Louisiana-Monroe Game Prep Part 1

After a long bye-week, the Bears look to get rolling again this weekend as the Warhawks for Louisiana-Monroe come to town Saturday afternoon.

It feels like a month since the Bears have a played a football game, but it has only been two weeks. Since the Bears last laced them up, a lot has changed, especially in the Big 12. Texas has lost two games and given up an estimated 8,000 rushing yards, West Virginia has a new quarterback who was third on the depth chart last week, and Kansas lost to Rice. Well, maybe everything is changing.

One thing that is consistent from last year is that the Bears are playing the Warhawks on September 21st. Last year, it was a Friday night affair in front of a raucous Monroe crowd, but this year it will be on a Saturday afternoon in Waco. So, with these teams just a full year away from the last time they did this dance, let's take a look at how these two match up.

MEDIA INFORMATION
Date Sat., Sept. 21 | 3:00 p.m. CT
Location Waco, Texas | Floyd Casey (50,000)
TV FOX Sports 1
Radio ESPN Central Texas | Sirius 132 | XM 198
Online Audio Listen Online
Live Stats Gametracker
Gameday Info Gameday Central
Ticket Info Purchase Tickets
Game Notes
Baylor Notes | ULM Notes
Twitter @BUFootball

Analytical Breakdown

FEI Rank

18

72

F/+ Rank

28

75

S&P+ Rank

5

74

GE Rank

13

67

Average

16

72

The Bears are the better team across the board in terms of the analytical measures used by Football Oustiders. However, do keep in mind that this data only includes the Buffalo game for Baylor, as they do not use FCS teams in their results. Louisiana-Monroe has all three of their games in this, including their battle against Oklahoma where they lost 34-0.


Offense

ADVANTAGE


Defense

Success Rate

1

48
Points Per Play

1

47
S&P

1

43
Rush S&P

4

80
Pass S&P

1

27
Standard Downs S&P

1

31
Passing Downs S&P

3

73
Average

1.71

49.86

The Bears offense through one game of data is off the charts so to speak. They are ranked 1st four of the six categories that Football Outsiders uses. Is this an outlier or just the start of one of the most explosive offenses in college football history? Too soon to tell, but the ULM defense through three games has not shown capable of stopping much at this point. They have been good against the pass, except in obvious passing downs. They are terrible against the run through the first 3 games. But even worse than that, they cannot stop the pass when they know it is coming.

Watching them play, ULM seems to focus on the pass during standard downs, but when it is third and long, they lose their way and let the big play happen. Some of it is from playing off of receivers and letting them catch easy balls for moderate yardage. But it is not big plays that are killing them. They are allowing only 5.5 yards per pass attempt, good for 23rd best in the Nation. Again, this data could be skewed due to the small sample size, but they struggled last year with this as well, ranking 114th on passing downs, despite a standard down ranking of 43.


Defense

ADVANTAGE


Offense

Success Rate

15

98
Points Per Play

26

107
S&P

17

106
Rush S&P

4

94
Pass S&P

104

105
Standard Downs S&P

10

109
Passing Downs S&P

51

95
Average

32.43

102

This is where the data gets really skewed. I do not believe that the Bears defense has a dominant edge over the Warhawk offense, and especially as one as big as the data shows so far. Saying that, the Warhawks offense has not been very good this year at all, and they have been terrible when compared to last year. Last year at roughy the same time of year, and against a much tougher overall schedule, Louisiana-Monroe was ranked 24th in Offensive Efficiency.

They were averaging 15.5 yards per point (compared to just 28.1 this year, which is ranked 116th in the country). They were scoring 31 points per game (compared to just 10.5 ranked 117th). This offense is completely off of the rails right now in terms of putting the ball in the endzone. They are also not getting any big plays, averaging just 3.5 yards per play in 2013 (compared to 5.5 last year).

So no, the Bears defense probably is not as good as the above stats indicate, but they probably don't have to be if the Warhawks continue to struggle so mightily on offense.

Players to Watch

-It all starts on offense with Kolton Browning, the Warhawks senior quarterback and leader. Their leading passer and rusher in 2012, Browning is off to a slow start in 2013. He has just 47 yards on 15 attempts this year (compared to 146 all of last year for 488 yards). He has gone from averaging 41 rushing yards per game to 16.

-One player however has stepped up his game in the place of Browning, especially in the Warhawk rushing attack. Returning starter Jyruss Edwards is averaging 6.9 yards per touch and getting 64 yards per game. That is over 2 yards better than his per touch average in 2012. The problem for him and the rushing attack though is that they have yet to record a single rushing touchdown. All 6 of their offensive scores have come through the air.

-Rashon Ceaser is the main recipient of the aerial attack for ULM, leading them with 21 receptions and 218 yards (Over 80 yards more than the next player). The sophomore did not play against Baylor last year, but stepped up later in the year and took on a larger role with the graduation of Brent Leonard.

-Their defense is led by linebacker Cameron Blakes, a 6-foot-1, 241 lb senior from Monroe. He leads them in tackles with 25, including 3 for loss. He also is tied for the team lead in sacks with 2.5. Blakes is a solid linebacker and a player that the Bears will have to make sure to keep out of the back field. He started all 12 games as a junior in 2011, but in 2012 was injured and lost for the year against the Bears. He left the game with six tackles. Look for Blakes to be very motivated against the Bears this year.

-Safety Isaiah Newsome is their leader in the secondary. The senior is a third year starter at safety after originally coming to ULM as a running back. In 2012, he was named to the All-Sun Belt Second Team Defense after recording 57 tackles, 4 interceptions and 5 pass breakups. At just 5-foot-11, he is smaller for a safety but is a solid tackler and can make some good plays to the ball.

What do the Warhawks want to do?

ULM is a team that has a distinct identity on offense and defense. Defensively, they run a 3-3-5 defense, which allows them to get more defensive backs and more speed on the field. They play a 3-shell defense, keeping three players deep to stop balls from going over their head. They also utilize all three linebackers in blitzes sending 1, 2, or even all 3. They are an aggressive defense that wants to deny the pass first.

With their aggressive blitzing and 3-deep shell defense though, they are susceptible to the intermediate passing game and good rushing attacks. Their back 5 have to be good tacklers in the open field because they get a lot of opportunities. They also use this aggressiveness to force turnovers. In 2012, they averaged 2 takeaways per game, good for 33rd in the nation. This year though, they have been burnt more by their aggressiveness without the luxury of turnovers. They have just 1 interception and 2 recovered fumbles in three games.

Offensively they run a spread that focuses more on the passing game. It is mainly a single back offense with the quarterback in the shotgun or sometimes the pistol offense. They use a lot of 3 and 4 wide receiver sets, but do utilize a tight end sometimes in an H-Back role in the backfield. Really, they look like a simpler and slower version of the Baylor attack. They run a lot of short passing routes and try to get the ball out quick. Last year they featured the zone-read look more often than they have so far in 2013, but that might be due to Browning not being 100% healthy.


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