Preseason Football Notebook

Go C-USA! DeAndre Brown
DeAndre Brown

Aug. 26, 2010

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The 2010 Conference USA football season gets underway on Thursday, September 2 with four games, including two nationally-televised contests. Southern Miss travels to South Carolina for an ESPN game that kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET. Marshall makes the short trip to Columbus to face No. 2 Ohio State on the Big Ten Network, beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. Tulane hosts local foe Southeastern Louisiana at the Superdome that night, while UAB welcomes Florida Atlantic to Legion Field.

C-USA will have six nationally-televised games on opening weekend. In addition to the two on Thursday night, Rice will host No. 4 Texas (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) and Memphis visits Mississippi State (7 p.m. ET on ESPN U) on Saturday, Tulsa and East Carolina play the first league game (2 p.m. ET, ESPN 2) and SMU travels to Texas Tech (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) on Sunday.

Quick Hits
Conference USA will have six nationally-televised games on opening weekend (sept. 2-5), with two each on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Overall, more than 50 C-USA football games are scheduled to be televised nationally or regionally in 2010....Three C-USA coaches make their head coaching debuts on opening weekend, including two at their alma maters. Larry Porter of Memphis and Ruffin McNeill of East Carolina both played collegiately at those schools, while Marshall first-year head coach Doc Holliday is a native of Hurricane, W.Va....Conference USA has posted a win over a top 10 team in each of the last two Septembers. This year, C-USA faces four teams ranked in the preseason top 10: No. 2 Ohio State (Marshall on Sept. 2), No. 4 Texas (Rice on Sept. 4), No. 6 Virginia Tech (East Carolina on Sept. 18), and No. 7 TCU (SMU on Sept. 24).....Houston's James Cleveland (1,214), Tyron Carrier (1,029) and Patrick Edwards (1,021) became the second trio in C-USA history and fourth in FBS annals to each have 1,000 yards in a season. Tulsa had three players with 1,000 yards receiving in 2007....Tulsa senior WR/RS Damaris Johnson led all FBS players in all-purpose yardage last season with 2,693, an average of 224.4 per game....UTEP senior RB Donald Buckram is the nation's leading returning rusher after running for a school-record 1,594 yards in 2009....UCF senior DE Bruce Miller leads all returning FBS players in sacks (44) and TFL's (44).

East Carolina Pirates
The Pirates will open the 2010 season in front of a national television audience on Sunday, September 5 when they host Tulsa on ESPN 2. The game will be the first league game in Conference USA in 2010. The opener will feature several debuts for East Carolina football. The game will be the first played at the newly-expanded Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. A new addition to the south end zone will increase the seating capacity to 50,000. It will mark the debut of coach Ruffin McNeill, who begins his first head coaching position for his alma mater. The Pirate offense will look completely different as well, with McNeill and new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley installing Texas Tech's "Air Raid" offensive system.

Houston Cougars
The Cougars will look to begin building on their 2009 West Division Championship when they open the 2010 season by hosting Texas State on Saturday, September 4. Heisman Trophy Candidate Case Keenum will lead the dynamic Houston offense for a fourth-straight season. After becoming just the second QB in NCAA history to throw for at least 5,000 yards, he enters his senior year needing 4,167 yards to become the all-time passing yardage leader in FBS history. Keenum has three 1,000-yard receivers returning this fall in senior James Cleveland (104 rec., 1,214 yds, 14 TD) and juniors Tyron Carrier (91 rec., 1,029 yds., 7 TD) and Patrick Edwards (85 rec., 1,021 yds., 6 TD). The trio was the second in C-USA history (Tulsa in 2007) and fourth in FBS annals to each register 1,000 yards receiving in a single season.

Marshall Thundering Herd
The Thundering Herd opens the 2010 campaign on Thursday, September 2 when they visit No. 2 Ohio State. The nationally-televised game (Big Ten Network) will mark the debut of Hurricane, W.Va. native Doc Holliday as Marshall head coach. The Herd had two players named to the preseason All-C-USA team in senior LB Mario Harvey and senior TE Lee Smith. Harvey earned first-team All-C-USA honors last season with a team-high 117 tackles and seven sacks. He is on the preseason watch list for both the Nagurski Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award. Smith earned honorable mention All-C-USA honors last season by recording 23 catches for 335 yards.

Memphis Tigers
The Tigers welcome back former running back Larry Porter as their new head coach. He will make his head coaching debut on Saturday, September 4 at Mississippi State in a game that will be nationally-televised by ESPN U. Senior OL Dominik Riley, who saw time at both guard positions last year, was named to the preseason All-C-USA team. He is one of five returning starters on an offensive line that welcomes back nine letterwinners. Memphis returns back six starters on the defense, including sophomore DT Dontari Poe, a C-USA All-Freshman selection last season.

