NCF Nation: Nick Bellore

Other non-AQ bowl misses

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
4:55
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Earlier today, I had a breakdown on why Houston missed a bowl game this season. Now here is a breakdown of several other 2009 bowl teams that missed out in 2010.

Bowling Green

What happened: The Falcons had one of the youngest teams in the country going into the season and they had big shoes to fill with the departure of quarterback Tyler Sheehan and receiver Freddie Barnes. The offense struggled all season, especially the run game, which ranked last in the nation. The Falcons also lost four games by three points or fewer.

Bowling in 2011? Plenty of players return, so they should have the experience, but a big question is whether Matt Schilz can take the next step at quarterback. He already has his go-to target in Kamar Jorden.

Central Michigan

What happened: It's never easy to replace one of the best players in school history in Dan LeFevour, who led the team in rushing and passing last season. Ryan Radcliff held his own at quarterback, but threw way too many interceptions (17 TDs and 17 INTs). The Chippewas struggled to find consistency with their offensive line, failing to protect the quarterback (33 sacks allowed) or establish a decent run game. They also had problems taking care of the football, ranking as one of the worst in the country in turnover margin.

Bowling in 2011? It all depends on the development of Radcliff, and a big-time replacement for linebacker Nick Bellore.

Idaho

What happened: Quarterback Nathan Enderle may have thrown for more yards this season than last, but that is because he had way more attempts. The reason? Idaho could never get its running game going, averaging 88.5 yards a game. The offensive line was a problem because it also failed to protect Enderle -- Idaho gave up 45 sacks this season, third worst in the country. Enderle also saw his completion percentage and yards per attempt drop, and his interceptions go up (from nine to 16). The Vandals were also one of the most penalized teams in the nation.

Bowling in 2011? Leaning no. Idaho is losing Enderle and a lot of senior leadership in defensive end Aaron Lavarias, linebacker JoJo Dickson, safety Shiloh Keoh, tight end Daniel Hardy and receiver Eric Greenwood.

Marshall

What happened: Inconsistency at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the kicking game. Marshall struggled to run the ball, ranking No. 113 in the country and averaging 97.2 yards a game. Much of that was because of a young offensive line. The scoring suffered, too, as the Herd only averaged 20.8 points a game.

Bowling in 2011? Depends on what happens with the quarterback and offensive line. Brian Anderson is gone, leaving A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan as the lone returners with experience.

Temple

What happened: The Owls were bowl eligible at 8-4, but were not chosen to go bowling, thanks in part to two straight losses to close the year to Ohio and Miami (Ohio). Turnovers hurt in the loss to the Bobcats, and the offense just never showed up against the RedHawks. Leading rusher Bernard Pierce was banged up all season, though Matt Brown did a nice job filling in. The Owls also made a quarterback change midway through the season, finishing up with Mike Gerardi because Chester Stewart was too inconsistent.

Bowling in 2011? Depends on who Temple hires to replace Al Golden. There is talent here. Can the new coach continue to build on what Golden did the last two seasons?

Wyoming

What happened:A brutal schedule is what happened. After opening against Southern Utah, Wyoming played eight straight bowl teams, including nonconference games at Texas and home to Boise State. The offense took a step back, ranking No. 116 in total offense and 107 in scoring offense. Despite speculation that he may transfer, quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will return. The Cowboys also dealt with tragedy early in the year when freshman Ruben Narcisse was killed in a car accident Sept. 6.

Bowling in 2011? It is going to be close. Wyoming has an easier out of conference schedule, but it does play two FCS schools. That means the Cowboys have to get to seven wins. They get Nebraska and TCU at home, but Air Force, Boise State and San Diego State on the road.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
2:00
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Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 4.

The good: Air Force is ranked for the first time under coach Troy Calhoun, joining the AP poll at No. 25 after its big 14-6 win against Navy. There are now five non-AQ teams ranked and three in the Top 10, with Boise State at No. 4, TCU at No. 5 and Utah at No. 10.

Miami of Ohio (3-2) is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2007. The Red Hawks are one of the youngest teams in the country. Coach Mike Haywood estimates he had between 45 and 48 true freshmen, redshirt freshman and sophomores on his 65-man roster in its 27-21 win against Kent State last Saturday. “When you have a young team you don’t take anything,” Haywood said.

[+] EnlargeGary Anderson
AP Photo/Jim UrquhartCoach Gary Andersen and Utah State have reason to be excited after beating BYU.
Utah State beat BYU for the first time since 1993, and even though BYU is down, coach Gary Andersen will take it. Fans stormed the field afterward, and he said the victory is a huge boost for recruiting and fan support for the Aggies. “For us to get a win over BYU is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz keeps putting up video game numbers for the Warriors. Hawaii is No. 1 in the country in passing offense, averaging 431 yards per game. Moniz had a career-high 532 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-21 win over Louisiana Tech last Saturday. He has over 300 yards passing in all his games but the opener against USC. That is because he left the game in the third quarter with a head injury.

