NCF Nation: Tank Carder

Police released the names of four TCU football players among 17 TCU students arrested in a recent police drug sting.

The football players arrested are: junior linebacker Tanner Brock, junior safety Devin Johnson, junior defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and sophomore offensive tackle Tyler Horn.

Brock entered the 2011 season as a starter and one of the team's best defenders, but he hurt his ankle in September and missed the rest of the season.

In 2010, he led the team in tackles with 106 and was named an All-Mountain West performer. TCU hoped he'd be able to slide into the leadership role vacated by linebacker Tank Carder.

To state the rather obvious: Don't count on seeing these guys play in 2012. No official word on their status has come down from TCU. From Richard Durrett's report:
Three of the students were arrested on campus; 14 were arrested off-campus. Boschini said the school has never experienced a mass arrest such as this.
"I'm extremely concerned," TCU chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. said. "If one kid is involved, it's one kid too many."

The investigation began about six months ago, and the Fort Worth Police Department worked with the TCU campus police. TCU police chief Steve McGee said the students arrested Wednesday were caught in an undercover operation selling marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy and prescription drugs.

McGee says the six-month investigation was prompted by complaints from students and parents, among others.

Johnson started for the Horned Frogs this season and made 47 tackles. Yendrey made 39 tackles and earned an All-Mountain West honorable mention nod in 2011.

Brock earned All-America status after the 2010 season.

Horn was a reserve lineman.

Poinsettia Bowl: TCU vs. La. Tech

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
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After boasting the nation's top defense for three straight seasons, the TCU Horned Frogs slipped to No. 32 this season. But they've found other ways to win. The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs started the season at 1-4 and bowling shoes didn't appear to be among their wardrobe options. But a remarkable turnaround and a stingy defense in the second half of the season brings them to San Diego for a showdown with the Horned Frogs, who have won both of their previous Poinsettia Bowl appearances -- topping Northern Illinois 37-7 in 2006 and Boise State 17-16 in 2008.

Who to watch: TCU quarterback Casey Pachall was under a bright spotlight this season, filling the shoes of Andy Dalton, one of Fort Worth's most favorite sons. He's answered the call, for the most part, delivering a 24-6 touchdown to interception ratio, 2,715 yards and a 67.8 completion percentage. He's seventh in the nation in passing efficiency and is still probably riding high after his signature win over Boise State, where he threw for 473 yards and five touchdowns.

What to watch: Someone's winning streak is going to come to an end. Both teams enter the game tied for fourth with the longest win streak in the nation at seven games. Only LSU (14), Arkansas State (9) and Northern Illinois (8) have won more. The marquee matchup is TCU's offense versus Louisiana Tech's defense. WAC defensive player of the year Adrien Cole headlines a defensive group which has been outstanding during the seven game win streak, allowing 14.9 points per game and forcing 22 turnovers. Then again, TCU boasts its own conference defensive player of the year in linebacker Tank Carder, who took home the honor for the second straight year.

Why to watch: If you're a Mountain West Conference fan, you'll probably like this one. MWC teams have won five straight Poinsettia Bowls. In fact, since the game started in 2005, Colorado State is the only MWC team to lose over that stretch. If you're a Louisiana Tech fan, the fact that you are in a bowl should be exciting enough. It's the first bowl appearance for Louisiana Tech since 2008 and just the sixth in school history. A victory would give the Bulldogs their first nine-win season since 1997 when they went 9-2, but didn't get into a bowl game.

Prediction: TCU 42, La. Tech 35: Recent history suggests TCU has the edge in this game. And even though it's a "down" year for the defense, it's still one of the top units in the nation. The offense can be explosive with a talented rotation of backs and TCU has a special teams edge with Greg McCoy that could make the difference.

Season recap: TCU

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
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TCU HORNED FROGS

Record: 10-2, 7-0 MWC

The season did not exactly start the way TCU is used to, with losses in two of the first five games. It was not the offense that was a problem, but the defense, which simply gave up too many points and too many big plays in the pass game in losses to Baylor and SMU. Injuries and inexperience really hurt the defense, with key losses like Tanner Brock (injury) and safety Tejay Johnson (graduation) having an impact. But you knew with Gary Patterson, a defensive guru, performances like that would not last. TCU showed steady improvement, then pulled the upset of the season in Boise, beating the Broncos 36-35 to end their long winning streak on the blue turf.

