 78 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Derrvin Speight, 22-99, 1 TD. Receiving: Kevin Robinson, 3-32
San Jose State - Passing: Adam Tafralis, 3548, 426 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jacob French, 15-74. Receiving: David Richmond, 10-180, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Where's the passing game? Utah State only got 78 yards through the air, to go along with a mere 175 rushing yards in the close loss to San Jose State. Considering the problems, there can't be any errors. Two interceptions and ten penalties proved costly, but the bigger problem was an inability to take advantage of Spartan mistakes and settling for two second quarter field goals instead of getting into the end zone. If the offense is going to struggle, every red zone chance will be precious.
Oklahoma 54 ... Utah State 3
Oklahoma blew away Utah State with 38 points at halftime thanks to three Sam Bradford touchdown passes, including two to Malcolm Kelly, and Allen Patrick tore off a 69-yard touchdown run. Utah State managed a 30-yard Peter Caldwell field goal, but only gained 153 yards and got eight first downs. OU pulled the starters early in the second half, but not before DeMarco Murray tore off a 92-yard touchdown run.
Player of the game: Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford threw for 255 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 19-of-26 passing, and ran for five yards on a pair of carries.
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 9-14, 65 yds 1 INT
Rushing: Curtis Marsh, 11-32. Receiving: Kevin Robinson, 8-38
Oklahoma - Passing: Sam Bradford, 19-26, 255 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Allen Patrick, 8-113, 1 TD. Receiving: Juaquin Iglesias, 8-123
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... There's absolutely nothing to take away from the loss to Oklahoma. Nothing worked on either side of the ball, as the Sooners were basically taking target practice. The Aggies continue to have an identity problem; it doesn't have one. It would be nice if they could do just one thing really well, but that's been a problem for a few years. The team's biggest positive is its ability to punt; Leon Jackson is having a nice year. Remember, OU might be the best team in America. It blasted Miami last week just as badly.
Wyoming 32 ... Utah State 18
Utah State went on 15-point third quarter run to take a 18-14 lead on a 38-yard De'von Hall interception return for a score and a 16-yard Kevin Robinson touchdown grab, but Wyoming rallied with 18 unanswered points as Billy Vinnedge nailed a 25-yard field goal and Wynel Seldon ran for two-one-yard runs. The Cowboy defense forced the Aggies to go 0 of 13 on third down conversions.
Player of the game: Wyoming RB Wynel Seldon ran for two scores and 85 yards on 16 carries, and had a six-yard reception.
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 17-25, 147 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Curtis Marsh, 17-61. Receiving: Curtis Marsh, 6-13
Wyoming - Passing: Karsten Sween, 19-32, 180 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Wynel Seldon, 16-85. Receiving: Greg Bolling, 6-79, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Utah State might be on an eight game losing streak and might have lost its first two games this year, but like last week in the loss to UNLV, the Wyoming game had some positives. There was more offensive balance, Leon Jackson, again, was accurate, and the defense wasn't awful. However, there still aren't enough big plays down the field, and outside of two big plays, an interception return for a score and a touchdown catch from Kevin Robinson, there was no explosiveness. Jackson had a fantastic day punting the ball averaging 46.5 yards per kick.
UNLV 23 ... Utah State 16
Frank Summer ran for an 11-yard score with just over a minute to play to get the Rebels by Utah State. Any hope for an Aggie miracle was fumbled away on the ensuing kickoff. Utah State was up 10-3 at halftime thanks to a two-yard Aaron Lesue touchdown run and a 38-yard Peter Caldwell field goal, but UNLV was able to get back in it with two of Sergio Aguayo's three field goals and a 16-yard Travis Dixon scoring run. Leon Jackson tied it with a one-yard touchdown, but the Aggies only managed 89 yards in the second half and never threatened again.
Player of the game: UNLV QB Travis Dixon completed 12 of 20 passes for 141 yards and ran 22 times for 129 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Utah State - Passing: Leon Jackson, 13-19, 137 yds
Rushing: Curtis Marsh, 13-50. Receiving: Kevin Robinson, 5-62
UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 12-20, 141 yds
Rushing: Travis Dixon, 22-129, 1 TD. Receiving: Ryan Wolfe, 6-65
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Utah State has to be able to close when it has a chance. The offense went into the tank in the second half against UNLV, but the Aggies were still in good shape and needed just one big play on either side of the ball to possibly pull off the win, but it never came. Leon Jackson was efficient throwing the ball, but he wasn't spectacular. The coaching staff has to find more ways to get the ball in the hands of Kevin Robinson. With four road games in the next five, things might be getting a lot worse before they get better.