The bad: Meanwhile, the Cougars dropped to 1-4 for the first time since 1973, and fired defensive coordinator Jamie Hill over the weekend. Coach Bronco Mendenhall will resume his coaching duties. BYU has been unable to do anything on offense and defense this season. BYU ranks No. 96 in total offense and No. 101 in total defense. The Cougars are also last in the country in rushing defense, giving up an average of 259 yards a game. Hill told the Deseret News he was surprised the decision came in the middle of the season, but one former player said Hill had some personality conflicts with players.

None of the six non-AQ winless teams won this past weekend. Western Kentucky was idle, but Eastern Michigan, Akron, FIU, New Mexico State and New Mexico all lost.

The heartache: You have got to feel for North Texas, which played Louisiana a day after freshman walk-on wide receiver Josh Rake died from injuries sustained in a car accident. This had already been a tough season, losing 10 starters to injury. Before Rake died, receiver Tyler Stradford got hurt when he tried to run from a pit bull at his apartment complex. Stradford leaped over a fence but landed on a lawn chair and had a bar stuck four inches into his chest, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.

North Texas came back from a 28-14 fourth-quarter deficit, scoring with 31 seconds left to make it 28-27. But the extra point attempt was blocked, and Louisiana won. The Mean Green have now lost eight games by seven points or less in the last two seasons. Now comes word that starting quarterback Riley Dodge has a fractured wrist and may require surgery, the third starting quarterback to get hurt for North Texas this season. Coach Todd Dodge is now preparing Chase Blaine to start.

A few more helmet stickers: Hawaii WR Kealoha Pilares set a new school record with 18 catches against Louisiana Tech, passing the previous mark of 16 set by Greg Salas last year against New Mexico State. Pilares also finished with a career-high 217 receiving yards, the seventh best performance in school history. … Arkansas State LB Javon McKinnon recorded a career-high 16 tackles against Louisville. … Ball State DE Robert Eddins had a career-high 4.5 sacks and seven total tackles in Ball State's 31-17 win at Central Michigan.

A few injury items to note: Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury, and coach Dave Clawson sounded unsure whether his player would be able to go at Ohio on Saturday. Schilz hasn’t thrown since last Wednesday. If he can’t go this week, Clawson said he would open up the quarterback competition. Aaron Pankratz went 12-of-37 for 167 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in a loss to Buffalo. … Ohio WR LaVonn Brazill has a broken hand and is out. … Central Michigan linebacker Nick Bellore (ankle) is day to day. ... Utah State RB Michael Smith (turf toe) is out indefinitely and Andersen said he would see whether Smith is eligible for a medical redshirt.

Week 6 look ahead: Plenty of big conference games this week. It starts Tuesday night with Troy at Middle Tennessee in the return of Blue Raiders quarterback Dwight Dasher. On Wednesday, UAB travels to UCF. The Blazers have had three of their games come down to the final play, losing two. Big MAC showdown between Temple and Northern Illinois. San Diego State travels to BYU, and there also is the winless bowl: New Mexico against New Mexico State. Someone has to win. Right?
Here are your non-AQ conference players of the week:

Conference USA

Offense: East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. He threw for a career-high 383 yards and five touchdowns, along with the 33-yard Hail Mary to Justin Jones in the end zone as time ran out to give the Pirates a 51-49 win over Tulsa. Davis also scored once on the ground. The five passing touchdowns were the most by an East Carolina quarterback since Jeff Blake threw five against Southern Miss on Nov. 9, 1991.

Defense: Tulane LB Trent Mackey. The transfer from Duke made his first career start for Tulane and made a career and game-high 13 tackles, including two stops for minus-8 yards and also forced a fumble against Southeastern Louisiana.

Special teams: SMU K/P Matt Szymanski, who made a school-record 61-yard field goal at Texas Tech. The 61-yarder is the second-longest in C-USA history. He also had a 49.3-yard punt average, the second-highest single-game average of his career.

MAC, East Division

Offense: Kent State QB Spencer Keith. He threw a career-high three touchdown passes and went 24-for-35 for 275 yards in a 41-10 win over Murray State.

Defense: Bowling Green DB Keith Morgan. The junior finished second on the team with 11 tackles and added an interception in the Falcons' 30-27 loss at Troy.

Special teams: Temple K Brandon McManus. The sophomore made a career-high four field goals in a 31-24 win over Villanova, including the game-winning 43-yarder with 3 seconds remaining. He also added a career-long 53-yard field goal, the second-longest field goal in school history.

West Division

Offense: Eastern Michigan RB Dwayne Priest. Ran for a career-best 142 yards on 26 rushes and scored two touchdowns.

Defense: Central Michigan LB Nick Bellore. Had a team-high 11 tackles and one tackle for loss in a 33-0 win over Hampton.

Special teams: Western Michigan P Ben Armer. Averaged 40.9 yards a punt at Michigan State, including a career-matching long 62-yard punt. He also had two punts inside the 20, including one that hit at the 1-yard line and was downed at the 2.

Mountain West

Offense: Utah WR DeVonte Christopher. Caught eight passes for 155 yards and a touchdown to lead Utah to a 27-24 overtime victory over No. 15 Pittsburgh. Christopher had never caught a pass at Utah until Thursday’s game.

