ULM Head Coach Todd Berry undoubtedly expected good things out of redshirt freshman quarterback Kolton Browning when he named him the starter coming out of spring practice. But after a slow start, Browning is a bit further ahead of where Berry expected him to be at this point of the season.
Browning has thrown for 1,075 yards and has topped the 200-yard mark in four consecutive games heading into the Warhawks' contest at Western Kentucky. That's the most for a ULM quarterback through five games since 1993, when Robert Cobb had 1,245. He also leads the Warhawks in rushing with 178 yards on 79 carries, about half on designed plays, half on scrambles in Berry's estimation.
"The scramble in college football is the best play in college football if you've got a quarterback who can throw on the run, and that's one of the things I think Kolton does extremely well," Berry said. "He's more accurate throwing on the run than when he's stationary."
Browning also is making progress simply learning the job of being a quarterback
"I think we've seen 47 coverages so far from what I've kept count on," Berry said. "Each one has its own little identity, and for the quarterback each one of those things kind of changes his read progression and what he needs to do. But he's starting to compartmentalize all those different coverages and all those different looks, and he's handling himself really well."
Berry expects Browning to continue this progress as ULM, which is 2-3, looks to get to .500 overall and 2-1 in the Sun Belt with a win at Western Kentucky.
"The thing that … gives him a chance to be really fine player is just his competitive nature," Berry said. "He's a great competitor and a strong leader on our football team, certainly with our offensive group. I think that has allowed him to mature a little faster. He's had this great drive to excel."
• RB Frank Goodin has been held to just 137 yards rushing through the first five games. Goodin ran for 169 yards in last year's ULM victory over the Hilltoppers and is 737 yards away from being ULM's all-time leading rusher but is averaging only 27.4 ypg this season.
• RB Jyruss Edwards will get his second career start this week at WKU. Edwards also started in the season opener against Arkansas.
• ULM has allowed only three backs to rush for more than 100 yards in a game in the 17 games Troy Reffett has served as defensive coordinator. WKU's Bobby Rainey is one of them. Rainey is rushing for a league-best 120.4 ypg for the Hilltoppers.
• ULM will be making its first trip since 1954 to Bowling Green, Ky., to face Western Kentucky. Last year's game was the first between the two since 1955.
Series History: Western Kentucky leads ULM 3-2 (last meeting, 2009, 30-22 ULM).
Scouting The Offense: ULM is facing a run defense that is giving up just over 211 yards per game, but it may not be able to take advantage of it. The Warhawks are rushing for only 94.4 ypg, which ranks seventh in the conference. QB Kolton Browning is the Sun Belt's third most-productive passer with an average of 215.0 ypg.
Scouting The Defense: The Warhawks' defense is a bit skewed by the early losses to Arkansas and Auburn on the road, but it ranks third in the conference against the rush (152.0 ypg). LB Jason Edwards' 41 tackles rank fifth in the Sun Belt, and DE Ken Dorsey is seventh in sacks (0.60 per game).
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's Game: at Western Kentucky, Oct. 16-The Warhawks look to get to .500 overall and above .500 in conference play with a win over the winless Hilltoppers. ULM is 2-3 overall, 1-1 in the conference. Western Kentucky remained winless in dropping its fifth game this season and 25th in a row, 28-21 at FIU in its last outing.
Keys To The Game: Don't take anything for granted. The Hilltoppers may be winless, but they have a good running back in Bobby Rainey, who leads the Sun Belt in rushing with 120.4 ypg. This could be an opportunity for the Warhawks to get their running game going against a WKU defense that is allowing opponents 211.2 ypg rushing.
Players To Watch:
RB Jyruss Edwards-A freshman, Edwards has only 75 yards rushing in five games but he scored the decisive touchdown in the win over Florida Atlantic on a five-yard rush. Edwards is averaging 4.4 each carry.
QB Kolton Browning-It goes without saying that your eyes will catch Browning. With 79 runs and 157 pass attempts, he has accounted for 66 percent of ULM's plays. He's the leading rusher with 178 yards and has thrown for 1,075.
LB Cameron Blakes-Blakes is the team's No. 2 tackler with 38 stops and has done a little bit of everything on defense. He has 3.0 tackles for loss with 1.5 sacks and also has an interception plus two quarterback hurries.
• WR Luther Ambrose is fourth in the Sun Belt in receptions with an average of 4.6 per game. His 55.8 average receiving per game ranks seventh.
• QB Kolton Browning ranks third overall and second among Sun Belt freshmen total offense with his 250.6 ypg average. Troy freshman Corey Robinson is producing 288.2 per game. Arkansas State sophomore Ryan Aplin leads all players with his 296.8 average.