Allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown and losing a fumble to start the third quarter spoiled ULM's upset plans in a 38-17 defeat. Almost makes you forget about an impressive first quarter where the Warhawks traded offensive punches with the No. 23 team in the country.
"I'm not surprised, I'm really not," ULM coach Todd Berry noted in his radio interview after the game. "They've been practicing like this throughout. The first two ball games, I think we wanted to impress so much that we had some drops and we had some missed throws. Today we settled down and just played."
The Warhawks (1-2) showcased a multitude of weapons in gaining 189 yards of total offense in the first quarter. Jyruss Edwards ripped off a 36-yard run to highlight the game's opening drive. The Warhawks moved 74 yards on nine plays and finished with freshman kicker Justin Manton's first collegiate field goal. Manton booted a 23-yarder just past the right upright to give ULM a 3-0 lead.
After watching the ULM defense surrender a 68-yard touchdown pass on TCU's first offensive possession, the Warhawks answered again. Edwards provided excellent field position with a 38-yard kickoff return to the ULM 48.
Change-of-pace backup quarterback Cody Wells made his weekly cameo and directed an eight-play, 52-yard scoring drive that he concluded with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Brent Leonard. TCU responded with another touchdown drive to go ahead 14-10 but ULM had one more offensive retort.
Quarterback Kolton Browning took the team 78 yards on seven plays, finishing with a 37-yard scoring strike to Tavarese Maye. The talented receiver made a diving catch in the end zone against single coverage to give ULM its third lead of the game.
"I'm proud of our kids tonight," ULM offensive coordinator Steve Farmer said in his radio interview. "I'm very frustrated in how this thing turned out but I'm excited about the direction we're headed."
For the game, Browning completed 24-of-37 passes for 194 yards and one touchdown and Wells was 5-for -5 for 38 yards. Neither tossed an interception. The momentum could have continued in the second quarter when ULM recovered a fumble on a punt return at the TCU 15. But officials flagged the Warhawks for an illegal formation on the punt and wiped away the turnover.
"They said the right tackle wasn't aligned close enough to the line of scrimmage," Farmer said.
Helping hands: Sure-handed Brent Leonard provided this week's breakout showing with 13 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. His performance was notable after ULM's receivers as a group were plagued by drops in the Grambling win.
"Brent does a great job for us, week in and week out," Farmer said. "I thought we did a better job as an offense catching the football."
Leonard's 13 catches were the second most in school history for a single game. Tight end Jackie Harris set the program record with 16 receptions against Lamar in 1988.
A disappointed coach, again: ULM coach Todd Berry has used the words disappointing or disappointed in all three of his post-game interviews this season. This week he directed "The D Word" at the defense.
"I'm really disappointed in our defense right now," Berry said in his post-game radio comments. "I mentioned going into this thing that this is the first time that we saw an offense that was really going to stress us mentally and physically. We got tested on both counts. Mentally and physically, our defense didn't show up today."
TCU gained 411 yards with 207 on the ground. The Horned Frogs averaged 4.6 yards per rush, 13.6 yards per completion and converted nine-of-13 third down chances. TCU sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall was asked if he was ever confused by the ULM defense on Saturday.
"Not really," Pachall said. "There were maybe one or two plays where they did some stuff we didn't expect but other than that we were pretty well game planned and we knew everything that was going to go on. Maybe one or two plays where they did some stuff we didn't expect but other than that we were pretty well game planned and we knew everything that was going to go on."
Where it went wrong: Self destruction was the theme to open the third quarter. ULM trailed 21-17 at the break but Greg McCoy zapped the Warhawks with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to begin the second half and extend TCU's lead to 28-17.
The Warhawks compounded their woes on the next offensive series when Jyruss Edwards lost a fumble at the ULM 28. TCU recovered and scored six plays later to seize control, 35-17.
"I thought the two pivotal plays of the game were the kick-off return for the touchdown and the fumble," Berry said. "You take those fourteen points away and we're back to where we were at halftime."
Quote to note: "The first quarter on defense was terrible. The first quarter of offense was terrible. We scored one offensive touchdown in the second half and we gave up 17 points in the first quarter." – TCU coach Gary Patterson.
Up next: The Warhawks visit Iowa on Sept. 24. Iowa (2-1) rallied from 21 points down to beat Pittsburgh 31-27 on Saturday. The comeback was the biggest in school history for Iowa. Quarterback James Vandenberg threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns, the most yards for a Hawkeyes quarterback since 1985. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. and the game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
Tail feathers: Ty Kittle, who started at tight end along with Keavon Milton for ULM, left the contest with an injury. … Browning is tied for 10th in career ULM TD passes with Rodney Horn at 20. Browning stands in ninth place on the ULM career total offense list with 3,402 yards and passed Calvin Dawson in the game.
Browning also moved past Andre Vige into eighth place with 284 career completions. … Darius Prelow leads ULM with 17 consecutive starts. … Manton's field goal resulted in ULM's first points on an opening drive this season. Manton missed a 44-yarder in the second quarter. … Wells has thrown a TD pass in two straight games and has eight in his career. … Leonard's touchdown in was the fourth of his career.