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November 26, 2012
Though bowl eligible when the evening started, ULM may have improved its postseason fate with its 23-17 overtime victory at Florida International. The victory gave the Warhawks their eighth win in 12 games, and at 6-2 they are assured of a share of second place in the final Sun Belt Conference standings. Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee are both 6-1 and meet in the final game, meaning one team will get the league title outright and the other will have a second conference loss.
Louisiana-Lafayette also can finish 6-2 in the Sun Belt with a win over Florida Atlantic in its finale. The Ragin' Cajuns already have accepted a bid to the R&L Carriers Bowl Dec. 22 in New Orleans.
Coach Todd Berry said he thought his Warhawks already were in the postseason based on their 7-4 mark. He acknowledged the 8-4 finish would help, but there is more to it than that.
"I think the eighth win is big and I think it will help influence some bowl opportunities," he said. But I think it's a great springboard to next year because we have this whole football team back, even all the injured guys over there, who are pretty significant guys for us. We've kind of found a way to overcome. We didn't always play pretty this year, but we kind of find ways to make things happen."
That was never more the case than in the win over FIU.
The Warhawks needed just to kneel down one more time to kill the remaining seconds and secure a one-touchdown win in regulation, but quarterback Kolton Browning fumbled the snap and FIU recovered with 28 seconds remaining. On second down from his own 42-yard line, quarterback E.J. Hilliard found wide receiver open down the right sideline for a 58-yard touchdown reception to tie it.
In the overtime, ULM made up for its lapse with a big third-down sack, then blocked FIU's 41-yard field goal attempt. The Warhawks won it by scoring in three plays on Browning's 15-yard pass to Brent Leonard.
"That's probably the craziest ending in 30 years that I've ever been around," said Berry, who actually got a Gatorade bath as the end of regulation neared. "Just shocking."
WHAT'S AHEAD: ULM has finished its regular season and will now wait to learn its postseason fate. The Warhawks will have a couple of days of light workouts for players who have been carrying most of the workload. Finals are the first week in December.
? Coach Todd Berry lived up to his promise. When he arrived at ULM for the 2010 season, he told players they would have their names on the backs of their jerseys when they earned their way to a bowl game. With seven wins already in hand, one more than the required six needed for bowl eligibility, the Warhawks had their names on their uniform backs for their finale at Florida International.
? The eight victories this season are the most for ULM since it began competing on the FBS level in 1994. The Warhawks were 9-3 in 1993 in their final season at the FCS level. The 1992 team won 10 games. The school record is 13 when the Warhawks won the 1987 I-AA championship.
? The overtime win at Florida International marked the fourth time the Warhawks have had to go to extra sessions this season. They won their opener at Arkansas in overtime and lost at Auburn the next week. More recently, they went overtime to beat Western Kentucky.
Keep An Eye On: Sophomore P-PK Justin Manton had a busy evening against Florida International. He punted eight times for a 42.8 average (long of 56) and was good from 47 yards on his only field goal try. The field goal came with one second left in the half and gave ULM a 10-7 lead at the intermission.
Looking Good: Senior WR Brent Leonard became the first ULM receiver to go over the 1,000-yard mark in receiving since 2002 with his 98 yards on 13 catches giving him 1,092 for the season. Mack Vincent had 1,198 yards in receptions in 2002 for the school record.
Still Needs Work: The running game obviously needs work, but there is little that can be done with it with RBs Jyruss Edwards and Centarius Donald both out with injuries. The Warhawks netted only nine yards on 27 rushes against Florida International.
Quote To Note: "We've been pretty one-dimensional here for the last few weeks and we've been OK."-Coach Todd Berry, on the Warhawks' lack of a running game.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
? Junior QB Kolton Browning rushed for his fifth touchdown of the season on a two-yard draw in the first quarter. With ULM going to a heavy diet of short passes to make up for its lack of a running game, Browning was 31-of-38 passing for 218 yards.
? Senior LB R.J. Young scored on a 36-yard return of a fumble recovery in the third quarter. It was the fourth touchdown by the defense this season.
? Sophomore LB Ray Stovall recorded his third sack of the season and had two other tackles-for-loss among his six stops.
? Sophomore DE Malcolm Edmond finished the game on the sideline with his arm in a sling, but coach Todd Berry didn't think the "upper body" injury would keep him out for long. Edmond finished with three tackles with two for losses.
? Senior WR Brent Leonard boosted his season-reception total to 97 with nine catches. That ranks third in the Sun Belt record book.