GAME NOTES: The ULM Warhawks took down an SEC giant last week, and they will try to secure their second straight improbable win when they take on the Auburn Tigers this Saturday afternoon.
In its season opener in Little Rock last weekend, ULM came back from 21 points down in the second half to stun the ninth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in overtime, 34-31. It marked the first time in 10 tries that the Warhawks have defeated Arkansas, as well as the first time the program has ever beaten a ranked member of the FBS. In addition to being the biggest win in school history, it was also one of the crowning achievements in Sun Belt Conference history as it was the first time a team from the league has ever taken down a top-10 team.
Auburn's season has not started the way it had planned, even if its first two contests were more difficult than most teams had to face. The campaign opened with a hard-fought loss to Clemson (28-10) on a neutral field, and the Tigers followed that up with another loss on the road to upstart Mississippi State, 28-10. There is reason for optimism this week however, as the team is 94-15-3 all-time in home openers.
Auburn has had no trouble with ULM over the years, defeating the Warhawks in all eight previous matchups. The Tigers won in convincing fashion, 52-3, the last time they got together in 2010.
Watching the Warhawks' offense last Saturday, you would have never known they were going up against a vaunted SEC defense, as they compiled 550 yards on the night.
The driving force in ULM's improbable comeback was Kolton Browning, who completed 42-of-67 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns through the air while adding 69 yards on the ground, which included the game-winning 16-yard scoring scamper on fourth down in overtime. The 481 total yards is the fifth- best single-game output in school history.
Plenty of receivers took advantage of Browning's performance, notably Brent Leonard who finished with 11 catches for 112 yards, including the game-tying touchdown with 47 seconds left in regulation. Tavarese Maye (nine catches, 76 yards), Je'Ron Hamm (six catches, 92 yards) and Colby Harper (six catches, 61 yards) were also quite busy.
Browning led the team with 16 rushes, but junior running back Jyruss Edwards also got in on the action with 15 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown.
The ULM defense was taken advantage of by Heisman-caliber quarterback Tyler Wilson early in the game, but the unit was able to step up its play once Wilson had to leave due to injury, forcing backup Brandon Allen to complete just six of his 20 passes down the stretch.
DaCorris Ford and Vincent Eddie each recorded key interceptions in the game, with Ford's coming in the final minute of regulation, halting an Arkansas attempt at a game-winning drive. Mitch Lane led the team with nine tackles and Ray Stovall tallied the only sack.
The Auburn offense has been sluggish in the early part of the season, averaging just 295 ypg and 14.5 ppg, and most of the unit's struggles can be put on the shoulders of the quarterback.
With back-to-back dud performances, Kiehl Frazier has now completed just 24- of-49 passes on the season for 319 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Three of those picks came last week against MSU.
Quan Bray is the team's leading receiver with seven catches, but for just 58 yards. Emory Blake has been a big-play guy with 140 yards on six receptions, including the team's only receiving touchdown.
Tre Mason (22 carries, 131 yards) and Onterio McCalebb (20 carries, 86 yards) share the workload in the backfield. Although neither has a rushing touchdown, McCalebb scored on a 100-yard kickoff return last week.
Although the Tiger defense hasn't been the team's biggest problem so far this season, it certainly hasn't helped matters, allowing 27 points and 458 yards per game.
Linebacker Daren Bates has been the most active member of the unit with a team-high 24 tackles. He also has two tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. A First Team All-SEC selection in 2011, Corey Lemonier has picked up where he left off, notching three sacks after two games.
ULM's confidence is sure to be sky high following its huge win last week, and even though it defeated Arkansas, the Warhawks are still an underdog and will have very little pressure for a repeat-type performance. Although it's a non- conference game, Auburn desperately needs to win this matchup to avoid falling to 0-3, and if it can lean more heavily on its running backs and Frazier limits his mistakes, the Tigers should be able to do so in front of the home crowd.