Aug. 1 - UNLV
Offense: The Rebel Shotgun Spread has basically misfired over the first two seasons, but the potential is there for a huge turnaround. QB Rocky Hinds, a disappointment in his first season after coming over from USC, played with a torn ACL almost all season, and now he'll be healthy. He'll have a loaded receiving corps to work with led by Casey Flair and Ryan Wolfe, but all eyes will be on Aaron Straiten on the outside. The star JUCO transfer of last year has million-dollar talent, but now he needs to use it. The emergence of Frank Summers as a powerback should help out the running game, which already has speed -rusher David Peeples, but the offensive line has to do more to pave the way.
Defense: The defense struggled way too much to get a stop early in games, and it forced the offense to press way too often. Now there should be a bit of an improvement with several good returning starters and a fearsome pass rush. The ends should be terrific, and the linebackers can all move, but the emphasis going into the year will be to stop the run. Are the defenders in place to do it? That remains to be seen, but the biggest concern will be with a secondary that didn't make nearly enough plays last year, and now it doesn't have Eric Wright.
Sept. 8 – at Wyoming
Offense: The offense wasn't consistent and did nothing against the good teams (averaging 8.5 points against Boise State, New Mexico, TCU and BYU), but there's plenty of hope for a big turnaround with a good pair of backs in powerful Wynel Seldon and speedy Devin Moore, a strong receiving corps with Michael Ford, Hoost Marsh, and emerging deep threat Greg Bolling, and a great quarterback situation with three possible starters led by rising star Karsten Sween. The one issue could be the offensive line that returns just two starters and has question marks at guard.
Defense: The Cowboys had a terrific, unnoticed defensive season finishing ninth in the nation in total defense. However, it struggled at the end of year, for the second straight season, and now it has some holes to fill. The linebacking corps, with four great starters and a slew of good reserves for the 3-4, will be among the best in the league, and while there aren't any returning starters up front, they're big. Corners Julius Stinson and Michael Medina should be excellent, but the star safeties of last year have to be replaced.
Sept. 15 – at Oklahoma
Offense: If a quarterback comes through and shines, this could be the nation's most effective offense. If the offensive line isn't the best in college football, it's number two, the running backs are very fast and very talented, and the receiving corps, led by top pro prospect Malcolm Kelly, is very big and very fast. It all comes down to the quarterback battle between junior Joey Halzle and redshirt freshman Sam Bradford. Whichever one can be steady will get the plum gig with a chance to lead the loaded attack in a national title chase.
Defense: It'll be an interesting defense that has the potential to be a killer, but has some major concerns. The secondary should be among the best in America with enough size, speed, and talent to keep the NFL scouts buzzing. DeMarcus Granger is a rising superstar tackle who should combine with Gerald McCoy, Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman to stuff up everything on the inside. If the unknown ends come though with a halfway decent season, and the untested linebacking corps is nearly as good as last year's, look out.
Sept. 22 - 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.
Sept. 29 – at Utah
Offense: Look out. Utah not only gets just about everyone back with its top six wide receivers, leading rusher Darryl Poston, and four starting offensive linemen, but it also welcomes back its superstar, quarterback Brian Johnson, after taking last year off to recover from a torn ACL. All the problems with inconsistency throughout last season should be gone thanks to all the experience. Expect more explosion, a slew of Mountain West all-stars, and for Johnson to become a national college football name. There's more than enough depth at the skill positions to withstand injuries, but there's no development among the backups on the line.
Defense: There's a ton of athleticism and loads of potential, but there are also several major concerns on the line and secondary. The linebacking corps will be fine with four starting-caliber players returning led by Joe Jianonni in the middle. Martail Burnett is an all-star waiting to blow up at end, free safety Steve Tate is good for 100 tackles, and Brice McCain has the kind of speed that NFL scouts tend to drool over. Everything else is up in the air with former receiver Sean Smith trying to handle the second corner spot, no experience to count on at strong safety, and unproven new starters at tackle and the second defensive end. In the end, the D will be fine in Mountain West play because of all the talent, but it might not be good enough to win the league title if the offense struggles for a game or two.
Oct. 6 – 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.
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. 20 - 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.
Oct. 27 - 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. 3 – 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.
Nov. 10 - 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. 17 – 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.
Nov. 24 – 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.