ULM - FAU To Open Sun Belt Play

Heading to Florida Atlantic this weekend, ULM is 5-0 against Sun Belt teams in games played in Florida. Warhawk Nation's Paul Letlow caught up with Charlie Weatherbie and Howard Schnellenberger today.

Charlie Weatherbie maintains a get-away home in Florida, where he sometimes retreats to unwind when he isn't busy with his ULM coaching duties. But even during in football season, Weatherbie has found satisfaction in the Sunshine State. The Warhawks are 5-0 against Sun Belt teams in games played in Florida.

Weatherbie is 3-0 at Florida Atlantic, where ULM opens Sun Belt play on Saturday. Conversely, the Owls are 2-0 in their trips to Malone Stadium in Monroe.

"It's kind of strange," Weatherbie said during the Sun Belt's media call this week. "This is the only (series) that I've been involved with that we've had that kind of trend. It's kind of tough to explain."

Typically, the games are tight until the end – including a triple-overtime 33-30 ULM victory in the rain at FAU in 2007.

"Every time we've played them there, it's come down to the last minute or the last couple of plays," Weatherbie said. "Every time we've played them here, it's come down to the last minute or the last couple of plays." Saturday's conference opener means new life for a pair of teams that have taken their lumps so far.

Like ULM and the rest of their Sun Belt brethren, FAU opened 2009 with challenging money games. While the Warhawks sandwiched losses at Texas and Arizona State around a home win over Texas Southern, FAU met defeat at Nebraska and South Carolina. The Owls (0-2) are one of three winless Sun Belt teams.

"I think both of these games have been helpful to get our young defensive players a baptism of fire, if you will," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said. "Hopefully, we'll be better as we go along."

Still, Weatherbie and Schnellenberger say the rough starts don't cloud their evaluations of either squad. Now, it's apples and apples.

"You see their personnel as opposed to your personnel," Weatherbie said. "I don't really think your as concerned about who they're playing as much as you're concerned about who you're getting a chance to play again."

Said FAU's mentor: "We see that they've gone through a similar kind situation as we have with Texas and Arizona State. But obviously, they're committed to their offense. They have a truly great quarterback, good receivers and a tailback. Their offense is certainly capable."

Despite their 0-2 opening, the Owls have been one of the Sun Belt's elite programs in recent years. FAU beat Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl in 2007 and claimed a Motor City Bowl victory over Central Michigan in 2008.

"Obviously, we look forward to getting to getting started in our conference play, and our first home appearance," Schnellenberger said. "Hopefully, our fortunes will improve."

FAU's headliner is quarterback Rusty Smith, the Sun Belt's preseason player of the year. The strapping 6-5, 230-pounder set the conference record with 3,688 passing yards in 2007. In last year's win at ULM, Smith rushed for a score and tossed two more touchdowns including a game-winning TD that capped a 72-yard drive with less than a minute and a half to go against the Warhawks. Beating FAU means dealing with the big-armed quarterback.

"You do what you do best," Weatherbie said. "You go out and play your technique and your fundamentals better than they do. Rusty is a darn good quarterback. He'll get his passing yards and he'll do the things he does to lead their football team. I don't expect anything but a hard-fought, very good football game."

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