Despite the lopsided loss at LSU, Louisiana-Monroe still has within its reach its goal of postseason eligibility. The Warhawks are 4-6 overall, two wins short of the NCAA requirement for bowl consideration. They get their last two games at home, starting with a visit from North Texas.
At 3-3 in the conference, the Warhawks, who finish against struggling Louisiana-Lafayette, remain mathematically in the Sun Belt race, but would need a number of breaks all to fall their way to get even a share of the league title. A .500 overall record, though, is a realistic opportunity, even coming off the 51-0 setback at LSU.
Final statistics from that game are not indicative of such a big score, but penalties, turnovers and lost-yardage plays kept putting Louisiana-Monroe's offense in a hole and gave the Tigers too many short-field opportunities.
"I think obviously the team was disappointed after the game, in particular the final score," coach Todd Berry said. "I don't think that's necessarily indicative of the team that we have." Now it's a matter for his young players to learn from such experiences. LSU was the third SEC team the Warhawks have played this season.
"I think they've gone a nice job of putting all games, whether they be wins or losses, kind of in their rearview mirror," Berry said of his players. "We recognize this is a big ball game this week, and I think our player will respond accordingly." The team's physical state, not its mental outlook, could be more critical this week.
Quarterback Kolton Browning is among those nursing the kind of nagging injury that is common coming down the stretch. "We're just more like everybody else is, but we don't have any depth," Berry said. "We're just banged and bumped-up team, and consequently we're not playing as fast as I like in some positions.
"They're fighting through it, but when you blow a wheel, you're kind of running on a bunch of air for a while. That's kind of what we're doing right now, with guys with lower body injuries."
--Louisiana-Monroe has won four of the last five games against North Texas and six of the last seven times the two teams have played in Monroe's Malone Stadium. The Warhawks hold a 68-29 scoring advantage for the last two games. Over the last seven games, the average score has been Louisiana-Monroe 36, North Texas 19.
--The Warhawks are looking for their fourth victory at home this season. They have yet to lose at Malone Stadium after going 4-1 in home games in 2009. Since moving into the NCAA's FBS level, the Warhawks have never been undefeated at home, though they were 6-1 in 1992. They were 0-5 in 2003.
--Louisiana-Monroe has taken a slight step backward in its rushing defense this season. After holding opponents to 110.1 yards per game on the ground last year, the Warhawks are giving up an average of 170.0 in 2010. That's a big improvement over 2008, when they were gashed for 212.7 yards per game. North Texas is rushing for 196.7 yards per game.
SERIES HISTORY: North Texas leads Louisiana-Monroe, 14-12 (last meeting, 2009, 33-6 Louisiana-Monroe).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Warhawks couldn't get much of anything going against a tough LSU defense and are seventh in the Sun Belt in total production at 333.8 yards per game. They at least have been a bit more effective with their running game, averaging 143.3 yards per game in their last three outings after being held to minus-four in their loss at Middle Tennessee. QB Kolton Browning had thrown for better than 200 yards, including a 336-yard effort against Florida International, in eight consecutive games until being held to 61 yards at LSU.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Louisiana-Monroe played a solid game statistically on defense at LSU, holding the Tigers to 251 yards of total offense, but the Warhawks couldn't overcome the short field that LSU had as a result of turnovers by the offense. For the season, the Warhawks have given up an average of 170.0 yards per game rushing, with the bulk of that coming in losses to Arkansas State, Auburn, Middle Tennessee and Florida International. Since giving up 400 yards passing in the opener at Arkansas, the Warhawks have not allowed an opponent to throw for more than 272 in any game since, and have held five opponents to under 200 yards passing.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The game plan was sound. The execution of the offense was very poor." -- Coach Todd Berry, looking back on the 51-0 defeat at LSU.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: North Texas at Louisiana-Monroe, Nov. 20 -- The Mean Green comes in with a 3-7 record after winning two of its last three games, including a 23-17 road victory over Middle Tennessee. It was the third road victory for the Mean Green this season, following a 21-17 victory at Florida Atlantic and a 33-6 win at Western Kentucky. North Texas is 3-4 in the conference.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Slow the North Texas running game. The Mean Green leads the conference in rushing at 196.7 yards per game, with Lance Dunbar's 124.4 average No. 2 in the league. The Warhawks want to exploit a Mean Green pass defense that has given up 17 touchdown passes, second-most in the league.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Luther Ambrose -- Ambrose is third in the Sun Belt in receptions with 54 and seventh in receiving yardage at 58.3 per game. He has four touchdown receptions to lead the team.
DE Ken Dorsey -- The junior is tied for fourth in the conference with four solo sacks and two assists, and also has an interception. He has 49 tackles, including 12 for losses.
--QB Kolton Browning has been limited in practice by an undisclosed lower body injury and will be evaluated as the week goes on. He did not play the final quarter of the loss to LSU and his status is day-to-day.
--Senior RB Frank Goodin goes into the game with 2,774 rushing yards in his career, No. 4 in school history. Just ahead with 2,818 yards is Joe Profitt.