TCU ended up winning another conference championship, reaching the 10-win mark for the fourth straight year and eighth time in the past 10 seasons under Patterson. Before Patterson arrived on campus in 1998, the Horned Frogs had just four 10-win seasons in their history.

They end their run in the Mountain West having won a record 24 straight league games, while also holding the conference mark for consecutive home league wins at 17.

Offensive MVP: Casey Pachall, QB. The big concern going into the season was how Pachall would fare in place of Andy Dalton, the school's all-time winningest quarterback. Pachall did a terrific job in his first year as a starter, going 213-of-314 for 2,715 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions. He made the All-MWC second team. Receiver Josh Boyce was outstanding as well, with 932 yards receiving and nine touchdown receptions.

Defensive MVP: Tank Carder, LB. Injuries hampered Carder's productivity at the beginning of the season, but he closed out strong and ended up winning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors for a second straight season. Carder finished with 66 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, and returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

Turning point: Beating Boise State 36-35. Coach Gary Patterson gambled and went for 2 late in the game, playing for the win rather than the tie. Pachall found Josh Boyce in the end zone for the conversion with 1:05 remaining. The Broncos marched down the field and got into field goal range, but Dan Goodale missed a 39-yard field goal at the gun. The victory allowed TCU to win its third straight Mountain West Conference championship in its final year in the league.

What’s next: TCU was hoping to get an automatic selection into the BCS but failed to finish in the top 16 of the final standings. So it's off to the Poinsettia Bowl against WAC champion Louisiana Tech, then a move to the Big 12 Conference for the 2012 season. There is so much young talent on this team, it will be interesting to see how the Horned Frogs fare in their first year in an AQ conference.

Moore leads MWC awards

December, 6, 2011
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Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, the league announced Tuesday.

The other award recipients:
  • Defensive Player of the Year: TCU linebacker Tank Carder
  • Special Teams Player of the Year: TCU kick retrner Greg McCoy
  • Freshman of the Year: Wyoming QB Brett Smith
  • Coach of the Year: Wyoming coach Dave Christensen

Moore completed 300 of 405 passes for 3,507 yards and 41 touchdowns this season, setting Boise State and Mountain West single-season records in completions and touchdowns. His completion percentage (.741) is also the highest single-season mark in program history.

Carder becomes the fourth player in league history to win back-to-back Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors, after making 66 tackles and recording two interceptions.

McCoy gives TCU three straight special teams player of the year honors. He leads the MWC and ranks fourth nationally with a kick return average of 31.6, and has two kick returns for touchdowns this season.

Smith set a new Mountain West freshman single-season record with 3,140 yards of total offense, surpassing former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton (2,691 yards in 2007).

Christensen led Wyoming to an 8-4 regular season, improving on a 3-9 season in 2010. The Cowboys' five conference wins also ties a program record.

Here are the first-team selections:

Offense

QB: Kellen Moore, Boise State

WR: Josh Boyce, TCU

WR: Tyler Shoemaker, Boise State

RB: Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State

RB: Doug Martin, Boise State

TE: Gavin Escobar, San Diego State

OL: Kyle Dooley , TCU

OL: Tommie Draheim, San Diego State

OL: Blaize Foltz, TCU

OL: Nate Potter, Boise State

OL: A. J. Wallerstein, Air Force

PK: Parker Herrington, Air Force

PR/KR: Greg McCoy, TCU

Defense

DL: Nordly Capi, Colorado State

DL: Tyrone Crawford, Boise State

DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU

DL: Shea McClellin, Boise State

LB: Miles Burris, San Diego State

LB: Tank Carder, TCU

LB: Carmen Messina, New Mexico

DB: Jon Davis, Air Force

DB: George Iloka, Boise State

DB: Leon McFadden, San Diego State

DB: Larry Parker, San Diego State

P: Brian Stahovich, San Diego State

Final: TCU 56, UNLV 9

December, 3, 2011
12/03/11
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Well look who has a shot at making a BCS game.

Some of the pieces started to fall into place for TCU to make it to a third straight BCS game Saturday. That's right, the same TCU team that started the season 3-2 with major questions on defense, generally the strongest part of the team.

But No. 18 TCU (10-2, 7-0) closed the season with seven straight victories, ending with a 56-9 win over UNLV. That clinched the Horned Frogs' third straight outright Mountain West championship in their final year in the league. The big news of the day, though, was No. 6 Houston losing to Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game.

