Bears bring hope and little else to Aloha Stadium
First in a series of 12 articles on the UH football team's 2007 opponents.
Things weren't always this bad for Northern Colorado.
They were actually national champions in 1996 and 1997 in Division II.
But the Bears were 1-10 last year, playing a full schedule in the Big Sky Conference while making their final transition to the medium-time.
They also had to deal with one of the biggest scandals of the year in college sports; former backup punter Mitchell Cozad was cleared last week of an attempted murder charge but convicted of second-degree assault in the stabbing of starting punter Rafael Mendoza.
Not surprisingly, UNC is picked by media and coaches to finish last in the nine-team Big Sky.
The Star-Bulletin will preview Hawaii's opponents every day until the start of the season:
San Jose State
New Mexico State
The Bears open at No. 23 Hawaii on Sept. 1. Some national pundits say the only thing that will stop UH from scoring in this game will be the final gun, and the Warriors could post 100 points on the Bears.
It will be UNC's first game against a Division I-A opponent since 1986, a 46-14 loss to Colorado State.
"The old cliche of 'to be the best, you must play the best' is true" said second-year coach Scott Downing, whose team gets one home game after opening at UH, and then a month away from Nottingham Field in Greeley, Colo. "Playing four straight road games will be a tough challenge, and it will help our team develop."
Downing will have an extensive scouting report on at least one Warrior. UH sophomore running back Leon Wright-Jackson is a Nebraska transfer, and Downing was the Huskers' recruiting coordinator and coached the kickers before taking the Northern Colorado job in December 2005. Downing also served as an assistant at Purdue and Wyoming under Joe Tiller.
The Bears return 14 starters from last year, including Mendoza, who has averaged 39.4 yards per kick over his career.
Quarterback Dominic Breazeale has formidable size (6-6, 260). The JC transfer started six games last year, completing 105 passes in 183 attempts for 1,018 yards, but just two touchdowns.
Two starting wideouts, also with good size, are back. They are seniors Brian Barmann, (6-3, 220), and Andy Birkel, (6-2, 200). Three starting offensive linemen, plus tight end Clint Wright return, too.
Birkel is a Nebraska transfer who was that state's high school athlete of the year in 2002-03. He's back after missing all of last season with a knee injury.
Barmann was also a big-time high school player, in Missouri. Like Birkel, he stayed home but things didn't work out. Barmann transferred to UNC after one season as a backup tight end with the Tigers. He caught 21 passes for 283 yards last fall for Northern Colorado.
They seem to have the components for a passing game, but the Bears have also been working on a wishbone option attack in camp. Downing said it will complement UNC's short passing game.
Senior cornerback Aaron Henderson (5-9, 175) may be the team's best all-around player. He averages more than 10 yards per punt return and has eight interceptions over the course of his career.
All four starting linebackers are back, plus senior nose guard Vinny Pallone (6-0, 300). The durable Pallone has started all 22 games of his career at UNC.
Northern Colorado Bears
|2006 Results (1-10)
|at Portland State
|at Texas State
|at Weber State
|at Sacramento St.
|at Montana State
||at San Diego
||at N. Arizona
||at Cal Poly SLO
||at Idaho State
||at E. Washington