ULM enters Saturday's game with a 1-2 record following a close 21-20 victory over Southeastern Louisiana last weekend. Opening the season on the road with a 31-7 loss at Arkansas, the Warhawks last 34-20 at Arkansas State two weeks ago despite quarterback Kolton Browning's 350 yards of total offense.
Browning (6-1, 196, Fr.) will be the main focus for Auburn's defense this weekend as he enters the contest leading the team in both rushing and passing this season. In three games he has 183 yards and a touchdown on 51 carries on the ground. He's also thrown for 590 yards and five touchdowns with four interceptions while completing 59 percent of his passes in ULM's spread attack.
It's a good thing Browning has been productive on the ground because he's basically been the only option for the Warhawks in 2010. Needing 773 yards to become ULM's all-time leading rusher, 5-9, 201 senior Frank Goodwin has just 101 yards this season on 37 carries and hasn't scored a touchdown. Jyruss Edwards (5-11, 189, Fr.) is third on the team with 62 yards on 12 carries as the Warhawks have just 354 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground in three games.
When Browning is throwing the football he has a variety of targets that he's comfortable throwing to with four different players having at least seven receptions. Leading the way is junior speedster Luther Ambrose (5-9, 179) with 10 catches for 162 yards and two scores. Also a valuable kickoff return man, Ambrose is 16th in the NCAA this season with 163.3 all-purpose yards. He finished third in the NCAA Outdoor Championships last spring just behind Florida's Jeff Demps after running a time of 10.12 seconds in the 100m dash.
ULM wide receiver Luther Ambrose is a big-play threat.
The son of former Auburn player Reese McCall, Montgomery native Anthony McCall (6-1, 187, Jr.) also has 10 catches for 137 yards and one score. Brent Leonard (6-1, 176, So.) also has 10 catches with Tavarese Maye (5-11, 168, Fr.) adding seven receptions.
Up front the Warhawks aren't the most physical unit as they average just 118 rushing yards per game. On the outside there is plenty of size with juniors Justin Roberst (6-4, 304) and Anthony Montgomery (6-4, 302) holding down the tackle spots. At the guard positions Ryan McCaul (6-5, 285, Jr.) and Jonathan Gill (6-3, 306, So.) also pack a punch. The problem is in the middle where 6-2, 257 freshman Josh Allen will have to try to handle Auburn's interior defensive linemen all day long.
Defensively the Warhawks are one of the more surprising units in the country when you start looking at the numbers. Allowing 28.3 points per game after playing two solid offensive teams its first two games, ULM gives up just 129 yards per game on the ground and has allowed just two rushing plays of more than 20 yards this season. In fact ULM has held 11 of its last 14 opponents to under its season rushing average and eight of those finished with less than 100 yards on the ground overall. In three of their last four games against automatic qualifying teams (Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas) the Warhawks have forced at least three turnovers.
In starts up front with the Warhawks playing a 3-4 defense. In the middle is nose tackle Bryan Glenn (6-3, 287, Sr.) with Homewood native Ken Dorsey (6-0, 271, Jr.) and Keavon Milton (6-4, 260, So.) at the end positions. Dorsey leads the team in tackles for loss (2 ½), sacks (1 ½) and quarterback hurries (3) while adding 12 tackles. As a team ULM has six sacks in three games.
At linebacker Jason Edwards is the clear leader of the defense with a team-high 29 tackles this season in the middle. The 5-11, 235 junior is flanked by senior Theo Smith (5-11, 214) and sophomore Cameron Blakes (6-1, 223) with Alex Ibe (6-2, 214, Sr.) playing all over the field in a rover-type position. Blakes is second on the team with 24 stops while Ibe has added 15 and one of the team's two interceptions.
In the secondary ULM is very athletic with cornerbacks Robert Nelson (5-10, 189, So.) and Nate Brown (5-9, 179, So.) controlling things on the perimeter. Nelson is third on the team with 22 tackles this season. At the safety spots junior Darius Prelow (6-0, 209) and sophomore Khairi Usher (5-9, 189) have been solid in run support this season. Usher has 18 tackles in three games, good enough for fourth on the team.
Struggling in the kicking department, the Warhawks are 0-1 in field goals and have made just 4-6 extra points on the season. Punter Aaron Munoz is averaging a respectable 39.4 yards on 17 punts this season with two downed inside the 20-yard line.
In the end this is a game Auburn should be able to control at the line of scrimmage. While ULM has been solid against the run this year for the most part the Warhawks allowed the bulk of their yardage against one opponent. Allowing a total of just 153 yards on 55 carries against Arkansas and Southeastern Louisiana combined, Arkansas State torched ULM for 234 yards and three scores on the ground. That doesn't bode well for the visitors this week facing one of the nation's top rushing attacks.