That opened the door for TCU to potentially get an automatic spot into the BCS. If TCU can move up two spots into the Top 16 and finish ahead of the Big East champion, the Horned Frogs are guaranteed a spot in a BCS game. They also have to finish higher than No. 24 Southern Miss, which beat Houston. It is almost certain the Horned Frogs will finish ahead of West Virginia in the final BCS standings to be revealed Sunday night. What is uncertain is whether they will jump up two spots into the Top 16.

If that does happen, you have to give coach Gary Patterson a tremendous amount of credit for getting his team back onto the big stage. They opened the season without star quarterback Andy Dalton and took a 50-48 loss to Baylor to open the season, giving up over 500 yards of total offense.

The Horned Frogs also dropped a game to SMU 40-33 in overtime. TCU was ranked No. 103 in total defense after the first three weeks of the season. But things began to come together as this unit grew up. It had several young players, especially in the back end. Tank Carder struggled through injuries and finally started to play like himself midway through the season.

The big win, of course, was a 36-35 victory over Boise State -- a game that allowed TCU to climb back into the BCS standings and win the Mountain West. Now the Horned Frogs must wait and see what their bowl fate holds for them.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 21, 2011
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Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference:

C-USA

Offense: G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa. Kinne went 21-of-27 for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another in a 57-28 win over UTEP.

Defense: Sammy Brown, LB, Houston. Brown had 10 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and three sacks in a 37-7 win over SMU.

Special teams: Chris Boswell, K, Rice. Boswell made a pair of field goals that went over 50 yards in a 19-7 win over Tulane. His first field goal was a career-best 54-yarder, and he added a 51-yarder in the third quarter.

Independent

Offense: Jake Heaps, QB, BYU. Heaps returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 30 and led BYU to a 42-7 home win over New Mexico State, going 21-of-36 for 238 yards and a career high-tying four touchdowns.

Defense: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. Te'o had a team-high 12 tackles in a 16-14 win over Boston College. He added three quarterback hurries.

Special teams: David Ruffer, K, Notre Dame. Ruffer kicked field goals of 40, 41 and 27 yards against Boston College. He has made eight consecutive field goals dating back to a win over Purdue on Oct. 1, and has made 47 straight extra points.

MAC

East Division

Offense: Branden Oliver, RB, Buffalo. Oliver set the school FBS record with a career-high 235 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns in a 51-10 win over Akron. His performance broke the record set by James Starks (231 against Toledo in 2007).

Defense: Stephen Johnson, LB, Temple. Johnson had a career-high 16 tackles, including a career-best eight solo stops, in a 42-14 win over Army.

Special Teams: Matt Weller, K, Ohio. Weller kicked he game-winning field goal from 23 yards, giving Ohio a 29-28 victory over Bowling Green and the MAC East title. The game-winning field goal was his school record fifth in the game.

West Division

Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish broke the school record for total offense in a game with 519 total yards in a 31-28 win over Ball State. His 519 yards of total offense is tied for third most by any player in FBS this season.

Defense: Drew Nowak, DL, Western Michigan. Nowak had a career-high 2.5 sacks and as many tackles for loss in a 24-21 win at Miami. Nowak leads the team with 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks on the season.

Special Teams: Demarius Reed, KR, Eastern Michigan. Reed returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown at Kent State for the first time in his career. It was the longest return by an Eastern Michigan player since 2002. Additionally, Reed’s return surpassed the entire season punt return yards total for any player during the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 season.

Mountain West

Offense: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming. Smith accounted for 352 of his team’s 462 yards of total offense in a 31-10 victory over New Mexico. He had a career-high 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and threw for 212 yards and a touchdown.

Defense: Tank Carder, LB, TCU. Carder returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and tied a season-high with nine tackles (one for loss) in a 34-10 win over Colorado State.

Special teams: Ross Evans, K, TCU. Evans accounted for 10 points (four extra points, two field goals) in a 34-10 victory against Colorado State. His two field goals of 21 and 46 yards gave him 55 for his career, moving him past BYU’s Matt Payne (54, 2001-04) into second place on the conference career chart.

Sun Belt

Offense: Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for a season-high 214 yards and a touchdown against North Texas, helping the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible. He also caught four passes for 48 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown reception to finish with 262 all-purpose yards.

