FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bank Stadium (30,406) -- Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Television: ESPN U. Home Record: ULM 2-2, ASU 3-1. Away Record: ULM 4-1, ASU
3-2. Neutral Record: ULM 0-0, ASU 0-0. Conference Record: ULM 4-1, ASU 4-1.
Series Record: Arkansas State leads, 19-14.
GAME NOTES: With first place in the Sun Belt Conference on the line, the ULM
Warhawks and the Arkansas State Red Wolves square off on Thursday night in
ULM had won five straight games heading into last week's matchup with rival
Louisiana as it held sole possession of first place in the standings, but
following a 40-24 loss it promptly fell into a three-way tie with Arkansas
State and Middle Tennessee for the top spot. Despite the setback, the Warhawks
are bowl eligible for the third time in their FBS history, although it has
never actually earned a bowl bid.
Arkansas State got off to a sluggish 2-3 start to the season, but it has
caught fire in recent weeks, winning four in a row over conference opponents
to shoot up the standings. With a 37-19 win at North Texas last week, the
reigning Sun Belt champion Red Wolves became bowl eligible for the fifth time
in the last eight season.
In 33 all-time meetings between these two schools, Arkansas State holds a
19-14 advantage and it has won 11 of the 16 matchups in Jonesboro.
ULM is the highest-scoring team in the Sun Belt (37.6 ppg), but it suffered a
huge blow last week when Kolton Browning needed to leave the game in the first
half with a lower body injury.
Browning had been the league's best quarterback prior to the injury, racking
up 2,228 passing yards, 426 rushing yards, and 28 total touchdowns. Browning's
status for the rest of the season remains uncertain, but it seems highly
unlikely he'll be able to return to the lineup on a short week. Cody Wells
(18-of-31, 209 yards, two TDs, two INTs) showed some promise last week in
relief, but he simply does not bring the same dynamic playmaking ability to
the table as Browning.
Brent Leonard (717 yards) hopes he can be a reliable safety valve for Wells as
he leads the conference in both receptions (62) and touchdowns (eight). With
Tavarese Maye (439 yards, three TDs) and Je'Ron Hamm (563 yards, four TDs)
rounding out the receiving corps, at least the Warhawks know they have strong
playmakers on the outside to help bail out their inexperienced quarterback.
With Jyruss Edwards (438 yards, six TDs) out for the season with an injury,
Monterrell Washington (263 yards, five TDs) has become the primary back,
although he put up just 41 yards on 12 carries a week ago.
The explosive offense has been able to help shield a lackluster defense (28.4
ppg, 391.7 ypg) in most games this season, but the unit will need to step up
down the stretch as the offense is expected to take a step backwards. The unit
had no answer for the Cajuns last week, giving up more than 600 yards.
Henry Mitchell made a career-high 16 tackles and forced a fumble against
Louisiana. Linebacker R.J. Young has made plays all over the field this season
with 59 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, and an
interception. Despite its rather average production, the ULM defense is the
conference's best at forcing turnovers with 12 interceptions and seven fumble
Arkansas State is one of the few offenses in the Sun Belt that can keep up
with ULM, as it ranks in the top three in the conference in both scoring (34
ppg) and yardage (460.1 ypg). After an outstanding performance last week
against North Texas, the unit is averaging 39.3 ppg during its four-game win
Ryan Aplin was nearly flawless in last week's win, completing 25-of-32 passes
for 328 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions for his 16th career
300-yard game. One of the most decorated quarterbacks in conference history is
having another outstanding campaign with 2,188 yards on 65.2 percent
completions, tossing 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He's also added
250 yards and four scores rushing.
Freshman receiver J.D. McKissic is coming off a career-high 10 receptions,
which adds on to an already outstanding season (60 receptions, 609 yards,
three TDs). Josh Jarboe has also been productive on the outside with 40
catches for 481 yards and three scores.
David Oku had excelled as the Red Wolves' primary back, gaining 698 yards and
nine touchdowns while adding 15 receptions for 100 yards to his stat line.
Rocky Hayes has seen a limited number of carries in his freshman year (31),
but he's made the most of them with 375 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Arkansas State defense has not been noticeably strong (27.6 ppg, 387.1
ypg), but it held an FBS opponent to under 20 points for the first time this
season in last week's win.
Nathan Herrold has been one of the best linebackers in the conference with 83
tackles, six tackles for loss, an interception, and a fumble recovery. The
defense has difficulty getting after the quarterback with just 13 sacks, but
it makes up for it in the turnover battle with nine interceptions and eight
It will be interesting to see how ULM responds without its leader for an
entire game, but if the second half of last week's loss was any indication,
the results will not be what it is hoping for. The Warhawks have been strong
on the road with a 4-1 record, but without Browning leading the charge, they
will be hard-pressed to take down an experienced and balanced team like
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 34, ULM 24