ULM fans who cringe when the Warhawks' kickoff and punt coverage teams take the field should brace themselves.
North Texas (2-6, 1-4) is the Sun Belt's best at bringing it back, averaging 23.2 yards per kickoff return. Mean Green coach Todd Dodge credits a big return to midfield in the second quarter for helping spark his team's 68-49 win over Western Kentucky on Saturday.
"Our kickoff return team continues to play really well," Dodge said. "In that game, our average starting field position was the 36 yard line. It's been a unit that's been very consistent."
ULM (4-4, 3-1) ranks 77th nationally on kickoff return defense (22.4 yards per return) and 85th on punt return defense (10.92 yards per return). The Warhawks have given up two touchdowns on kickoffs and one on a punt return.
Kickoff at Denton, Texas on Saturday is 3 p.m.
"After playing Troy there, they're definitely the best football team in this conference right now," Weatherbie said. They've got great athletes that play very well and play very hard. Coach Blakeney is to be commended for what he's done there recruiting. They are a very good Sun Belt Conference team. The best that I've played against in my seven years here."
Troy improved to 23-3 vs. Sun Belt Conference foes over the last three-plus seasons with the victory over ULM . The Trojans' .884 winning percentage in league games going back to 2006 ranks as the fourth best in the nation over that time, trailing only Boise State (26-1), BYU (25-3) and Ohio State (27-3).
Red zone blues: ULM's offense ranks 99th nationally in red zone efficiency. In 38 trips inside the 20 this season, the Warhawks have scored 28 times.
The scoring breakdown includes 13 rushing touchdowns, nine passing touchdowns and six field goals.
Scouting North Texas: The win over Western Kentucky snapped North Texas ' six game losing streak, and is the Mean Green's first over a Sun Belt opponent since beating ULM 31-21 on Oct. 13, 2007 – a span of 15 games. The win also snapped an eight game home losing streak.
Lance Dunbar rushed for 227 yards, giving him five straight games over the century mark. His 71-yard touchdown scamper was a career long and the longest play from scrimmage by North Texas this year. Dunbar has now rushed for over 200 yards in two of his last three games. The sophomore has now run for 961 yards through eight games this year.
Quarterback Riley Dodge rushed for three touchdowns and threw four touchdown passes to beat WKU and earn Sun Belt Conference offensive player of the week honors.
Tail feathers: Wide receiver Darrell McNeal extended his consecutive games with a reception steak to 30 games - it ranks as the 13th longest active streak in the NCAA. … Running back Frank Goodin moved within 244 yards of fourth place on the ULM career rushing list after totaling 94 yards on 20 carries. … Aaron Morgan's interception in the second quarter at Troy was the first of his career. … Cardia Jackson moved within 21 tackles of becoming the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leading tackler. He finished the game with 12 tackles - his fourth straight game with 10-plus tackles. … LaGregory Sapp has 25 catches for 454 yards over the past five games - 90.8 yards per game.