Defense: Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU. Cyprien had nine tackles, five of them unassisted, and one interception return for a touchdown in a 28-17 win over ULM.

Special teams: Luther Ambrose, KR, ULM. Ambrose had a 98-yard kickoff return for touchdown against FIU, moving into second place in Sun Belt history with his third career kickoff return for a touchdown.

WAC

Offense: Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State. Turbin ran for a career-high 208 yards and three touchdowns in Utah State’s 49-42 double overtime win at Idaho. Two of his touchdown runs came in the overtime periods and the other was on an 80-yard run in the second quarter.

Defense: Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Recorded a career-high 17 tackles (15 solo) in a 24-20 win at Nevada, ending the Wolf Pack’s 16-game home winning streak.

Special teams: Jens Alvernik, K, San Jose State. Alvernik hit two field goals from 44 and 23 yards to help San Jose State beat Navy, 27-24. He now has 16 field goals on the season, tying the school record.

Midseason report: TCU

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
10:00
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TCU HORNED FROGS

Record: 4-2 (2-0, MWC)

The Horned Frogs had a banner year in 2010, winning the Rose Bowl and finishing undefeated. But they knew there were some challenges ahead, having to replace quarterback Andy Dalton and several key players on defense, including safety Tejay Johnson. The offense has not been the problem. It has been the defense that has had some issues to work through, which is uncharacteristic for a Gary Patterson-coached team. TCU ranks No. 69 in the nation in total defense, on pace to be the worst since ranking No. 99 in 2004. This is a group that finished the last three seasons ranked No. 1. But the Horned Frogs have been hurt by the loss of starting linebacker Tanner Brock and an inexperienced secondary. In losses to SMU and Baylor, TCU put itself in position to win after giving up huge leads. But the defense could not hold long enough for the Horned Frogs to prevail. Patterson says the unit is getting better, and the biggest challenge left remains its game at Boise State on Nov. 12. Meanwhile, Casey Pachall has done a fine job replacing Dalton. The rushing game also has proved to be invaluable thanks to its quality depth. TCU is averaging 209.7 yards a game on the ground. Ed Wesley has been banged-up, so Waymon James has taken on a bigger role, rushing for 398 yards and two scores while Matthew Tucker has seven rushing touchdowns. Josh Boyce is on pace for a 1,000-yard receiving season, with 580 yards and five touchdowns. But no matter what has happened on the field this season, perhaps the biggest story has been off the field, where TCU is now set to join the Big 12 for 2012. The Horned Frogs spurned the Big East for an opportunity to stay closer to home, its years of BCS busting paying off in a big way.

Offensive MVP: QB Casey Pachall. There are plenty of candidates here, with James and Boyce having great seasons, too. But questions about Pachall have been answered with his play so far -- going 118-of-171 for 1,391 yards with 15 touchdowns to just four interceptions.

Defensive MVP: DE Stansly Maponga. Patterson has repeatedly praised Maponga for his strong play this season. Maponga leads the team with 4.5 sacks, and he also has forced four fumbles and recovered one. Linebacker Tank Carder has not quite been 100 percent but he is nearly there.

TCU defense under fire

October, 5, 2011
10/05/11
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TCU coach Gary Patterson is sticking behind his embattled defense, no matter what.

Perhaps in an attempt to shift the focus away from another sub-par performance, Patterson ripped SMU for the way it behaved after its win last week, along with C-USA officiating during his weekly news conference and his appearance on the Mountain West coaches' call.

When asked specifically about the youth on his defense during the call Tuesday, Patterson said, "To be honest with you, the group I was most unhappy with was the officials. ... They changed the complexion of the whole football game with about five or six calls. I understand why I left Conference USA. SMU did a great job, they won. But I can tell you this, they had a lot of help."

Patterson cited an interception from Jason Verrett on the first drive that was called off because of a pass interference penalty. SMU ended up scoring on the drive. He also has various other examples of calls that went against his team in a 40-33 overtime loss.

But the fact remains that TCU is having major problems on defense, specifically against the pass. TCU has given up 40-plus points twice already this season -- unheard of for a Patterson-coached team. In both losses, the Horned Frogs have fallen into deep holes, only to rally and then have their defense let them down in the end.

