After losing 34-0 to Oklahoma in Week 1, ULM bounced back with 2 straight wins including an impressive win at ACC opponent Wake Forest's home field - is it just a difference in competition between those 3 weeks or do you attribute the turn around to something that changed within the team?
From a talent stand point obviously Oklahoma has recruited better athletes but the Warhawks have spent the last 3 seasons under Berry red shirting and building numbers themselves. Against Oklahoma the Warhawks went toe to toe and only trailed 13-0 at the half. The difference in the ball game was Oklahoma was able to make the necessary adjustments and the Warhawks offense did not. The ULM defense eventually wore down and the Sooners were able to open the ball game up.
What is the strength of this team?
Through 3 games I would say it has been the Warhawks defense and the pressure they bring on every play. The 3-3-5 is designed to blitz someone from somewhere on the field each play. It forces opponents to get rid of the ball quickly. The downside is a lot of one on one coverage in the secondary which leads to big plays. It's funny because the Warhawk Nation would have said the offense before the season started but so far it has sputtered out of the gate.
ULM returned a high number of starters from last year's bowl team which Baylor faced in the non-conference; who are the newcomers that are standing out to bolster the strength of the returning starters?
#20 Justin Backus (6'2 185) is a RSF from Mesquite, Tx that provides something ULM has had not had at the defensive back position in recent years and that is size and speed.
#31 Lenzey Pipkins (6'0 195) RSF from Mansfield, TX (See note on Backus)
#34 Michael Johnson (6'1 220) Soph from Little Rock, Tx - his name will get called a good bit.
Last year ULM ranked 108th against the pass in terms of raw yardage given up, have they improved in that area and if so, what changes do you attribute that to?
They have improved but are still suspect to the big play - its the live and die game of chess you play in the 3-3-5 defense. The difference has been getting "hawk" safety Mitch Lane back from injury as well as 5th year senior Cameron Blakes - that and bigger and more physical CB's and safeties.
What is the general sentiment about facing Baylor - whether that be from coaches, players, media members or fans?
Anticipation - The Warhawks were America's Cinderella last year and have picked up a huge following of fans since their upset over #8 Arkansas, close loss to Auburn in OT and playing Baylor to a 47-42 score. ULM has the mindset that they are supposed to win every game. With 35 players on roster from Texas this will also be a huge homecoming for a lot of Warhawk players that will want to have a great showing.