An Early Look at Louisiana-Monroe – From the Bird’s Nest
Okay, let me put it in a nutshell.
ULM is good.
The Warhawks’ plight has been pretty well chronicled over the years.
They’ve never had a winning season since joining the FBS (1994). They’ve only won six games three times, including this year.
But they’re going to have a winning season this year. They’re going to their first bowl game. And, they’re now the favorites to win the Sun Belt.
This is not your daddy’s ULM team.
And, if you want to know why, start at quarterback.
In the Sun Belt Conference in 2012, Kolton Browning is the man.
The junior from Mabank, TX has been the ULM starter for three seasons. But this has been his breakout year. Through eight games, Browning has thrown for 2164 yards and 22 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He’s also second on the club in rushing with 402 yards and another five scores.
But the statistics only tell part of the story. Browning is one tough dude. And, there’s no quit in him. None.
Against Arkansas the Warhawks trailed by 21. Won in overtime. Against Auburn, they were down 14 and sent it to overtime. Against Western Kentucky, they were down by 21 in the second quarter and won in overtime. And, under Browning’s leadership, the Warhawks are 52% in third down conversions. They’ve also gone for it on fourth down 23 times…and converted on 17.
Browning has guys who can catch it. Brent Leonard is one of the best possession receivers in the league. Taverese Maye has good hands as well. And Je’Ron Hamm gives Browning something he hasn’t really had in his career: A guy capable of stretching the field.
But ULM has a couple of issues on offense. Their depth at receiver has been diminished because of an injury or two. And, their top two running backs at the start of the season are both done for the year. The loss of Jyruss Edwards against South Alabama last week was an especially big blow. He led the Warhawks in rushing. Centarious Donald, number two on the depth chart at the start of the season, is done as well. Monterrell Washington, who had a good night running the ball against Baylor, will get the start.
Defensively, the Warhawks are better than you think, especially the front seven. ULM has sacked the quarterback eleven times in the last three games. And, the Warhawks are 4-0 when they hold the opposition under 100 yards rushing. I think their secondary is vulnerable, but the quarterback has to have the time to throw it.
My friend Jeff Miller is having an interesting week. Jeff has a degree from both schools. He’s even had a “graduate divided” tee shirt made up for the game. He says ULM is a beat-up football team.
Due to a quirk in the schedule, ULM has played eight straight games after having an open date in week one. It was about that time of year last year when the Cajuns began to wear down a little (remember, the Cajuns played eleven in a row without an open date last year.)
Now, I don’t know if Jeff is onto something here or not. I know Kolton Browning doesn’t look tired to me.
Back when ULM played Baylor in their nationally televised game, the Warhawks had an impressive crowd of over 31,000; a school record. Given their performance in a losing effort, I really thought we’d see attendance at Malone Stadium spike, especially if the Warhawks got on a winning streak.
Well, the Warhawks are on a winning streak. But you wouldn’t know it by the attendance figures. In their last two home games, ULM has barely drawn what they did against Baylor. And, last week’s homecoming crowd of 14,556 was especially disappointing.
I’ve always thought, win and they will come. The Cajuns certainly proved that last year. But evidently that doesn’t hold true in Monroe.
And, that’s a shame.
Because this ULM team deserves better.