A defense that finished No. 1 in the nation for three straight years now ranks No. 90. One big reason for the struggles are new players in the secondary. But another has been the loss of Tanner Brock, a veteran linebacker out for the season with a foot injury.

"It was a big loss for us," Patterson said. "The strength of the defense coming back was four out of our six front guys, Tank [Carder] is starting to play better, but losing [Brock] you lost a lot of experience."

The Horned Frogs play at San Diego State on Saturday. Though they have never lost to the Aztecs, San Diego State put quite a scare into them last season, fighting back from a 40-21 fourth-quarter deficit only to come up short 40-35. They held an early 14-0 lead in that game before allowing TCU to score 34 unanswered points.

The big difference this year is the Aztecs do not have a proven set of receivers. Of the eight players who have caught passes this season, three are receivers. They have relied on Ronnie Hillman to catch passes out of the backfield, and their tight ends as well. Colin Lockett and Dylan Denso have emerged as the top two wideouts, but there is not much consistency in that group and no real deep threat.

Hillman, one of the top rushers in the nation, had only 54 yards last season against TCU. Given the way some teams have been able to pass on TCU, this could be an opportunity for the Aztecs to open up the deep passing game.

But Patterson insists his group is getting better.

"It's not going the way we want to. The most amazing thing is we've been able to fight back, with a little bit of luck we could be 5-0 but we're not. You have to understand you have to be ready to play. We've got to get ready."

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

September, 26, 2011
9/26/11
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Let's take a look at back at Week 4 for the non-AQs:

The good: How about a hand for Temple and Southern Miss, two non-AQ teams that took down the ACC on Saturday. The Owls dominated Maryland 34-7, and took particular pleasure in the win after hearing some trash talk from the Terps players before the victory. Temple has been impressive since the outset of the season, and nearly upset Penn State last week, too. Coach Steve Addazio has done a terrific job in his first year taking over the program. … Meanwhile, Southern Miss beat Virginia 30-24 -- its first road win over an AQ school on the road in five tries. … San Jose State ended a 13-game losing streak and notched its first conference win since defeating New Mexico State 13-10 on Nov. 28, 2009.

The bad:It was not a great day for the Mountain West. San Diego State was supposed to give Michigan a fight but instead lost 28-7 against former coach Brady Hoke. UNLV, a week removed from beaten Hawaii, lost at home to Southern Utah 41-16. Incredibly, Southern Utah returned three interceptions for touchdowns. New Mexico lost to Sam Houston State in overtime, 48-45. Just before kickoff, a teenager claiming to be a recruit was arrested on DWI charges in Mike Locksley’s car. Finally fed up with Locksley, New Mexico fired him Sunday afternoon. In two-plus seasons, Locksley went 2-26 and the program became a national laughingstock. To Lobos fans, this probably should go into the “good” category because they can now get the fresh start they have so desperately wanted.

UCF has got to fix its special teams. For the second straight week, that unit cost them, this time in a 24-17 loss to BYU. The Knights allowed Cody Hoffman to score on a 93-yard kickoff return, and a muffed punt by J.J. Worton set up another score. Last week against FIU, UCF also had a muffed punt that led to a touchdown and the Knights lost 17-10.

The heartbreak: The WAC had the toughest day of all the conferences in the hurting department. Two teams lost in overtime, and another with 44 seconds left in the game.

We start with Utah State. The Aggies have got to have their collective heart in pieces at this point. The closing minutes against Auburn doomed the Aggies thanks to a special teams error. The same can be said of their loss to Colorado State on Saturday night. Utah State saw its 21-13 lead evaporate after Eric Moats dropped a punt with 2:17 to play. Colorado State recovered and Chris Nwoke scored on a 1-yard run with 42 seconds left. The Rams got the 2-point conversion to send the game into overtime. The teams traded touchdowns in the first two extra periods. But Utah State decided to go for 2 in the second overtime to win the game. Robert Turbin was stopped short and Colorado State won 35-34. "The reason we went for 2 is because I believe in the team," coach Gary Andersen said afterward. "I believe we can score from the 3-yard line at any time and I surely believe we can score from the 1.5 yard line. I would do it again in one second. I’m always going to coach aggressive."

Louisiana Tech must know the feeling. Two weeks in a row the Bulldogs have come close to pulling the upset. Two weeks in a row they fell just short. Last week they blew a huge lead to Houston. This week, they did not have enough to take down Mississippi State. Freshman quarterback Nick Isham threw two critical interceptions -- one late in the game, and one in overtime -- that made a huge difference in the 26-20 loss.

