The ULM Warhawks descend on FIU Stadium for the final time Saturday as the Panthers move to Conference USA next season. ULM has seven wins already and is bowl-eligible. The Warhawks appeared to have lost quarterback Kolton Browning a few weeks ago with a broken foot, but Browning returned last week to help torch North Texas. Through the years, the mobile Browning has given FIU trouble. Last year FIU handled ULM and Browning in Monroe, Louisiana.
For more on the Warhawks, here is Dusty Thibodeaux from the Warhawk Report to answer "5 Questions on ULM". You can learn more from Dusty about ULM at warhawkreport.com.
1. ULM looks nothing like the Warhawks team that FIU handled in Monroe last season. What have been the differences in ULM from 2011 to 2012?
DT: The biggest difference has been that this year's ULM team has finally matured into the program/team that coach Todd Berry has been pushing and selling to the Warhawk players since he took over the program in 2010. This season that maturity has shown as the offense has scaled into a more complex play calling, while also remaining fairly healthy. All of this has allowed the team to make history, going over the .500 mark for the first time in the school's FBS history.
2. At what health level would you say quarterback Kolton Browning is playing at? 80%? And how much is Browning's mobility affected by his recent injury?
DT: There were a lot of fans that were skeptical or nervous about ULM putting in Browning last week against North Texas since it had been previously announced that he would miss the remainder of the season. There were concerns that he would be out there in name only, and unable to do the play extension that he’s able to do that makes him so unique. After last week, he was asked how he felt and responded with '3' on a pain scale of 10. I too found myself curious as to how he would do with limited mobility; he quickly put those concerns to rest with a spin move away from defenders without hesitation or lingering effects afterwards.
3. ULM has the No. 1 rush defense in the Sun Belt and No. 10 (last) pass defense in the Sun Belt, yet lead the SBC with 15 interceptions. Why the disparity in the rankings for the Warhawks D? Do they take a lot of chances in pass coverage?
DT: ULM's secondary has been the real weakness for this defense. In trying to compensate for this glaring weakness, it has allowed running lanes to open up against the usually tight defense. I think the adjustments were finally tweaked as needed in last week's game, as the defense made several key stops and contained the Mean Green. I look for a repeat scheme this week against FIU.
4. Brent Leonard and Je'Ron Hamm are having solid seasons catching the ball. What makes each of those so good?
DT: They are both big playmakers, but with different styles. Leonard is a solid route runner that is shifty in getting beyond coverage and making himself open and available. Hamm is a big framed receiver that relies on his basketball background to go up and after the ball to make plays.
5. Your prediction for Saturday's game?
DT: FIU and ULM have played some memorable contests in Sun Belt games throughout the years. The two that stick out in my mind are 2005 & 2006. In 2005 - All ULM needed was a win for its first outright Sun Belt title. The Panthers came into the game and picked up the win, forcing a co-championship scenario. The Warhawks would get revenge the next season, pitching a 35-0 shutout to close out the season. With this being the final guaranteed meeting for a while, I see ULM closing out the series with a win, snapping the current two-game losing skid to FIU, 38-24.