Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Under third-year head coach Todd Berry, ULM experienced
its best season since joining the FBS in 2012, going 8-5 overall while
finishing second in the Sun Belt Conference with a mark of 6-2.
The Warhawks stunned the college football world in their opener on Sept. 8 by
defeating No. 8 Arkansas in Little Rock, 34-31 in overtime, marking the
program's first-ever win over a ranked opponents and the first win over a
top-10 opponent in Sun Belt Conference history. The squad finished the month
of September by suffering hard-fought losses at Auburn (31-28 in OT) and
versus Baylor (47-42), before dismantling Tulane (63-10).
ULM's success continued in Sun Belt play with four straight wins to open the
conference slate, and while it suffered setbacks to Louisiana (40-24) and
Arkansas State (45-23) in early November, it closed out the regular season
with a pair of wins over North Texas (42-16) and FIU (23-17 in OT).
The team was invited to the Independence Bowl for its first-ever bowl
appearance, although it fell to Ohio University in a 45-14 final.
OFFENSE: ULM showed explosive tendencies on offense a season ago, scoring 33.8
ppg behind 432.8 ypg, and more of the same should be expected in 2013 with
eight starters back in place.
The key to the Warhawks' success this season undoubtedly lies on the shoulders
of quarterback Kolton Browning, who was outstanding as a junior with 3,049
yards on 63.8 percent efficiency, tossing 29 touchdowns against only 10
interceptions. He was also the team's leading rusher with 488 yards, adding
seven more scores on the ground. All that production came while missing the
better part of two games with a foot injury, so it's no surprise that Browning
was named the conference's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
Browning won't have the luxury of throwing to Brent Leonard this year (104
rec, 1118 yards, 10 TDs), but Je'Ron Hamm (65 rec, 915 yards, six TDs) and
Tavarese Maye (56 rec, 612 yards, four TDs) are stellar options in their own
Jyruss Edwards appeared in just eight games in 2012 and rushed for 438 yards
and six touchdowns. Both he and Browning will benefit from playing behind an
experienced offensive line that returns four starters.
DEFENSE: One of the biggest reasons ULM couldn't hold on to first place in the
conference standings down the stretch last year was due to its poor defense
(29.2 ppg, 418.8 ypg), but the unit actually remains more in tact than the
offense by welcoming back nine starters.
Although the defense struggled for the most part, it showed plenty of big-play
potential, racking up 24 sacks, 16 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries and two
blocked kicks. The return of Ray Stovall (63 tackles, 13.5 TFL, three sacks),
Isaiah Newsome (57 tackles, four picks), Cordero Smith (71 tackles, one
interception), Rob'Donovan Lewis (69 tackles, two picks, two FR) and Vincent
Eddie (68 tackles, one pick) should all but ensure a better defensive effort
SPECIAL TEAMS: Justin Manton, who served as both the kicker and the punter a
year ago, is back for his junior season. He averaged nearly 40 yards per punt
with 19 placed inside the 20-yard line, but he had a lackluster season in
terms of kicking field goals (5-of-9, three blocked).
Cortney Davis (34 kick returns for 748 yards in 2012) will likely be the top
option in the return game.
OUTLOOK: ULM put together an outstanding season in 2012, and had it not been
for Browning's untimely injury in November, it could have been much better.
With most of the team's core returning this season, it's no surprise that it
was chosen along with Arkansas State as the No. 1 team in the Sun Belt
"We like that (being the favorite)," Browning said. "We like the target on our
back. Last year, we started off in conference really well. Kind of lost a
couple in a row, but we came back and finished strong. With 17, 18 starters
returning, that's big for us. We're excited about that."
"This is the first time that we have a senior- and junior-dominated team,"
Berry added. "There's no question that we've built for this season. We do have
the most cumulative starters coming back of anybody in the country. We've got
a lot of guys that have played a lot of football."
With the exception of maybe Antonio Andrews from Western Kentucky, there's no
better playmaker than Browning in the Sun Belt, and as long as he stays
upright for a full season, the Warhawks will be in contention for the league
title and, at the very least, another bowl appearance.
The Sports Network