Nevada has not played particularly well this season, but that looked like it was about to change at Texas Tech. The Wolf Pack built a 28-14 third-quarter lead, and Cody Fajardo seemed to provide a nice spark off the bench. But the defense -- which was supposed to be a strength this year -- collapsed and the Red Raiders scored with 44 seconds left when Seth Doege threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Eric Ward for the 35-34 win.

But nothing beats the case Toledo has. The Rockets had a win snatched from them thanks to a mistake by the officials in a 33-30 overtime loss to Syracuse. The school has asked the MAC to contact the Big East and request the win be given to the Rockets.

Injury report: TCU lost starting linebacker Tanner Brock for the season with a foot injury. The Horned Frogs will petition for a medical redshirt. TCU has shifted Tank Carder to the outside. … Air Force suffered injuries to starting linemen Zach Payne (knee) and Cody Miller (leg). … UAB quarterback Bryan Ellis suffered a concussion against East Carolina and was taken off the field on a backboard in a 28-23 loss.

Keenum watch: Case Keenum threw for 415 yards and two touchdowns in just two and a half quarters of play, and Houston recorded its first shutout since 1999 in a 56-0 rout of Georgia State on Saturday. He passed passed former BYU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer for third on the NCAA all-time passing yardage list, and passed former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell for third on the NCAA career total offense list.

Helmet stickers

Brandon Rutley, RB, San Jose State. Rutley had 209 yards rushing on 33 carries -- including a career-long 66 yard scoring run -- in a 34-24 win over New Mexico State. It was the first 100-plus yard rushing game of his career, and he became the first San Jose State player to rush for 200 or more yards since the 2004 season.

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Miss. Davis finished 27 for 41 for 313 yards with no interceptions in a 30-24 win over Virginia. He threw touchdown passes of 32 and 3 yards to Bolden and a 20-yarder to Ryan Balentine.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple. Pierce set a school record with five rushing touchdowns in a 38-7 win over Maryland. Pierce had 149 yards on 32 carries.

Deon Long, New Mexico. Long had nine receptions for 209 yards and caught three touchdown passes, and returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in a loss to Sam Houston State. His 378 all-purpose yards set a school and Mountain West record.

Blaine Gautier, QB, Louisiana. Gautier, making just his fourth career start, led the Cajuns to a stunning 36-31 upset at FIU. Gautier guided the team to a season-high 419 yards of total offense and did not commit a turnover. He totaled 307 yards (221 passing/86 rushing) and tossed three touchdown passes.

Halftime analysis: Baylor 34, TCU 23

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
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WACO, Texas -- Some instant analysis from a dizzyingly entertaining first half that more closely resembled a tennis match. Outstanding.

Turning point: Baylor's opening drive. The Bears announced very early that they would be moving the ball consistently with a six-play, 72-yard drive that featured two carries for 19 yards from Terrance Ganaway and was capped by a double pass from Robert Griffin III to Kendall Wright to Terrance Williams for a 40-yard touchdown. This would not be a repeat of the 2010 game.

Stat of the half: TCU and Baylor traded scores on six consecutive drives in the first half, combining for 57 points in the first 30 minutes. Last year's game featured just 55 points, and the over/under for tonight's game was 52 points.

Best player in the half: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. Wright has nine catches for 168 yards, including an acrobatic 36-yarder to set up the Bears' final touchdown of the half and a 35-yard touchdown along the right sideline to put Baylor ahead early. He has two touchdown catches and threw another.

Best call: Called it. Baylor wanted to make a splash early, and did exactly that. On the opening drive, Art Briles called a double pass and it worked to perfection.

What Baylor needs to do: Keep getting stops when it needs them, like a crucial fourth down in its own territory with TCU charging late in the first half. The offense looks like it may score at will and is headed for 50, so the defense doesn't need to be great, but TCU's offense can hang with the Bears.

What TCU needs to do: Find a way to slow down the Bears offense. The young secondary is getting torched everywhere, and linebackers Tanner Brock and Tank Carder have been unable to slow Baylor's 240-pound bowling ball, Terrance Ganaway, who has 105 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. The Horned Frogs can get blown out if that continues in the second half with Baylor needing to control the clock.

