Play Western: Nov. 14, at Louisiana Monroe
‘08 Record: 4-8
Coach: Charlie Weatherbie
Returning starters: Seven offense, 10 defense
The Buzz: Like Western, Louisiana-Monroe struggled to finish on the better side of close games in 2008. Three of the Warhawks’ eight losses were decided by three points or less.
But unlike Western, ULM found a way to win a few — most notably a one-point win over Troy and a four-point victory over Florida International. In a season where the Toppers are hoping to win the close ones, knocking off the Warkhawks is a viable opportunity.
Outlook: ULM lost three-year starting quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster to graduation last season, shifting the focus of this year’s offense to the running game. The Warhawks return all-conference performer Frank Goodin, who ran for 783 yards last season in the shadow of Lancaster’s 1,557 rushing yards as a capable running quarterback.
Goodin will earn more carries, but if the Warkawks win, they won’t light up the scoreboard in the process. The defense returns almost completely in tact from last season and will be the strong side of the team.
ULM is transitioning to a 3-3-5 defense this season and has a trio of linebackers that will ensure the new system’s success. All-conference performer Cardia Jackson joins Josh Thompson in the middle and James Truxillo is back from a knee injury that kept him sidelined last season.
How Western can win: Western won’t face many 3-3-5 defenses, and ULM presents the possibility of running the Wildcat Formation with the return of receiver Darrell McNeal from academic suspension in the spring.
The Warhawks will throw plenty of unique looks at the Toppers on both sides of the ball. How Western adapts and adjusts will key the outcome of this game.