Defense: Utah SS Brian Blechen. The true freshman's interception of Tino Sunseri on the first play of overtime helped Utah beat Pittsburgh.

Special teams: BYU P/K Riley Stephenson. Three of his punts landed inside the 15-yard line against Washington. Three of his five kickoffs landed inside the 20.

Sun Belt

Offense: FAU WR Lester Jean. Had two touchdown catches, including a one-handed reception over the top of his head that went 77 yards against UAB.

Defense: Arkansas State DB M.D. Jennings. Had a team-high 11 tackles, career-high 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack, while also forcing one fumble and recovering another against Auburn.

Special teams: FAU DL Michael Lockley. Blocked UAB's 28-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game to give FAU a 32-31 win.

Note: The WAC will announce its players of the week Tuesday, following the Boise State-Virginia Tech game on Monday night.
No. 11: Nick Bellore, LB, Central Michigan

2009 numbers: Led the Chippewas with 132 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. He also had three sacks and two interceptions.

Making the case for Bellore: Bellore, who is heading into his senior season, is the defensive mainstay for the Chippewas and one of the top linebackers in the Mid-American Conference. He’s been the conference’s first-team linebacker each of the past two seasons and led the Chippewas in tackles each of those seasons. Bellore will be relied upon heavily this year as the Chippewas navigate through a season with a new head coach and without several key players who have helped the team win conference titles. Look for Bellore to lead the team in tackles for a third consecutive season and to be one of the most effective linebackers in the country.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS (6-1, 4-0 MAC)

Central Michigan lost its season opener to Arizona and hasn’t lost a game since. The Chippewas are off to their best start since 1984 and their 4-0 start to the Mid-American Conference schedule has given them the inside track to nab their third conference title in the past four seasons. Coach Butch Jones attributes the strong start to his 13 seniors, who were so dismayed with the way the Chippewas finished 2008 that they vowed for a better performance in 2009. And currently, there’s not a team remaining on the schedule that seems to be able to stand in the Chippewas' way.

Offensive MVP

Dan LeFevour, QB: After being hampered by injuries most of last season, LeFevour seems to be back to the dual-threat quarterbacking style that earned him both conference freshman of the year and offensive player of the year honors his first two seasons in the league. LeFevour has thrown for 1,549 yards and rushed for 395 yards. But his most impressive stat is that he’s accounted for 23 total touchdowns.

Defensive MVP

Nick Bellore, LB: There’s been no player more important to CMU’s defensive turnaround than Bellore, who leads the team in tackles (68), tackles for loss (8.5), sacks (3) and interceptions (1). Bellore has helped CMU turn its defense from one of the worst in the country to one of the most dominant allowing just 15.86 points per game.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson


Central Michigan linebacker Nick Bellore called the team’s defense the missing piece.

 
 Leon Halip/Getty Images
 Central Michigan's defense ranks 26th nationally in total defense and 15th in scoring defense.
For the past two seasons, the Chippewas defense has ranked in the 100s nationally in total defense and put a lot of pressure on the offense to continually perform at a high level. It’s been beaten up and criticized and this spring the Chippewas said enough was enough.

With the entire defensive corps healthy, CMU made a conscientious decision to play better defense this season and help the team win its third MAC championship in the past four seasons.

“It’s nice to finally be playing good defense around here,” Bellore said. “We got guys healthy and it makes things easier for us … I thought we always played hard, we just weren’t playing smart. I think that’s one thing we’ve gotten corrected this year that’s really helped the turnaround.”

CMU ranks 26th nationally in total defense, allowing 297.33 yards per game, and 15th nationally in scoring defense with just 14.67 points allowed per game. The most points the CMU defense has allowed this season was in a 29-27 win over Michigan State.

The Chippewas have worked on tackling and are no longer allowing receivers to slip through their fingers for extra yards and scores like they did so many times a year ago.

While the Chippewas' numbers have been good all season, they know they’ll have some pretty big challenges in MAC play starting with this weekend’s game against Western Michigan.

The Broncos are a mixed bag this season. One week they’re getting blown out by Northern Illinois and the next they’re blowing out Toledo. Western Michigan has one of the best passing offenses the Chippewas have seen this season. The other two were Michigan State and Buffalo and those offenses managed 215 and 210 yards, respectively. Western Michigan is averaging 257.50 ypg.

Coach Butch Jones said he’s been happy with the team’s defensive progress this season and he’s eager to see how it plays out against Western Michigan this week and Bowling Green next week. Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan put up 505 passing yards against Kent State last week and receiver Freddie Barnes had 22 catches for 278 yards and three touchdowns.

Jones said the difference in his defense this year has been continuity. He said last year the defense played with seven different starting lineups, but this year, the Chippewas haven’t had any major injuries and the defense has started to form the chemistry that was missing a year ago.

“We’re still a work in progress,” Jones said. “Right now, I like the direction that we’ve been heading and I think we’ve been able to get better and better week in and week out. We have great leadership on the side of the ball right now and the kids have great expectations for themselves and they’re holding each other accountable. So, I think that’s been one of the big things in our development as a defense.”

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