TCU ready for motivated Baylor

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
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TCU receiver Josh Boyce knows how badly Baylor wants to take down the Horned Frogs on Friday night.

He and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III played together in high school, and the two traded texts throughout the summer about the season opener for both teams. Baylor was embarrassed 45-10 last season, and Griffin was totally stymied in the game, going 16-of-28 for 164 yards while gaining just 21 on the ground.

"We know there will be a lot of motivation from them," Boyce said.

[+] EnlargeAntoine Hicks and Ed Wesley
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezThe Horned Frogs trounced the Bears 45-10 in last season's meeting in Fort Worth.
TCU should be just as motivated. The No. 14 Horned Frogs are going into their final season in the Mountain West with their share of doubters, after losing Andy Dalton and several other key players to graduation. This is the first time since the 2006 season that TCU will play a game without Dalton, who guided TCU to 25 straight regular-season wins.

In fact, TCU has the second-longest winning streak in the nation at 13 games and the longest road winning streak in the nation at 11 going into the opener. But the Horned Frogs face a doozy of a challenge to open the season. Not only will they be facing what should be an improved Baylor team on the road, they then have to travel to Air Force, which always presents a challenge because of its unique ground attack.

"For us, like any team, the first game of the season is always the toughest -- especially when you go in with a new quarterback," coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday. "We have quite a challenge ahead of us in the first two weeks. We've been talking about it since January as a football team: What do we need to do to get where we need to get to? Now that time is getting a lot closer."

Casey Pachall takes over for Dalton at quarterback. Though he missed a few days during fall camp with a sore shoulder, Pachall is ready to take over on offense. But he will not be expected to do everything. TCU has a talented backfield, with Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker and Waymon James. There is talent at receiver, too, with Boyce, Antoine Hicks and Skye Dawson, and several true freshmen who could make an impact as well.

The biggest question is on the offensive line, where there are four new starters. When asked how that group has come together, Patterson said, "We'll see. Like anything else, you find out at your first ball game. We've lost four tackles to NFL camps in the last two years and we have younger guys there. That question will be answered against a really good front in Baylor."

Indeed, Patterson praised the hire of new Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and expects to see a much different group than the one from last season. Still, TCU has owned this series of late. TCU has won the last three meetings against Baylor, the longest string since a run of eight straight victories from 1964-71.

Once again, the TCU defense should be good even with several new starters. All-American Tank Carder returns at linebacker, and he was among the players who helped contain Griffin last season.

"I’m pretty confident they’re going to come out with a chip on their shoulder," Carder said. "They’re going to be ready to go."

So will TCU.

Three predictions for MWC

August, 24, 2011
8/24/11
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As I look into my crystal ball, here are three predictions for the Mountain West:

1. Boise State will win the Mountain West. I am going with the Broncos to win the league based on Kellen Moore and all their returning talent. I know there are some questions at receiver, but I have faith that Moore is an excellent teacher and has helped in their development this summer and during fall camp. Tyler Shoemaker, Chris Potter, Kirby Moore and Geraldo Boldewijn all have played, but now they have added responsibility. Do not be surprised to see Boise State spread the ball around more. Last season, Titus Young and Austin Pettis each had 71 catches. Shoemaker was next on the list with 32. That type of discrepancy should not happen again in 2011.

2. TCU will not lead the nation in total defense. This is a tough prediction to make, considering the Horned Frogs have led the nation in this category for three straight seasons. Coach Gary Patterson has talked about the potential for this to be his best unit yet. He has a strong defensive front and linebacker group, led by All-American Tank Carder. But there are questions in the back end of the defense, especially with Tejay Johnson gone. But a bigger factor is the offense. I think this unit could take a step back without Andy Dalton, and that will have a direct impact on defensive statistics. Without an offense that averages north of 40 points, the defense might find tougher sledding.

3. Colorado State will make a bowl game. The Rams have a bevy of starters returning, including quarterback Pete Thomas, who took his share of lumps as a true freshman last season but showed signs of potential. Linebacker Mychal Sisson also returns to anchor the defense after leading the nation last season with seven forced fumbles. The schedule sets up perfectly for Colorado State, too. The toughest nonconference game is Colorado, so at worst the Rams should be 3-1 in those games, meaning they need three wins in eight conference games to become bowl-eligible.

