Inside Slant: ULM vs Louisiana-Lafayette

Inside Slant: ULM vs Louisiana-Lafayette

The Warhawks fell to 2-6 with the loss to Western Kentucky and 1-3 in the Sun Belt Conference after being figured for a contender's role in the preseason. ULM will look to break a 2 game losing streak with they take on Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend.

ULM coach Todd Berry sees no quit in his Warhawks, who now have to sweep the rest of their schedule to break even on the season. The Warhawks fell to 2-6 with the loss to Western Kentucky and at 1-3 in the Sun Belt Conference after being figured for a contender's role in the preseason.

Berry points to the comeback the Warhawks mounted against Western Kentucky when they outscored the Hilltoppers 21-8 in the fourth quarter as evidence his team hasn't given up despite their tumble.

The Warhawks find themselves forced to play more young players, especially on special teams, than was expected because of injuries.

"I think our guys are showing up to play or otherwise we wouldn't have come back," Berry said, noting the late rally against the Hilltoppers. "I don't think there are any issues along those lines in terms of how hard we're playing.

"I think we're playing equally hard right now as we did in the opening game. It just comes down to replacing guys who are experienced guys and good players for you."

Of the games remaining on their schedule, the Warhawks are home for two and on the road for two. They visit Louisiana-Lafayette and then get Middle Tennessee and FIU in Monroe before finishing at Florida Atlantic.

NOTES, QUOTES

--ULM is fighting injury problems with RB Centarius Donald joining TEs Keavon Milton and Ty Kittle, WR Tyler Cain, and PK Radi Jabour on the out-for-the-season list. Other players are not 100 percent but still playing. "We have guys who just have difficult times running," coach Todd Berry said. "It doesn't mean they can't play, but we've got very few skill guys ready now that are 100 percent."

--ULM still leads the Sun Belt in total defense after holding Western Kentucky to just 283 yards for the game. The Warhawks are giving up 324.1 yards a game and only 103.8 of which is on the ground. Louisiana-Lafayette is averaging 381.1 in total offense and 150.1 rushing.

--After finishing with losing records in each of their first three years in the Sun Belt (2001-03), the Warhawks have finished below .500 only twice in league since then, going 3-4 in 2006 and again in 2008. The Warhawks will have to win three of their last four to get to 4-4 in the league for a second straight year.

SERIES HISTORY: The ULM-Louisiana-Lafayette series is tied 23-23 (last meeting, 2010, Louisiana-Lafayette 23-22).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: ULM has been inconsistent on the ground and now will be without its leading rusher in Centarius Donald who is out injured. He didn't start but had 415 yards rushing in seven games before being sidelined before the last game. QB Kolton Browning is a rushing threat along with starting TB Jyruss Edwards, but is completing only 56 percent of his passes. WRs Brent Leonard and Tavarese Maye both have the ability to break off big plays.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Warhawks lead the Sun Belt in total defense, holding opponents to 324.1 yards a game, and in rushing defense. Opponents are averaging only 103.8 yards a game against the Warhawks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "With all the maturity we had coming back in terms of experience, it has forced us to go back down to inexperienced players and so all of a sudden we got young again." -- Coach Todd Berry, on the injury problems that have hit his Warhawks as the season wears down.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: ULM at Louisiana-Lafayette, Nov. 5 -- Losers of their last two games and five of their last six, the Warhawks face one of the hottest teams in the league in Louisiana-Lafayette. The Cajuns have won seven of their last eight and are 5-1 in the Sun Belt in second place just behind 4-0 Arkansas State.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Take advantage of opportunities. The Warhawks had 30 first downs and 456 yards in total offense to Western Kentucy's 19 and 283, respectively, and still managed to lose the game. They must cut down on penalties (11 in the loss to the Hilltoppers) to quit hurting themselves.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

WR Brent Leonard -- Leonard ranks second in the Sun Belt in receptions per game (6.5) and is third in receiving yards per game (70.0).

WR Tavarese Maye -- Maye is the team's No. 2 receiver with 37 receptions to Leonard's 52, but he is tied with Leonard for the lead in touchdown receptions. They have three each.

KR Luther Ambrose -- Ambrose has played a minimal role in the passing game after leading the Warhawks in receptions last year, but he can give his team good field position with his abilities in the return game. He leads the conference in kickoff returns (28.4 average) including one 100-yarder for a touchdown.

ROSTER REPORT

--Freshman WR Tyler Cain, who handled punts for the Warhawks, is out with an undisclosed injury.

--Freshman PK Justin Manton fell to 5-of-12 on the season after missing one field goal and having one attempt blocked against Western Kentucky.

--Junior TB Mitchell Bailey, who sat out last year after transferring from Arkansas, where he was a preferred walk-on, has assumed duties as backup behind sophomore Jyruss Edwards in the backfield. Bailey had three carries for eight yards and scored a touchdown against Western Kentucky, his second of the year.

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