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?
There is a little bit of both. First, Oklahoma is a very good team and what coach Berry called the most physical and athletic team ULM has faced in his tenure next to LSU in 2010. However, quarterback Kolton Browning also got injured in the first quarter, which really hampered the offensive production. He is progressively getting back to 100 percent so everyone is anxious to see how much that will improve the team's output too and contribute to its success. Oklahoma really was just that good, though, in my opinion.
What is the strength of this team?
The experience and maturity. ULM returns the most starts (that's starts, not starters) than any other FBS team. There were several players forced to start early, some as young as true freshmen and they've grown up in the system. In addition to that, some unfortunate injuries in the past have given current upperclassmen time in the fire. I know you're probably looking for a certain position as a strength, but there are so many returning starters at multiple positions – all but one OL, all but one WR, QB, all RBs, the entire DL and secondary so there is a lot of good stuff there.
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?
Redshirt freshman cornerback Justin Backus is really proving to be wiser beyond his years. He has made some pretty strong plays in the secondary and then linebackers Cody Robinson and Michael Johnson. Both are sophomores and in a constant battle for the third and final starting LB spot but each time they get in each player shows flashes of greatness. Sophomore receiver Rashon Ceaser has taken over where senior and school receptions leader Brent Leonard left a hole and is hardly missing a beat.
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?
So far through 3 games, the secondary has faced Oklahoma, an FCS team in Grambling and Wake Forest, a predominantly option team so it's been hard to gauge at times, but there is a noticeable difference. I've seen a hand full of plays already that a year ago would have been for a long gain or even a long touchdown, but players, especially the cornerbacks are finding a way to come up with a big pass break up or just not getting beat on a play. I credit that to ULM defensive coordinator Troy Reffett moving from coaching linebackers to the corners. He is able to convey everything he expects out of the corners while also delivering the big picture. It seems to be really beneficial.
What is the general sentiment about facing Baylor - whether that be from coaches, players, media members or fans?
I think there is a true excitement just because of the track meet it became last year. There were some dynamic offensive plays that came out of that game and I think people are expecting some more fireworks. Hopefully, the ULM offense can finally return to their explosiveness from last year's Baylor game to really put up a fight.