Non-AQ preseason team

August, 12, 2011
8/12/11
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Here is a look at your non-AQ preseason team. All five conferences, BYU, Army and Navy were considered.

Offense

QB Kellen Moore, Boise State

RB Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State

RB Doug Martin, Boise State

OT Nate Potter, Boise State

OT Matt Reynolds, BYU

C Scott Wedige, Northern Illinois

OG Chris Barker, Nevada

OG Braden Hansen, BYU

TE Ladarius Green, Louisiana

WR Damaris Johnson, Tulsa

WR Patrick Edwards, Houston

Defense

DE Vinny Curry, Marshall

DE Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy

DT Logan Harrell, Fresno State

DT Billy Winn, Boise State

LB Tank Carder, TCU

LB Corey Paredes, Hawaii

LB Tanner Brock, TCU

CB Josh Robinson, UCF

CB Leon McFadden, San Diego State

S Marco Nelson, Tulsa

S George Iloka, Boise State

Specialists

K Danny Hrapmann, Southern Miss

P Brian Stahovich, San Diego State

KR T.Y. Hilton, FIU

PR Eric Page, Toledo
By now, we have come to expect to see Boise State and TCU in the Top 25 every season. So when the preseason USA Today coaches Top 25 was released Thursday, the top non-AQ teams were right there in the top 15.

The Broncos will start the season ranked No. 7, while TCU is ranked No. 15. Boise State returns Heisman Trophy finalist Kellen Moore, along with Doug Martin, Nate Potter, Billy Winn, Shea McClellin and George Iloka, and expectations are high once again to return to a BCS game.

TCU, meanwhile, loses Andy Dalton off its Rose Bowl-winning team, which is why the Horned Frogs are outside the top 10.

Both teams open up their fall camps Thursday, so let us take a look at a few of the burning questions that they face.

Boise State

1. Developing depth. No question the Broncos have some big-time senior players in Moore, Martin, McClellin and Iloka. In fact, 15 projected starters are seniors. That means Boise State has to develop its young players, something coach Chris Petersen emphasized at Mountain West media day in July. "We have some players that have played a lot of football that are very good players, and then we’ve got a big gap to some young guys that haven’t played and need the experience and need the knowledge," Petersen said. "On our team right now, I think it’s fairly wide. Our job as coaches is to narrow that gap."

2. Developing receivers. Petersen and Moore both emphasized they are not worried about their receiving group. Rather than relying heavily on two players the way they did the past few seasons with Titus Young and Austin Pettis, you will see more players involved. That means Tyler Shoemaker, Chris Potter, Kirby Moore, Mitch Burroughs, Aaron Burks and Geraldo Boldewijn (formerly Hiwat) will have expanded roles. True freshman Troy Ware had a nice spring and could contribute as well.

3. The kicker is ... Kyle Brotzman is gone, leaving a bit of inexperience at the kicker position. The Broncos have scholarship true freshman Jake Van Ginkel, who will practice for the first time this fall, along with walk-ons Dan Goodale and Michael Frisina.

TCU

1. Casey Pachall era begins. Much has been written about how Pachall will do in replacing Dalton. Pachall has heard all of it. "I am ready," Pachall said at a news conference earlier this week. "I am ready to be the guy that everybody looks to when things are good or bad. [The comparison to Dalton] doesn't bother me. It just gives me incentive and a little bit more motivation to be more of a leader and get more in that role."

2. Developing receivers. Leading receiver Josh Boyce returns, but Jeremy Kerley, Jimmy Young and Bart Johnson are gone. There is talent in Fort Worth, but much of it is unproven. It is tie for players like Antoine Hicks and Skye Dawson to step up and help Pachall get the job done. Boyce is confident in his teammates. "We've worked really hard this summer with Casey, to get our chemistry going," Boyce said. "We will be just fine."

3. Can TCU be No. 1 in total defense again? The stat is incredibly impressive -- TCU has led the nation in total defense for three straight seasons. Can TCU make it four in a row? Gary Patterson believes this unit can be even better than last season, even without defensive leader Tejay Johnson. Linebacker tandem Tanner Brock and Tank Carder return, and they should be the heart of the defense. Even with the potential, Patterson has no idea what type of identity this unit will take on. Each season, that changes. He will have a better idea once the season begins.

Andrea Adelson talks with the linebacker about the upcoming season.

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