With quarterback Kolton Browning enjoying the most productive night of his young career, it's understandable to consider putting the ball in the air in a crucial situation. But ULM's 42-35 double-overtime loss at FIU might have gone another way if the Warhawks hadn't turned the ball over in field goal range in the waning seconds.
Facing second-amd-4 at the 30, Browning's pass to Luther Ambrose went off the receiver's hands and was intercepted by Winston Fraser. FIU ran out the clock in regulation and claimed victory in overtime.
"We felt like we needed seven yards and called a little double move underneath," ULM offensive coordinator Steve Farmer said in his postgame radio interview. "We had a timeout. Shoot, it was open and unfortunately, it bounced off our receiver's hands. It wound up going the other way."
Place-kicker Radi Jabour has endured his struggles, but he kicked a 42-yarder in the first quarter and added a 37-yarder in the third quarter. Known more for his big leg than overall accuracy, he's 7-for-9 in his career from 40-49 yards and 8-for-15 from 30-39 yards in his career.
More consistent lately, Jabour has made his last four field goals dating back to the FAU game on Oct. 9 and started his 30th consecutive game for the Warhawks. The decision may say more about ULM's lack of faith in the running game to pick up needed yards. ULM, which hasn't run the ball well all season, gained 116 yards on the ground but averaged just 3.0 yards per attempt at FIU.
ULM opened the pivotal series with a 6-yard pass from Browning to Brent Leonard, and then called timeout with 11 seconds showing. The Warhawks dialed up two of their top playmakers in the moment but didn't get the desired payoff. Browning passed for a career-high 339 yards and rushed for 70 while Ambrose had eight catches for 89 yards in the contest.
"Our thought there was to get the ball completed, call a timeout, kick a field goal, beat these guys and get out of here," Farmer said.
The forgotten INT: Strangely enough, a similar decision by FIU put ULM in scoring position late. Ken Dorsey was in line to be ULM's hero before overtime when he intercepted FIU's Wesley Carroll at the 8. The Golden Panthers had driven to ULM's 16 with 27 seconds remaining and were setting up for their own field goal to win it. Carroll was supposed to throw the ball out of bounds if there was coverage but offered up the errant pass.
Dorsey's 56-yard return set up ULM at the FIU 36 with 15 seconds left. ULM made two interceptions to win the turnover battle two to one. Darius Prelow's interception in the third quarter was his second in as many games. The Warhawks have intercepted a pass in eight of nine games in 2010.
Photo Credit: fiusports.com
Can't tame T.Y.: FIU stud T.Y. Hilton put on a show with a career-high four touchdowns against ULM and snatched momentum away from the Warhawks all night. Hilton's tally included 292 all-purpose yards and four catches for 96 yards. After ULM opened overtime with a touchdown, he scored on a 25-yard reverse to tie the score at 35.
His night included a kickoff return for a score and touchdown catches of 67 and 20 yards. The 95-yard kickoff return, which put FIU up 14-7 after ULM scored on its opening drive, was Hilton's first special-teams score since Sept. 12, 2009, against Alabama. The 67-yarder gave the Golden Panthers a 28-20 lead in the fourth quarter.
"They came in and thought they could play man (coverage),'' Hilton told The Miami Herald. ``It felt real good.'' Hilton didn't score in FIU's first four games but has six TDs in four Sun Belt games.
Look who's back Preseason All-Sun Belt defensive end Troy Evans saw his first action of the season after missing the first eight games because of a back injury. He recorded one tackle.
Fireworks in Florida: ULM outgained FIU 482-469 in the game. Browning completed 27-for-38 for a career-high 339 yards to push his consecutive game streak with over 200 yards to eight games. His streak ties him for longest in ULM history with Stan Humphries, who accomplished the feat in 1987. Browning's 409 yards total offense are the third most since ULM joined the Sun Belt. His 339 passing yards are the most for a ULM quarterback since Kinsmon Lancaster's 377 at Kansas in 2006.
Wide receiver Tavarese Maye finished with a career-high 146 receiving yards and had an 82-yard catch – sixth longest in ULM history.
Up next: ULM (4-5, 3-3) visits Baton Rouge on Saturday for a date with LSU as the schools meet for the second time. The Tigers beat Alabama 24-21 on Saturday.
Tail feathers: The loss was ULM's first in the state of Florida in a Sun Belt Conference game (6-1) and its first-ever overtime loss (5-1). …Tight end Ty Kittle and nose tackle Emanuel Jefferies started their first career game for the Warhawks. … Aaron Munoz averaged 46 yards on his five punts…. Frank Goodin moved into fifth place on the ULM career scoring list with his first quarter touchdown. He has 162 career points passing Cole Wilson. … Browning's 2,080 passing yards through nine games are the most by a ULM quarterback since Raymond Philyaw had 2,370 in 1995.