The Warhawks have won their last two Sun Belt Conference games, beating Western Kentucky in their last outing.
Is an opportunity there for a young team to step into the conference race in Head Coach Todd Berry's first year as coach?
"Obviously, there is if you get a win," Berry said. "But right now I don't know how good we are."
The Warhawks, who lost their first two games of the season, including their conference opener at Arkansas State, have pulled out fourth-quarter wins in each of their last two Sun Belt games. They were down 24-7 entering the fourth quarter at Western Kentucky in their last outing but outscored the Hilltoppers 28-6 over the final 15 minutes for the 35-30 win. They scored the decisive touchdown with less than three minutes left in the game in their 20-17 win over Florida Atlantic.
"I don't know that we're a good football team yet," Berry said when pressed for more reasons behind the success. "We have some talented players, but I don't think we're any more talented more than anyone else in the league per se. But I think more than anything else the team is just playing with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart. They won't quit."
Of course, the big tests are coming.
After taking on Middle Tennessee, the preseason league favorite, the Warhawks, 3-3 overall, are host to defending champion Troy on Oct. 30. Then comes a trip to FIU, which has gotten off to a 2-0 start in Sun Belt play.
• If turnovers can be a determining factor in a game (and they often are), it's going to be difficult to find an edge for either ULM or Middle Tennessee in their meeting. Both are on the minus-side in turnover margin for the year. ULM has given up the football 13 times (seven fumbles, six interceptions) and gained only nine turnovers. The Warhawks have four fumble recoveries, five interceptions and are minus-5 on the year. Middle Tennessee is minus-13 with only six takeways (four fumble recoveries, two interceptions) and 19 giveaways (eight lost fumbles, 11 interceptions).
• Pass protection may be an issue for the Warhawks against Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders have 14 sacks in the last four games between the two and hold a 27-14 advantage in the series overall.
• Fans who like to go home early should take note: The team that scores first has won all but one of the meetings between ULM and Middle Tennessee. But don't be too sure. That one exception came last year.
Series History: Middle Tennessee leads Louisiana-Monroe 8-2 (last meeting, 2009, 38-19 Middle Tennessee).
Scouting The Offense: ULM is in triple digits in rushing per game, but barely. The Warhawks are averaging 100.3 yards per game with most of that coming from QB Kolton Browning. TBs Frank Goodin and Jyruss Edwards have combined for less than 50 yards a game. WR Luther Ambrose is the leading receiver with 28 catches for 356 yards.
Scouting The Defense: ULM has faced two of the most prolific offenses in Auburn (No. 9) and Arkansas (No. 10), so it's not surprising the Warhawks find themselves giving up an average of nearly 395 yards per game. The Warhawks do have 14 sacks, which ties them for third in the conference with their next opponent, Middle Tennessee. DE Ken Dorsey (3.0) leads in sacks.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's Game: ULM at Middle Tennessee, Oct. 24-The Warhawks have lost the last four meetings in the series since winning a 34-31 decision in Murfreesboro in 2005. The Warhawks are 2-1 in the Sun Belt Conference and need a victory over the Blue Raiders, who are 1-1, to remain in conference contention. Middle Tennessee has struggled to a 2-4 record, but two of the losses (Minnesota and Memphis by identical 24-17 scores) came while QB Dwight Dasher was serving a suspension. The Raiders' last two losses were to Troy and Georgia Tech.
Keys To The Game: Contain Dasher. Dasher has had a frustrating season to date, starting off serving an NCAA-mandated four-game suspension, and would like nothing better than to have a breakout game. The Warhawks need to get something out of their ground game to keep Middle Tennessee's offense off the field.
Players To Watch:
LB Jason Edwards-Edwards leads ULM in tackles and is sixth in the league with an average of 8.2 stops per game. He looks to play a key role in stopping Middle Tennessee's running game, which is producing 159.0 yards per game.
QB Kolton Browning-A redshirt freshman, Browning has thrown for more than 200 yards in five consecutive games. He also leads the Warhawks in rushing with 230 yards on 88 carries, about half of them designed runs.
CB Robert Nelson-Nelson was named the Sun Belt's Defensive Player of the Week after returning an interception 55 yards for the clinching touchdown in the win over Western Kentucky. It was his first interception of the year. Nelson is third on the team in tackles with 35, including a sack. He also has recovered a fumble.
• QB Kolton Browning has thrown for more yards through six games (1,283) than any ULM quarterback since Robert Cobb in 1993. Cobb threw for a school record 3,008 yards that year. To get to that, Browning would have to average 287.7 yards per game over the final six regular-season games. Cobb set his record in an 11-game season.
• RB Frank Goodin is 716 yards away from establishing a school rushing record, and it doesn't appear he will get there. Goodin has 2,663 yards in his career but has only 158 halfway through this season. Goodin's predecessor, Calvin Dawson, holds the record at 3,378 yards.