The player to watch for ULM is junior quarterback Kolton Browning. The reigning Davey O'Brien Quarterback of the Week, Browning torched the Razorbacks for 481 yards of total offense and four touchdowns to lead the upset. The winning score came on a 16-yard fourth-down scramble for a touchdown. Auburn coach Gene Chizik said while he can run the ball, it's his footwork and ability to scramble that makes a difference in his passing. That in turn makes him a tough guy to defend.
"He's extremely confident in what he's doing," Chizik said. "There's no question about that. He does it well. When you have 550 yards of offense in a game, that's usually not by accident. Very well coached. He certainly makes it happen on their offense, and they have a lot of other players around him. They have some receivers that have really made some big plays at the right times of the game to keep drives alive or whatever the case may be, and I'm talking on third and fourth downs when it's critical, they've done that. The quarterback is not the only player they have offensively. They have some guys that know how to get open and are in sync with the quarterback."
Browning running against the Razorbacks
At 6-1, 194, Browning isn't the most physical quarterback, but all he's done is get the job done for the Warhawks since taking over the job in 2010. As a freshman he threw for 2,552 yards and 18 touchdowns and added 2,483 yards and 13 touchdowns last season to go over 5,000 yards in just two seasons at ULM.
Browning has some talented receivers to work with in the passing game led by Leonard (6-2, 186). Last week in the win over Arkansas, Leonard caught 11 passes for 112 yards including the one that sent the game into overtime. Tavarese Maye (6-0, 179, Jr.) and Je'Ron Hamm (6-3, 222, Jr.) caught nine and six passes respectively in the opener as Browning showed he's not afraid to spread the ball around. In the backfield Browning actually led the Warhawks in rushing with 69 yards while Jyruss Edwards (5-11, 200, Jr.) ran for just 36 yards on 15 carries.
Defensively the Warhawks employ a unique 3-3-5 alignment that uses speed and quickness to create tough blocking assignments for opposing teams. Last week they held Arkansas and Knile Davis to just 96 yards rushing and sacked the Razorbacks three times with several more huge hits that eventually knocked starting quarterback Tyler Wilson out of the game.
Starters Kentarius Caldwell (6-2, 265, Jr), Gerrand Johnson (6-0, 290, RFr.), and Joey Gautney (6-1, 240, Jr.) comprise the defensive line for the Warhawks while linebackers DaCorris Ford (6-1, 223, Sr.), R.J. Young (5-11, 240, Sr.), and Cameron Blakes (6-1, 233, Sr.) round out the front six on defense for ULM. While they're not big in size, Chizik said they don't back down when it comes to physical play and with the different scheme it makes them tough to figure out.
"Schematically, it's very challenging," Chizik said. "Arkansas is a very well-coached team and always has been and very talented, as well. They were able to get to Tyler (Wilson) several times, as we know. Early in the game, he threw an early interception. It's a challenge. Schematically, it's not something you see every day. If you want to just give it some relevancy, I would say their defense was kind of like dealing with an option offense that you don't see every day. Just on the defensive side of the ball it's very schematically complicated.
"I think that's part of the problem Arkansas faced last Saturday night. It's going to take a lot of work. They're all over the place. They do a great job scheming. I think the last two or three years they've been tops in their league in rush defense so it's hard to run the football. Then they get after you on the pass and really dialing in on your pass protection and getting to your quarter back. We have our work cut out for us in terms of that. I think that's what we're talking about with this is going to be a great challenge."
In the secondary ULM has Rob'Donovan Lewis (5-10, 175, So.) and Vincent Eddie (5-8, 161, Jr.) at the cornerback positions, Isaiah Newsome (5-11, 201, Jr.) and Cordero Smith (5-11, 190, So.) at the safety spots, and Mitch Lane (6-0, 208, RFr.) at the hybrid position. Lane led the Warhawks in tackles the first game with nine with middle linebacker Young just behind him with eight stops.
This game is all about the will to win for the Auburn Tigers. Without question ULM is going to present challenges for Loeffler and company on offense with an unusual defensive scheme, but Arkansas still gained nearly 400 yards of offense in the opener without having Wilson for much of the contest. Auburn must run the ball effectively and right at the smaller Warhawks and establish that to allow quarterback Kiehl Frazier the ability to use the play-action passing game effectively. When given his opportunities Frazier must deliver the football on time and on target this week after struggling majorly in last week's loss. Making some short throws and building some confidence early could go a long way towards a big day for the sophomore signal-caller.
Defensively once again it's going to come down to how well the front four plays for the Tigers. With a team that could throw the ball 50 or more times in the game, Auburn's ability to slow down that passing game falls just as much on getting pressure as it does with making plays in the secondary. While the defensive line must be able to get to Browning, Auburn's back seven must also do a much better job of getting guys on the ground when they have the opportunity. Missed tackles sustain drives and playing an offense that is masterful with the short passing game could prove to be a big headache for Brian VanGorder and the Auburn defense if that's not shored up.