Rice Owls The Owls open the season on Saturday, September 4 hosting No. 4 Texas at Reliant Stadium. The 2010 Owls welcome back nine starters on offense and defense, as well as three special teams regulars. Seniors Scott Solomon (63) and Cheta Ozougwu (61) led all C-USA defensive linemen in tackles last season. The duo combined for 124 tackles, 21 TFL's and 11 sacks. Solomon has moved up to fourth place on Rice's all-time sack list with 15.5, while Ozougwu racked up 39 tackles and four sacks in the final six games of last season.

SMU Mustangs
Coming off their first bowl appearance (and bowl victory) since 1984, the Mustangs will open the 2010 season at Texas Tech on Sunday, September 5 (ESPN). Sophomore QB Kyle Padron threw for an SMU school-record 460 yards in the Hawai'i Bowl victory to cap off a great freshman campaign. In seven games, he completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,911 yards and 10 TDs. Padron has been named to the preseason Watch List for the Davey O'Brien Award. Senior WR Aldrick Robinson is the Mustangs top returning receiver after grabbing 47 passes for 800 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles
The Golden Eagles will open the 2010 season with a nationally-televised (ESPN) contest at South Carolina on Thursday, September 2. The Golden Eagles will be vying for their 17th-straight winning season and ninth consecutive trip to a bowl game in 2010. A winning season this year would tie the school record for most consecutive years with winning records. Southern Miss welcomes back junior QB Austin Davis (108-of-156 for 1,165 yards and 10 TDs in five games), who missed the final seven games last season with a foot injury. In his absence, senior Martevious Young threw for 1,861 and 16 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

Tulane Green Wave
The Green Wave will open the 2010 season on Thursday, September 2 when it hosts Southeastern Louisiana at the Superdome. Sophomore QB Ryan Griffin returns after producing one of the best seasons by a freshman in school history. He started the last six games of the season and is 118-of-175 for 1,143 yards, eight touchdowns and six picks in those contests. His completions, attempts, passing yardage and touchdown totals are the most by a Tulane freshman in school history. Senior Casey Robottom returns as the team's top returning receiver. Last season, Robottom started all 12 games and ranked second on the team in receptions (50), receiving yards (584), yard-per-catch average (11.7) and touchdown receptions (2).

Tulsa Golden Hurricane
The Golden Hurricane will open the season with the first C-USA league game of the year at two-time defending champion East Carolina. The game will air on ESPN 2 beginning at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday, September 5. Junior WR/KR Damaris Johnson now owns two of the top four single-season all-purpose yardage totals in C-USA history, including an NCAA-leading 2,693 yards last season. He ran for 175 yards, caught passes for 1,131 yards, added 256 yards on punt returns and 113 yards on kick returns. With Johnson going over 1,000 yards receiving last year, it gave Tulsa a 1,000-yard receiver in three straight seasons for the first time ever.

UAB Blazers
The Blazers will open the 2010 season on Thursday, September 2 when it hosts Florida Atlantic at Legion Field. UAB defeated the Owls last year at Legion Field, 56-29. UAB is one of four schools whose football coaching staff has remained fully intact for four consecutive seasons. Senior WR Frantrell Forrest, the team's leading returning receiver (34 catches, 558 yards, 9 TDs in 2009), ranks in the top five all-time at UAB in three different receiving categories. Forrest is No. 3 in receptions (125), No. 4 in receiving yards (1,657) and No. 3 in receiving TDs (16). The Blazers return 11 of their top 12 tacklers from 2009, including second-team All-C-USA safety Hiram Atwater who paced the team in tackles with 89.

UCF Knights
The Knights open the season hosting South Dakota on Saturday, September 4. UCF has led C-USA in total defense each of the last two years, just the second time in league history that has happened (TCU in 2002-03). The unit ranked fourth nationally in rushing defense in 2009. Senior DE Bruce Miller returns after being named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. He ranked fifth in the nation in sacks last season with 14 and tops all returning FBS players with 27 sacks and 44 tackles for loss in his career. Freshman All-American CB Josh Robinson tied for the C-USA lead and the nation's lead among freshmen with six interceptions (the most ever by a UCF freshman).

UTEP Miners
The Miners will play host to Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday, September 4. UTEP will have a new defensive scheme -- with a 4-3 base -- and a largely new defensive staff for the 2010 season. The Miners employed a 3-3-5 scheme in 2008 and 2009. UTEP's new defensive coordinator is long-time NFL defensive line coach Andre Patterson. Senior RB Donald Buckram is the nation's second-leading returning rusher for the 2010 season. Buckram averaged 132.8 yards per game last season. Buckram also ranks second among FBS returnees in scoring (10.5 ppg). .



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